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An Umpire’s Call Kept Drysdale’s String Alive

Was it wet or wild? Twenty years after it happened, former San Francisco Giants catcher Dick Dietz recalled the pitch that almost cost Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale his consecutive-scoreless-inning record, which Orel Hershiser broke Wednesday night.

Dietz told the Oakland Tribune that it was his fear of Drysdale’s spitball that led to one of the most unusual incidents in the Dodger-Giant rivalry.

To begin with, Dietz said, all the Dodger pitchers of the 1960s, except Sandy Koufax and Jim Brewer, threw spitballs. That thought stuck with Dietz when he came to the plate to face Drysdale with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth inning on May 31, 1968, with the Dodgers leading, 3-0.

With a 2-2 count, Drysdale hit Dietz on the left elbow, apparently forcing in a run, which would have been the first Drysdale had allowed in 44 innings.

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However, plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt called Dietz back to the plate. Wendelstedt ruled that Dietz had not tried hard enough to move out of the way. The rest is history. Drysdale got out of the inning and went on to establish his record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings.

Dietz said he was hit by the pitch because of Drysdale’s spitter.

“That’s why I was protecting the plate,” he said.

So what kind of pitch hit Dietz? Was it wet or just wild? Apparently, it was just wild.

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“It was a slider that didn’t break,” Dietz said.

Name Game: Anybody notice the top two free safeties on the Arizona team?

Groppenbacher (Rich) and Hammerschmidt (Jeff).

What do Jesse Jackson, Vince Dooley and Bob Griese have in common? Nothing is not the right answer. The correct answer is that their sons play football for Virginia. They are freshman defensive end Yusef Jackson, sophomore wide receiver Derek Dooley and sophomore defensive back Scott Griese.

Jim Walden is the coach at Iowa State. Iowa State is in the Big Eight. Oklahoma and Nebraska dominate the Big Eight. Walden is preoccupied with Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Wrong on the last one.

“I couldn’t care less about those two schools,” says Walden, whose team played Oklahoma Saturday. He learned the facts of life in the Big Eight last year when his first Iowa State team lost to Oklahoma, 56-3, and to Nebraska, 42-3.

When he coached at Washington State (1978-86), Walden had to contend with USC and UCLA.

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“The difference between USC and UCLA, and Washington State in 1978 was one whole heck of a lot greater than the distance between Oklahoma and Nebraska and Iowa State is now. They may beat me more, but that is not a criterion as far as I’m concerned.”

Oklahoma won Saturday, 35-7.

For what it’s worth: According to the National Collegiate Athletic Assn., Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders is the first player to return the opening kickoff for touchdowns in consecutive seasons. He returned the first kickoff for a touchdown a year ago against Tulsa and did the same this season against Miami of Ohio.

Quotebook

From Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser, who asked himself why there hasn’t been more Olympic small-bore rifle competition on television: “Water polo is boring enough.”


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