Stirewaltisms: The Designated Hitter and Other Bad Trips of the ’70s


As if we were trying to relive all of the worst parts of the 1970s in the 2020s, today is the first time since its founding 146 years ago that baseball’s National League will excuse pitchers from having to go to bat in regular league play.

Inflation, energy shortages, Russian invasions, cultural chaos, political failure, and, yes, the designated hitter rule: The ’70s are back, baby. 

The American League, the kind of organization that would also tolerate short pants for players, introduced the non-hitting pitcher position in 1973 on the grounds that it would increase offensive production and revive flagging attendance and interest in the game. Sound familiar? For 49 years, the National League held out, only to cave this year on the grounds that it would mean more runs and more fans. 

But just for the record, the four best teams for attendance last season were all in the National League, as were seven of the top 10 overall. Fans in Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego, and St. Louis were somehow able to overcome their horror at the sight of pitchers flailing about in batters boxes to post the best attendance for any teams in Major League Baseball. At the same time, the stadiums for two of the teams that were most prolific at the plate, Tampa Bay and Toronto, were as vacant as the stare of a rookie in his first postgame interview. 

The designated hitter gimmick won’t fix what’s wrong with baseball, particularly the institutions and individuals that have failed over and over again. The ongoing labor beefs between millionaires and billionaires, particularly when they refused to play for so much of the plague year of 2020 when America needed them most, showed fans how distorted their priorities were. 

Instead, teams have demanded more money from taxpayers for more lavish stadiums that squeeze more money out of fans. If it costs as much to take your kids to a baseball game as I spent on my second car, those warm-and-fuzzy ballpark vibes will keep growing fainter generation after generation. Another new addition: Advertisers will be able to put their messages on players’ helmets starting as soon as this year’s playoffs, and on uniforms starting next season. But with salaries now as high as $45 million a year, the money’s got to come from somewhere. Keeping pitchers out of the batter’s box won’t do much in the face of all that.

I will not afflict you with all my thoughts on the parallels between baseball and politics today—perverse incentives, poor character, capture by intense supporters, institutional drift, reliance on meaningless metrics, business-school blather passed off as leadership, etc.—but it seems an unavoidable conclusion that both things are looking a lot like they did in the 1970s. They’re twisting themselves in knots like pitchers trying to hit split-finger fastballs.

But Opening Day is here. I could refuse to watch and give up on the game, but you know I won’t. When Adam Wainwright pops that first pitch right into Yadier Molina’s glove to start their last season together, my sons and I will be watching—with the no-hats-inside rule waived for the sake of that perfect, white STL stitched on red. I will wince when I see Wainwright skipping his trips to the plate, but I won’t give up on the game or the Cardinals. 

We don’t need baseball in the way that we need a functional political system. I could just as easily watch the first round of the Masters and skip the new far-out MLB. But the principle is the same: People of goodwill have to hang on in the weird times if there’s to be any hope for a return to sanity. That doesn’t mean being an obsessive or eternally outraged, just staying engaged and holding out hope. After all, today, every team starts out in a tie for first place. 

God bless America and viva El Birdos.

Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


Biden job performance
Average approval: 41.2 percent
Average disapproval: 54 percent
Net score: -12.8 points
Change from one week ago: ↓ 0.2 points

[Average includes: Ipsos/Reuters: 45% approve-50% disapprove; Marist College: 39% approve-55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve-55% disapprove; Marquette University Law School: 44% approve-55% disapprove; NBC News: 40% approve-55% disapprove]

Generic congressional ballot 
Democrats: 43 percent
Republicans: 44.8 percent
Net advantage: Republican Party +1.8
Change from one week ago: Republican Party ↓ 1 point

[Average includes: NBC News: 44% Democrat, 46% Republican; Fox News: 41% Democrat, 43% Republican; Monmouth University: 46% Democrat, 46% Republican; Pew Research Center: 43% Democrat, 43% Republican; Wall Street Journal: 41% Democrat, 46% Republican]


Kathryn Paige Harden, a clinical psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, looks at why some colleges are returning to standardized tests for admissions. The Atlantic: “[T]he income-related disparities we see in SAT scores are not evidence of an unfair test. They are evidence of an unfair society. The test measures differences in academic preparedness, including the ability to write a clear sentence, to understand a complex passage, and to solve a mathematical problem. The SAT doesn’t create inequalities in these academic skills. It reveals them. Throwing the measurement away doesn’t remedy underlying injustices in children’s academic opportunities, any more than throwing a thermometer away changes the weather. … Richer students don’t just get better SAT scores. They also tend to outperform on everything else that an admissions committee would use to select students. Personal essays? Their style and content are more strongly correlated with family income than SAT scores are.”


Bloomberg: “The race within the [Pennsylvania Senate Republican] primary race is the competition between [David McCormick] and [Mehmet Oz] to win Donald Trump’s blessing, or at least to avoid his disfavor. McCormick, with [Stephen Miller] and [Hope Hicks] already on board, has also locked up the support of Trump White House veterans Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in addition to being married to [Dina Powell], one of few who left Trump’s employ on good terms. And on Tuesday, Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s former U.S. Trade Representative, endorsed him in a statement to Breitbart News. But Oz has secured powerful allies of his own, including Sean Hannity … as well as Melania Trump, who NBC News reported supports Oz and has shared her views with her husband. ‘There are a lot of Melanias out there,’ an unnamed Trump insider declared to NBC, ‘a lot of women in whose living room and bedroom TVs Dr. Oz has been for a decade.’”

Worsening scandal threatens Missouri GOP Senate frontrunner: New York Times: “Lurid allegations of blackmail, sexual misconduct and child abuse would doom most politicians. Not Eric Greitens. Or at least not yet. Until recently, the former Missouri governor was the undisputed leader of the state’s Senate race, despite facing years of scandals. Republicans have urged him to drop out amid fears that his possible victory in the Aug. 2 primary could hand a seat in the chamber to Democrats — or at least force the G.O.P. to stomach an unpalatable candidate in a state that should be undisputed Republican turf. Pressure has grown on Greitens in recent weeks over allegations made in court filings by his ex-wife, Sheena Chestnut Greitens. In a statement to a Missouri judge first published on Tuesday, she said he had become ‘unhinged’ and ‘threatening.’”

Trump heads to North Carolina amid tightening Senate primary: Reuters: “When Donald Trump holds his next rally in North Carolina on Saturday, he’ll be trying to boost his handpicked favorite for the U.S. Senate, Representative Ted Budd, in a tight and intensifying contest for the Republican nomination. Budd is locked in a dead heat with the state’s former governor, Pat McCrory, ahead of the May 17 primary, with former congressman Mark Walker in third place. The crowded field could force a July run-off, risking Republican chances of keeping the seat now held by retiring Senator Richard Burr. Two weeks after Trump withdrew his endorsement from Senate hopeful Mo Brooks‘ struggling Alabama campaign, the race illustrates the dangers facing the party’s bid to retake the Senate majority as it gets ready to battle Democrats for seats in seven competitive states, including North Carolina.”

Williamson: Rick Scott → Wile E. Coyote: National Review: “[Rick Scott] has a big brain, which is a welcome thing in a politician, but he isn’t packing the rest of the gear to be elected president. The person who convinces him that he isn’t the right guy for the top job will be doing him a favor. The voters have surprised me before. But, as public personas go, Scott is the demon lovechild of Senator Ted Cruz and Dr. Sheldon Cooper — one part nasty and one part aspy. In spite of his generally excellent performance in office as governor, his elections have been quite close: He beat Bill Nelson by only two-tenths of a percentage point in his 2018 Senate race, and before that he was reelected as governor in 2014 by only one point — against Charlie Crist, who for years has been doggedly persisting in Florida politics like a rare strain of chlamydia at the Villages. There is a reason for those close calls on Election Day.”

Arizona Dem Mark Kelly increasingly at odds with Biden:  Politico: “He helped sink one of Joe Biden’s labor nominees, pushed the president to open new drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and hammered the administration over lifting pandemic-era restrictions on the southern border. No, it’s not a Republican. It’s Mark Kelly. The Arizona Democratic senator is breaking palpably with the president as he pursues a full six-year term this fall in a once-reliable red state that’s recently become fertile territory for Democrats. … Though Democrats are used to [Kyrsten Sinema] and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) bucking them, Kelly’s vote against David Weil to be wage administrator for the Labor Department shocked party leaders, according to one Democratic senator supportive of the nomination. And his criticism of Biden’s approach to the southern border only grew louder after the White House reversed the Trump administration public-health order known as Title 42, potentially clearing the way for more immigrants seeking asylum to enter the country.”

Inflation threatens Dems’ hold on Nevada:  New York Times: “Democrats have long relied on working-class and Latino voters to win Nevada, but the loyalty of both groups is now in question. …. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat and the country’s first Latina senator, is one of the party’s most endangered incumbents. She must overcome the president’s sagging approval ratings, dissatisfaction with the economy and her own relative anonymity. And she lacks the popularity and deep ties with Latino voters that Senator Harry M. Reid, who died in December, harnessed to help build the state’s powerful Democratic machine. The state has long been a symbol of the Democratic Party’s future by relying on a racially diverse coalition to win elections, but those past gains are now at risk. …  [A] deeper problem for Democrats is that the state has been turning, ever so slightly, less blue. The state’s share of registered Democrats has fallen — from 39.4 percent in 2016 to 33.6 percent in February.”

Dem data guru Ruy Teixiera sounds the alarm on ‘“cultural left”: National Review: “[The American left] is now out of touch with its working-class roots and dominated by college-educated professionals, typically younger people in big metropolitan areas and university towns. They fill the ranks of media, nonprofits, advocacy groups, and foundations and are overrepresented in the infrastructure of the Democratic Party. They speak their own language and highlight the issues that most animate their commitments to ‘social justice.’ In place of promoting universal rights and principles … advocates now police others on the left, including those within the Democratic Party. … A Democratic Party that does not rebrand … dooms American politics to continued stalemate and polarization — an unpleasant prospect. Conversely, given the serious problems and weaknesses of Republicans, a Democratic Party that occupies the cultural center ground, promotes an abundance agenda, and is unabashedly patriotic has a real shot at a long future of political success.”


Stalwart Rep. Fred Upton will retire from Congress after 36 years —Politico 

Meet the House Republicans who are softest on Russia—The Bulwark 

High hopes, tough test for Wisconsin Dems—Politico 

A quarter of Oregon’s dozens of congressional candidates do not live in the district they’re running to represent—Oregon Live

Mississippi is the latest state to ban contributions to election office—Associated Press

Hungarian authoritarian Victor Orbán to speak at CPAC in Budapest—Reuters 

Trump denies burner phones, destroying call logs on January 6—Washington Post

Jonathan Rauch: Saving the transgender movement from its radicals—American Purpose 


“It is remarkable to me that success is now being demonized by the Republicans. I believe in success. I believe that every person should have the opportunity to thrive.” – Stacey Abrams to the Associated Press discussing her newly minted millionaire status. 


“Recently, my dad has made a point to me about how when it comes to judging a person’s moral character, look at their children. And the example he used was about Donald Trump‘s children, and that he finds their character excellent, and contrasted that with [Joe Biden]’s kids, the latter of which he finds serious failings with (primarily [Hunter Biden]). Would you say there’s any truth to such a statement, especially when it comes to both those examples? Why or why not?”—William Brady, Belleair Bluffs, Florida

Oft-quoted when it comes to judging parents by their children are Jesus’ lines from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:17 and 18: “every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” But Jesus wasn’t talking about fathers and sons, he was talking about false prophets, “who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Jesus’ point was that you can tell the character of a leader by what they do, not what they say. In politics and public life, that means looking for people who keep their word, tell the truth, do the right thing, even at a cost to themselves, adhere to their principles, and, above all, love mercy. Lots of good people have troubled children and lots of rotten people have offspring who grow up to be great. President Biden’s eldest son, Beau, by all accounts seems to have been an exemplary person. Prior to his diagnosis with the brain cancer that ultimately claimed his life, he seemed destined for a role on the national stage. His younger brother, Hunter, meanwhile, has led a life bent by addiction and self-centeredness. Among the Trump children, the former president’s daughter, Ivanka, has known great success personally and publicly, while her older brother, Don Jr., has struggled in both arenas. Should we judge Biden by Beau or Hunter? Should we judge Trump by Ivanka or her brother?  The answer is probably “none of the above.” We have had great presidents with troubled children and failed presidents with wonderful families. Should we judge Ronald Reagan a worse president than Richard Nixon on the basis of their family lives? These kinds of judgements are mostly just post-facto rationalizations, anyway. If one thinks Bill Clinton was a good president, he or she will likely find his daughter to be impressive. If one thinks Clinton was a bum, he or she will see Chelsea as proof of her father’s low character. The same would go for the daughters of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Partisans will see what they want to see. Certainly, family troubles could be the result of a politicians’ bad actions and poor priorities, but generally it’s good to remember what Jesus said in Verse 1 of the same chapter: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Family life is hard, even for good people, and we should treat each other with grace when it comes to such matters. Judge a president by the fruits of his leadership, not the fruits of his loins.      

“Why the hate? The raw numbers where murders are concerned are an artifact of Chicago’s population. The last time I looked, Chicago was 22nd among American cities in its murders per hundred thousand. The FBI lists not only St. Louis but Minneapolis and Milwaukee and Kansas City as more dangerous than Chicago. In fact, the FBI says that Chicago is only the seventh most dangerous city in the Midwest!  If the Democrats were considering Minneapolis or Detroit or St. Louis or Kansas City for their convention, I could understand your concern. But it would seem that, like Mr. Trump, you’re letting your assumptions rather than the evidence guide your attitude toward Chicago. Hey. I was a messenger for the [Eugene McCarthy] campaign during the 1968 convention, stationed at the Pick-Congress Hotel on Michigan Avenue. I was right in the middle of the mess. But that was half a century ago. At the time, despite being corrupt as hell, Chicago was probably the best-run city in America. While that’s no longer the case by a long shot, it’s hardly the worst run even now. And not only was the 1968 debacle half a century ago, but 1996 was a quarter of a century ago. Don’t you think the largest centrally located city in America has done enough time in convention jail? Sorry, but I can’t see any actual basis for your fears about the 2024 convention being in Chicago. There are quite a few cities nobody would bat an eye at being awarded the convention that would be much worse choices, and without anything like the facilities and geographical advantages Chicago could offer. So again, why the hate?” — Bob Waters, Des Moines, Iowa

I don’t hate Chicago, Mr. Waters! I may hate the Cubs, but I love their city. My point in last week’s note was that it would be terrible politics for Democrats to go to Chicago, not that Chicago itself was terrible. My father moved to Chicago for a sales job with Kaiser Aluminum after he got back from Korea. He worked on Michigan Avenue and lived on the Near North Side, which was a great launch pad to check out the amazing music scene in the city in the mid 1950s. I have always envied his time there in an era of seemingly unlimited possibilities. I have loved my time in Chicago, too. I have seldom found its reputation for crime, blight, and mismanagement to be deserved in many visits for professional and personal purposes. But my opinion is not what matters. The reason Chicago would be a terrible choice for Democrats is its baggage. Host cities can sometimes add helpful narrative notes to a party convention, but they must never impart  harm. Unfair as you think it might be, the Democratic Party and Chicago have unhappy associations in the public mind. And if I were a Chicagoan, I wouldn’t want the convention anyway. There will likely be lots of ugliness around the 2024 election and lots of strain on public safety resources. Rather than improving Chicago’s image, a convention might harm it. Take it from a West Virginian, I know how easy it is to get upset over what people think of your home place, especially when it’s unfair. But getting riled up doesn’t change anybody’s mind. I wish every good thing for Chicago—other than any National League Central pennants, of course.

You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and always good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission anonymous. My colleague, the intrepid Samantha Goldstein, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack! 


(Photograph from the Bettmann collection/Getty Images.)

Folks, it’s officially April showers time, and that means picking a winner for the month of March. Without further ado … our winner is Jonathan Falk with the cutline on our March 31 note about GOP strategist turned anti-GOP strategist Steve Schmidt’s new incarnation as an enemy of “access journalism.”: “‘No comment,’ said Steve Schmidt in an alternate universe.” Congratulations! You will receive a vintage copy of The Making of the President 1968. Please email us with your address to claim your prize. 

Our winner for the first weekly cutline contest of April for the picture of Chicago police thumping hippies at the 1968 Democratic Convention is …

“A great time was had by all at the 2023 Oscars.”Susan Carusi, Brentwood, Tennessee

Honorable mention: 

“White House Security holds back Administration staffers attempting to stop Biden as he begins to go “Off-prompter” yet again.”Craig S. Chaney, Kirkland, Washington

Readers should send in their proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the top entrants and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun! 


Chicago Sun-Times: “Amare, a gorilla at Lincoln Park Zoo, didn’t seem to notice last week when another teenage gorilla rushed him in a show of aggression that’s common among young males seeking to figure out who’s boss. The 415-pound gorilla was glued to a cellphone. Not his own, of course. But the smartphone of a visitor who’d been showing Amare pictures and videos through a glass partition. ‘It seemed to almost surprise Amare because his attention was very much distracted,’ said Stephen Ross, director of the zoo’s Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. ‘No harm, no foul in this case,’ he said. But Amare’s cellphone distractions have grown more frequent in recent months. Staff members have put up a rope line to keep visitors a few feet from the glass partition and will gently intervene — explaining the situation — if it appears Amare is still being distracted by bright screens.”

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Broken News, a book on media and politics available August 23. Samantha Goldstein contributed to this report.

Comments (0)
Join The Dispatch to participate in the comments.

There are currently no responses to this article.
Be the first to respond.