The ability to successfully hit a baseball is a rare skill. If a player can hit, a baseball team will find a place for that player—even if it’s just the designated hitter. “If you can hit, you can play” is a popular baseball adage.
“If you can hit, you can play” was cited in print in 1978, and it was called an “old saying” in 1984. It’s not known who first came up with the saying.
“If you can shoot, you can play” is a basketball adage.
11 August 1978, The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL), “Giants will give a convict a tryout at training camp” (UPI), pg. 28, col. 3:
“If you can hit, you can play and I think he can hit,” (San Francisco Giants’ second baseman Bill—ed.) Madlock said.
Google News Archive
17 June 1984, The Blade (Toledo, OH), “Plaudits Lacking For Baseball Veterans” (AP), sec. E, pg. 4, col. 3:
But, it’s like Oberkfell says.
“There’s an old saying. If you can hit, you can play. The rest doesn’t really matter that much.”
A Celebration of the Art of Fielding
By William Curran
New York, NY: W. Morrow
Anson confirmed the oldest axiom of baseball eligibility: If you can hit, you can play.
6 April 1986, Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, “Why is Doc Estes still in the minors?” by John O’Connor, pg. D-10, col. 1:
“If you can hit, you can play somewhere.”
(Said by Richmond baseball manager Roy Majtyka.—ed.)
3 March 1988, Marshall (MI) Chronicle, “Tigers give baseball lessons to visiting Soviet Coaches” (UPI), pg. 8, col. 3:
He noted hitting, fielding and speed were the three most important things. “If you can hit, you can play,” (former Detroit catcher Bill—ed.) Freehan said.
The Ticket Out:
Darryl Strawberry and the Boys of Crenshaw
By Michael Y. Sokolove
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster
You had Cordie Dillard, who I felt was a sure thing, because he was a very good hitter. He wasn’t that fast or that great an infielder, but as I say, if you can hit you can play. They’ll find a position for you, even if it’s DH in the American League.
Texas Rangers rumors: who starts in left field?
March 29, 2015 by Travis Koch
As the old saying goes, “If you can hit, you can play.”