David Ortiz Becomes First Career Designated Hitter to be Selected on First Ballot & 20 Other Great Designated Hitters

David Ortiz Becomes First Career Designated Hitter to be Selected on First Ballot and 20 Other Great Designated Hitters

David Ortiz, also known as Big Papi, made history on Sunday when he headlined the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022 – a class that includes legends Jim Kaat, Tony Oliva, Minnie Miñoso, Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, and Buck O’Neil. Ortiz was a first-ballot selection.

In doing so, Ortiz became the first career designated hitter to ever be selected to the Hall of Fame on a first ballot basis – meaning he was selected in his first year of eligibility. It’s an honorable achievement shared by just 58 others, including just 14 in the past eight years. 

Not only that, but David Ortiz might’ve helped pave a way for others with a steroid-using history to be considered for the Hall of Fame. Of course, Big Papi’s contributions to the sport greatly overshadow his steroid scandal – can we say the same about Alex Rodriguez? Time will tell.

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David Ortiz Excelled as a Designated Hitter

David Ortiz made his major league debut on September 2, 1997 at just 21 years of age. Over the next 20 seasons, Ortiz played in 2,408 games – 2,029 of which as a designated hitter, 278 at first base, and 128 as a pinch hitter. He spent a strong majority of his career as a DH. 

And it was an illustrious career, to say the least. After six years with the Minnesota Twins, he spent the next 14 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. He retired with a .286 batting average with 2,472 hits, 632 doubles, 541 home runs, 1,768 RBIs, 1,419 runs scored, and 1,319 walks.

Ortiz was a 10-time All-Star, seven-time Silver Slugger winner, three-time world series champ, one-time World Series MVP, one-time ALCS MVP, and one-time Home Run Derby champion. In honor of one of the greatest designated hitters of all-time, let’s take a look at other DH greats!

20. Willie Horton

Willie Horton made his major league debut on September 10, 1963 and played his final game on October 5, 1980. During his 18-year career, he played in 2,028 games – 752 of those games were at designated hitter. He also played 1,190 games at outfielder and 106 as a pinch hitter.

Horton finished his career with a .273 batting average and 1,993 hits, 325 home runs, 284 doubles, 40 triples, 1,163 runs batted in, 873 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases. He was a four-time All-Star and even won the 1968 World Series as a member of the Detroit Tigers. 

19. Oscar Gamble

Oscar Gamble made his major league debut on August 27, 1969 and played his final game on August 8, 1985. During his 17-year career, he played in 1,584 games – 559 of those games were at designated hitter. He also played 820 games at outfielder and 343 as a pinch hitter

Gamble finished his career with a .265 batting average and 1,195 hits, 200 home runs, 188 doubles, 31 triples, 666 runs batted in, 656 runs scored, and 47 stolen bases. While he was never selected to an All-Star roster, he had a career year in 1977 by hitting 31 home runs. 

18. Kendrys Morales

Kendrys Morales made his major league debut on May 23, 2006 and played his final game on June 11, 2019. During his 13-year career, he played in 1,363 games – 827 of those games were at designated hitter. He also played 449 games at first base and 23 more at right field. 

Morales finished his career with a .265 batting average and 1,289 hits, 213 home runs, 257 doubles, 7 triples, 740 runs batted in, 584 runs scored, and 6 stolen bases. He won a Silver Slugger award in 2015 – the same year he won the World Series with the Kansas City Royals.

17. Cliff Johnson

Cliff Johnson made his major league debut on September 13, 1972 and played his final game on September 30, 1986. During his 15-year career, he played in 1,369 games – 748 of which at designated hitter. He also played 179 games at catcher, 188 at first base, and 57 at left field. 

Johnson finished his career with a .258 batting average and 1,016 hits, 196 home runs, 188 doubles, 10 triples, 699 runs batted in, 539 runs scored, and 9 stolen bases. He was a two-time World Series champion – doing so back-to-back in 1977 and 1978 with the New York Yankees.

16. Andre Thornton

Andre Thornton made his major league debut on July 28, 1973 and played his final game on August 31, 1987. During his 14-year career, he played in 1,565 games – 737 of which at DH. He also played 728 games at first base, 11 games at right field, and 116 more as a pinch hitter.

Thornton finished his career with a .254 batting average, 253 home runs, 244 doubles, 22 triples, 895 runs batted in, 792 runs scored, and 48 stolen bases. He was named an All-Star in 1983 and 1984 with the Cleveland Guardians, also winning a Silver Slugger award in 1984.

15. Edwin Encarnacion

Edwin Encarnacion made his major league debut on June 24, 2005 and played his final game on September 27, 2020. During his 16-year career, he played in 1,960 games – 766 of which at designated hitter. He also played 491 games at first base and 674 games at third base. 

Encarnacion finished his career with a .260 batting average and 1,832 hits, 424 home runs, 370 doubles, 10 triples, 1,261 runs batted in, 1,099 runs scored, and 61 stolen bases. He was a three-time All-Star between 2013 and 2016 – all as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. 

14. Billy Butler

Billy Butler made his major league debut on May 1, 2007 and played his final game on October 2, 2016. During his 10-year MLB career, he played in 1,414 games – 926 of those games at designated hitter. He also played 426 games at first base and 79 more as a pinch hitter. 

Butler finished with a .290 batting average and 1,479 hits, 147 home runs, 322 doubles, 5 triples, 728 runs batted in, 592 runs scored, and 5 stolen bases. He had a career year in 2012 with 29 homers and 107 RBIs – earning an All-Star selection and Silver Slugger award.

13. Nelson Cruz

Nelson Cruz made his major league debut on September 17, 2005 and is currently a member of the Washington Nationals. During his 18-year career, he has played in 1,969 games – 968 of which at DH. He has also played 970 games at outfield and 45 games as a pinch hitter. 

Cruz currently has a career .275 batting average with 1,988 hits, 457 home runs, 364 doubles, 14 triples, 1,286 runs batted in, 1,070 runs scored, and 82 stolen bases. He’s a seven-time All-Star (most recently in 2021), four-time Silver Slugger winner, and former ALCS MVP. 

12. Jose Canseco

Jose Canseco made his major league debut on September 2, 1985 and played his final game on October 6, 2001. During his 17-year career, he played in 1,887 games – 847 of those games at designated hitter. He also played 1,011 games at outfielder and 49 games as a pinch hitter. 

Canseco finished his career with a .266 batting average and 1,877 hits, 462 home runs, 340 doubles, 14 triples, 1,407 runs batted in, 1,186 runs scored, and 200 stolen bases. He was a six-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger winner, two-time champion, and former MVP. 

11. Victor Martinez

Victor Martinez made his major league debut on September 10, 2002 and played his final game on September 22, 2018. During his 16-year career, he played in 1,973 games – 869 of which at designated hitter. He also played 858 games at catcher, 214 at first base, and 81 as a pinch hitter.

Martinez finished his career with a .295 batting average and 2,153 hits, 246 home runs, 423 doubles, 3 triples, 1,178 runs batted in, 914 runs scored, and 7 stolen bases. He was a five-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger winner who hit a career-high 32 home runs in 2014. 

10. Brian Downing

Brian Downing made his major league debut on May 31, 1983 and played his final game on October 4, 1992. During his 20-year career, he played in 2,344 games – 824 of those games at designated hitter. He also played 777 games in the outfield and another 675 games at catcher.

Downing finished his career with a .267 batting average and 2,099 hits, 275 home runs, 360 doubles, 28 triples, 1,073 runs batted in, 1,188 runs scored, and 50 stolen bases. He was an All-Star in 1979 and hit at least 20 home runs in six different seasons – including five straight.

9. Don Baylor

Don Baylor made his major league debut on September 18, 1970 and played his final game on October 1, 1988. During his 19-year career, he played in 2,292 games – 1,287 of those games at designated hitter. He also played 822 games in the outfield and 148 games at first base. 

Baylor finished his career with a .260 batting average, 2,135 hits, 338 home runs, 366 doubles, 28 triples, 1,276 runs batted in, 1,236 runs scored, and 285 stolen bases. He was an All-Star in 1979, the same year he won the MVP award with a league-leading 139 RBIs and 120 runs.

8. Travis Hafner

Travis Hafner made his major league debut on August 6, 2002 and played his final game on September 29, 2013. During his 12-year career, he played in 1,183 games – 1,043 of which at designated hitter. He also played 72 games at first base and another 88 as a pinch hitter. 

Hafner finished his career with a .273 batting average and 1,107 hits, 213 home runs, 250 doubles, 13 triples, 731 runs batted in, 619 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases. He burst onto the scene with 28 home runs in 2004, following that up with 33 in 2005 and 42 more in 2006. 

7. Hal McRae

Hal McRae made his major league debut on July 11, 1968 and played his final game on July 17, 1987. During his 19-year career, he played in 2,084 games – 1,426 of which at designated hitter. He also played 479 games in the outfield, 233 as a pinch hitter, and 40 in the infield. 

McRae finished his career with a .290 batting average and 2,091 hits, 191 home runs, 484 doubles, 66 triples, 1,097 runs batted in, 940 runs scored, and 109 stolen bases. He was a three-time All-Star, won a Silver Slugger award in 1982, and won the 1985 World Series.

6. Chili Davis

Chili Davis made his major league debut on April 10, 1981 and played his final game on October 3, 1999. During his 19-year career, he played in 2,436 games – 1,160 of which at designated hitter. He also played 1,185 games in the outfield and 138 as a pinch hitter. 

Davis finished his career with a .274 batting average and 2,380 hits, 350 home runs, 424 doubles, 30 triples, 1,372 runs batted in, 1,240 runs scored, and 142 stolen bases. He was a three-time All-Star and a three-time champ – once with the Twins and twice with the Yankees.

5. Jim Thome

Jim Thome made his major league debut on September 4, 1991 and played his final game on October 3, 2012. During his Hall of Fame 22-year career, he played in 2,543 games – 818 of which at DH. He also played 1,106 games at first base and another 492 games at first base.

Thome finished his career with a .276 batting average and 2,328 hits, 612 home runs, 451 doubles, 26 triples, 1,699 runs batted in, 1,583 runs scored, and 19 stolen bases. He was a five-time All-Star and hit at least 40 home runs on six occasions – including 52 in 2002.

4. Paul Molitor

Paul Molitor made his major league debut on April 7, 1978 and played his final game on September 27, 1998. During his Hall of Fame 21-year career, he played in 2,683 games – 1,174 of which at DH. He also played 50 games in the outfield and another 1,446 games in the infield.

Molitor finished his career with a .306 batting average and 3,319 hits, 234 home runs, 605 doubles, 114 triples, 1,307 runs batted in, 1,782 runs scored, and 504 stolen bases. He was a seven-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, 1993 World Series champ, and World Series MVP.

3. Harold Baines

Harold Baines made his major league debut on April 10, 1980 and played his final game on September 27, 2001. During his Hall of Fame 22-year career, he played in 2,830 games – 1,643 of which at DH. He also played 1,062 games in the outfield and 230 games as a pinch hitter. 

Baines finished his career with a .289 batting average and 2,866 hits, 384 home runs, 488 doubles, 49 triples, 1,628 runs batted in, 1,299 runs scored, and 34 stolen bases. He was a six-time All-Star and had at least 100 runs batted in on three different occasions in his career.

2. Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas made his major league debut on August 2, 1990 and played his final game on August 29, 2008. During his Hall of Fame 19-year career, he played in 2,322 games – 1,310 of which at designated hitter. He also played 971 games at first base and 45 as a pinch hitter. 

Thomas finished his career with a .301 batting average and 2,468 hits, 521 home runs, 495 doubles, 12 triples, 1,704 runs batted in, 1,494 runs scored, and 32 stolen bases. He was a five-time All-Star, two-time MVP, four-time Silver Slugger, and Home Run Derby champion.

1. Edgar Martinez

Edgar Martinez made his major league debut on September 12, 1987 and played his final game on October 3, 2004. During his Hall of Fame 18-year career, he played in 2,055 games – 1,403 of which at DH. He also played 562 games at third base and 28 more at first base.

Martinez finished his career with a .312 batting average and 2,247 hits, 309 home runs, 514 doubles, 15 triples, 1,261 runs batted in, 1,219 runs scored, and 49 stolen bases. He was a seven-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger that won the batting title twice in his career. 

What’s Next for David Ortiz? 

David Ortiz is now in the Hall of Fame and his legacy has been cemented for good. His contributions to the sport will never be forgotten and he will be remembered as one of the greatest designated hitters and most feared power hitters in baseball history – he’s a legend!

With that said, he might be the last primary designated hitter to be selected to the Hall of Fame. The way the game is played today, managers often choose to rotate their designated hitter between several position players – primary designated hitters are becoming a thing of the past. 

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Don’t worry, David Ortiz isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. While you won’t find him at the plate, he is currently an MLB studio analyst for FOX Sports with contributions to the regular season, All-Star Game, and postseason coverage. His infectious personality is everywhere!

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