As far as famous first goes, nobody really talks about the first use of the DH by the New York Mets. We take a look at the first man to have the honor in the regular season and the guy who did so in the postseason.
With talk of the universal DH in baseball seemingly every season, I thought it was appropriate to know who the first designated hitter in New York Mets history was. It’s not something we talk about much because the team only has the opportunity to use it sparingly every year.
Although the first interleague game the Mets played in was against the Boston Red Sox, they didn’t go on the road until the June 16, 1997 game against the New York Yankees. In this 6-0 victory behind Dave Milicki, the Mets put a DH square in the middle of their lineup.
Batting fifth and taking on the DH role, we find Butch Huskey.
Huskey has the name of a DH. Like 2020 hitting coach Chili Davis, it seems only appropriate for a man with that name to play one side of the game.
In this affair with the Yankees, Huskey went 2 for 4 with an RBI. Right off the bat, the Mets saw the benefits of having a DH in the lineup rather than having to worry about sacrifice bunts or pinch-hitters throughout the game.
Huskey was not the first man in a Mets game that mattered to actually have the DH label. Eleven years earlier, a trip to the World Series against the Red Sox gave one man that honor.
The World Series was the only chance for the American and National League to face each other. When the Mets went up against the Oakland Athletics in 1973, the World Series left the DH behind. This was certainly an odd thing for pitchers who had not had the chance to hit all year long.
The rule changed in 1986 just in time for the Mets and Red Sox. Games would be played under the home team’s rules. So, in Game Three when the World Series shifted to Fenway Park, the Mets put a lineup card together with a DH on it.
This time, Danny Heep got the call.
Heep went 1 for 3 with a pair of RBI in this game. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter late in the game, ending his reign as the undisputed DH in Mets history.
For a point of reference, Heep went 1 for 11 in the World Series. In retrospect, he may not have been the best choice to take on the role typically meant for powerful bats. The man the Mets went with years later, Huskey, fit the bill much better.
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In the years since, plenty of men have received the designated hitter tag. The first, though, if you want to include the postseason, was a man who oddly enough had the initials DH. How poetic.