This past week, the combination of universal designated hitter talk and Bob Watson’s death rekindled memories of the 1973 baseball All-Star Game in Kansas City.
Royals Stadium opened in 1973, and I attended the first game on April 10 — a 12-1 victory over the Texas Rangers, who were managed by Whitey Herzog. A crowd of 39,464 watched despite temperatures in the 30s and saw Royals first baseman John Mayberry hit the first home run in the stadium and Paul Splittorff pitch the first complete game.
By the way, Arrowhead Stadium — the other half of the first-of-a-kind complex — opened in 1972, and I saw the Chiefs’ first regular-season game, a 20-10 loss to Miami that marked the start of the Dolphins’ 17-0 season.
Back to baseball, I was back at the stadium on May 15 along with some friends who I picked up at Central Missouri and interrupted their studying for finals. They didn’t like it at the time, but by the time we got back to campus, they couldn’t thank me enough.
We bought tickets — $3 apiece, maybe $5 — and sat on the front row of the left field bleachers. And we saw Nolan Ryan pitch his first no-hitter as the California Angels beat the Royals 3-0.
Ryan struck out 12 batters, walked three and retired 20 of the final 21 batters he faced. During the late innings I secretly rooted for Ryan to complete his gem. Even when Amos Otis -- one of my favorite Royals -- came to bat with two outs in the ninth, I was happy to see his well-hit ball to right field caught a couple of steps in front of the wall.
That brings us to the All-Star Game on July 24, 1973 — the first professional sports event that I had official media credentials. That also was the first year the American League used the designated hitter, so I questioned some National Leaguers about their thoughts on the new rule.
I can’t remember anyone speaking favorably. I specifically remember Bob Watson, a player for the Houston Astros, being totally against it.
“I absolutely do not like it,” he said. “If I struck out with the bases loaded, I would want the chance to try to redeem myself in the field.”
Let the record show that Watson became the designated hitter for the Red Sox and Yankees later in his career.
Ironically, the DH was not used in that game even though it was played in an American League city. And there were plenty of hitters available, including Willie Mays, who struck out as a pinch-hitter in his 24th and final all-star game.
The DH continues to be AL only except for World Series games in AL parks.
In this crazy year, baseball has announced that the DH will be used in all games when and if the season starts. That’s understandable since a shortened season will have schedules approximately 60 percent within divisions and 40 percent against the corresponding division from the other league — NL Central vs. AL Central, East vs. East and West vs. West.
This is already the season that relief pitchers are required to face a minimum of three hitters unless they end the half-inning. The reason for this is to speed up the game.
There are other ways to speed up the game. Use courtesy runners for the catchers so they can return to the dugout and get their gear on and ready to take their position after the third out. How about reducing the number of commercials between half-innings, especially in the postseason.
Neither will happen.
Or, let pitchers hit since everyone considers them an automatic out anyway.
A baseball player should be responsible for all facets of his position -- batting, fielding, throwing. Back in the day there were many good-hitting pitchers — Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Warren Spahn — who sometimes were used as pinch hitters.
Traditionally designated hitters have been players who can hit but not field very well. This year the DH and larger rosters can give teams the chance to look at younger players sooner.
But let’s keep the DH in the American League or drop it entirely. It’s more fun to play manager and consider strategies — bunting, pinch-hitters, double-switches — when the pitcher is in the batting order.
JIM HENRY is sports editor of the Globe and receives correspondence at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Jim_Henry53.