Making Baseball and Conservation History

Major Sponsor Spotlight: Ruly Carpenter

© Jim Thompson

Ruly Carpenter was dedicated to his family and loved spending time with them in the outdoors. Like many Ducks Unlimited supporters, he believed that a strong family shares experiences in the marshes, streams, and woods.

Ruly was the principal owner and president of the Philadelphia Phillies from 1972 to 1981. With an eye for talent, he felt that if you wanted a championship organization you had to build it. Along with Phillies General Manager Paul Owens and Manager Dallas Green, Ruly built one of the most winning and beloved rosters in baseball history. That roster included the likes of Mike Schmidt, Steve Carlton, and Pete Rose. In 1980, the team won the franchise’s first World Series.

Family dedication and baseball came together when Ruly’s commitment to take his children fishing crossed paths with the vote to allow a designated hitter in the National League. In fact, it became one of major league baseball’s most enduring stories and the subject of the 2013 ESPN feature Gone Fishin’.

The rule allowing a designated hitter was adopted by major league baseball in 1973, but only for the American League. In 1980, National League team owners were set to vote on bringing the designated hitter to their league. Because he was scheduled to be out of town on a family fishing trip on the day of the vote, Ruly instructed Phillies Vice President Bill Giles to vote for the change. The Pittsburgh Pirates planned to vote the same as the Phillies voted.

There was a turn in the discussions concerning when to start the new rule and, unsure of the impact and unable to reach Ruly, Bill voted to abstain, and the Pirates followed suit. Later, Ruly said, “While I didn’t know that someone was trying to contact me, I do know, reading from my log, exactly how many fish I caught that day with my daughter: six flounder, 12 weakfish, and two croakers. Not a bad day fishing.”

Five teams voted against the proposal, four teams voted in favor, and three abstained. It wasn’t until 2022, as part of a collective bargaining agreement, that designated hitters were permanently allowed in the National League.

Peter MacGaffin, senior flyway vice president for DU and a friend of Ruly and his family, said, “The whole story doesn’t surprise me. Ruly was a great family man, and dedicating time to them is in keeping with the man I grew up with. He was a regular guy, and the Carpenters are great philanthropists, supporting many programs, not just Ducks Unlimited. Many University of Delaware sports programs, the Blue and Gold High School All Stars and the Pilot School, and programs for children with special learning needs were just a few. Ruly was known for his large and vise-like handshake that matched his family’s philanthropic giving.”

In 1961 Ruly joined DU and was a member until his passing in the fall of 2021. Today, Ruly’s wife, Stephanie, continues the family’s commitment to conservation as a DU Benefactor Sponsor.