Former all-star catcher Dick Dietz, who was involved with Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Don Drysdale in one of baseball’s most disputed plays of the 1960s, has died. He was 63.
Dietz died Tuesday from a heart attack. He is to be buried in Greenville, S.C.
Dietz’s lifetime batting average was .261, with 66 home runs and 301 runs batted in from 1966 to ’73, mostly with the San Francisco Giants. He finished his career with the Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves.
His all-star season was in 1970, with the Giants, when he batted .300, with 36 doubles, 22 home runs and 107 RBIs, along with 109 walks.
His leadoff homer against American League pitcher Catfish Hunter in the ninth inning of that year’s All-Star game started a three-run rally to tie it up. The National League won in the 12th inning when Pete Rose ran over catcher Ray Fosse to score the winning run.
But Dietz probably was better known for what happened at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 1968.
Drysdale was in the process of setting a major league record of 58 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings and bidding for his fifth straight shutout when the Giants loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth inning.
Dietz came up to bat and was hit in the elbow by a 2-and-2 pitch.
But before he could take first base to force home a run that would break Drysdale’s streak, home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt ruled that Dietz did not try to get out of the way of the ball.
The Giants argued the call, but Dietz returned to the plate with a full count and hit a fly ball that was not deep enough to score a run. Drysdale retired the next two batters to finish the shutout and extend his string to 45 scoreless innings.
“He stood there like a post,” Dietz’s former Giant teammate Ron Hunt recalled Wednesday. “It was a high slider, and he didn’t make an attempt.”
Hunt, who once held the career hit-by-pitch record, remembered that Wendelstedt made the call right away. But that didn’t stop the Giants from complaining.
“We’d seen a lot of those things where it was or wasn’t called, when it wasn’t such a big deal,” Hunt said.