Sunday, June 5, 2016

Dick Dietz, Called Back - 28

Originally published Feb. 8, 2013
Dick Dietz took two steps toward first base and was immediately called back by the umpire, he recalled years later to UPI.

It was May 31, 1968 and Dietz had just been hit by a Don Drysdale offering with the bases loaded. Had Dietz been awarded first, a run would have scored and Drysdale's record-setting 58.2 scoreless inning streak would have been stopped at 45.

But the streak went on, because umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled Dietz intentionally let himself get hit, UPI wrote. Dietz, who went on to harmlessly fly out, disagreed.

"I'm not going to stand there and let Don Drysdale hit me," Dietz told UPI in 1981. "You'd have to be crazy to do that."

Dietz went on to a major league career that spanned eight big league seasons, mostly serving as a catcher for the Giants. He posted a career batting average of .261, hit 66 home runs and was legitimately hit by a pitch 13 times. He also went on to a brief coaching career, one with the team where he played the most, the Giants.

But, when he passed away in 2005 from a heart attack, it was that phantom hit-by-pitch extending Drysdale's scoreless streak that was the highlight that made it into the headline announcing his passing.

Dietz' professional career began in 1960, signed by the Giants as a free agent. He played his first season between Class D Artesia and Class C Fresno.

By 1962, he was at Class B Eugene, then made AA El Paso in 1963. In June 1966, Dietz made the majors.

With the Giants that first year, Dietz made it into 13 games, getting just one hit in 13 at bats. He got 56 more games in 1967, then 98 in 1968. That year, he hit .272 for the Giants. In 1969, Dietz hit just .230 in 79 games.

In 1970, Dietz got off to a hot start, hitting .331 over the first half. He also hit 18 home runs and knocked in 75, The Associated Press wrote. It was enough for Dietz to be named an All-Star.

"The main difference between my play this year and in past years is that I am relaxed," Dietz told The AP after his selection. "It makes a difference when you come to the park everyday and know you are going to play."

For Dietz, his All-Star nod got even better. He not only got into the game, but he also hit the game's only home run. That home run also started the late rally that led to the National League victory, The AP wrote.

Dietz finished 1970 with a .300 average and 22 home runs. He returned for another full season in 1971, hitting .252, with 19 home runs. Dietz played in two more seasons, 27 games with the Dodgers in 1972, then 83 with the Braves in 1973, ending his career.

After being out of baseball for more than 15 years, Dietz returned to the game in 1990, serving as hitting coach with the San Jose Giants. By 1993, Dietz was the team's manager, serving in that capacity for two seasons, but he never made the majors as a coach.

In June 2005, Dietz passed away at the age of 63. It was The AP that led Dietz' obituary with that one at bat in 1968 that he didn't get out of the way.

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