Ron Blomberg made his Major League Baseball debut for the New York Yankees on September 10, 1969, is a former designated hitter, first baseman, and right fielder. He played for the Yankees (1969, 1971–76) and Chicago White Sox (1978), and he was the manager of the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox in the Israel Baseball League (2007). He was the first designated hitterin Major League Baseball history.
Once billed as “the Jewish Mickey Mantle,” Ron was a high school baseball, basketball and football star. He received 125 basketball scholarship offers and 100 football scholarship offers, but became a professional baseball player when he was selected by the Yankees as the first pick in the first round of the 1967 amateur draft. He signed for a $75,000 contract.
Ron became the MLB’s first designated hitter — familiarly known as the “DH,” a substitute hitter for the team’s pitcher — with a game against the Boston Red Sox on April 6, 1973. Suffering from injuries during much of his brief career, he hit just 52 career home runs (Mantle twice needed only a single season to hit that many) but he is remembered for changing the game. In 1978 he played one season — the last of his professional baseball career — with the Chicago White Sox.
Noted for his sense of humor, Ron was interviewed by Jewish TV reporter Dick Schaap years after his retirement. The first question was, “What was it like to be the first DH?” Ron promptly replied, “Whaddya mean, Designated Hebrew?” The term became the name of his 2006 autobiography.
Though offered a job as a manager of the Yankee’s minor league team, Ron chose instead to manage the Bet Shemesh Blue Socks in the first year of the Israeli Baseball League. The team won the league championship with a 29-12 reason win/loss score. Surprised during one of his games when his players asked for a time-out for afternoon prayers, Ron then observed many fans also taking time out for prayer. Afterward, when his team lost the game, he asked the players, “You said your prayers. What happened?”
Thirty years after Ron’s retirement from pro baseball, New York’s Stage Deli named a sandwich after him.