Baseball Bats

Jan. 16, 1973

Like it or not – for purists, it was unanimously not – the designated pinch hitter for the pitcher rule was in the books. And American League teams spent varying amounts of their winters figuring out exactly how they wanted to fill that spot.

Needless to say, the Red Sox were not focusing on footspeed. A big, right-handed slugger, one susceptible to being beguiled by The Wall, would fill the bill, no matter how slowly he put one foot in front of the other.

The Red Sox’ only issue was that they were having a hard time finding him.

So what if, as Boston Globe scribe Clif Keane put it, Cepeda was “holed up in Puerto Rico with the best orthopedic minds shaking their heads, wondering if he will ever again run 50 yards in 10 minutes.”

While Red Sox general manager Dick O’Connell said there were multiple teams vying for Cepeda’s services, there wasn’t much doubt that if Boston wanted him, he would come to Fenway.

And so he did. Cepeda had trouble hobbling safely into second base on balls hit into the center-field triangle, but he finished 1973 batting .289 with 20 homers and 86 RBIs.

The first player specifically signed to serve as a DH showed up for training camp with the Red Sox in 1974 and was promptly cut. The Kansas City Royals signed him, but Cepeda was done for good after 35 games.

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