September 18, 1941|
|Died: June 28, 2005
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|June 18, 1966 for the San Francisco Giants|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1973 for the Atlanta Braves|
|Career highlights and awards|
Richard Allen Dietz (September 18, 1941 – June 28, 2005) was an American professional baseball player. He played as a catcher in Major League Baseball for the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Atlanta Braves from 1966 to 1973.
Born in Crawfordsville, Indiana, Dietz was signed by the San Francisco Giants as an amateur free agent before the start of the 1960 season. He showed some promise as a hitter, posting a .354 batting average with 35 home runs and 101 runs batted in while playing for the El Paso Sun Kings in the Texas League in 1963.
Dietz made his major league debut with the Giants on June 18, 1966 at the age of 24. Nicknamed Mule, he played as the Giants backup catcher behind Tom Haller in 1967. In September, Dietz was named to the 1967 Topps All-Star Rookie Team. In February 1968, the Giants were in need of good infielders, and with four young catching prospects in their system, including Dietz, club president Chub Feeney decided to trade Haller along with a player to be named later, to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ron Hunt and Nate Oliver. Dietz shared catching duties with Jack Hiatt and Bob Barton in 1968, producing a .272 batting average with 6 home runs and 38 runs batted in.
Dietz is remembered for his role in a controversial umpiring decision during the 1968 season. The Giants were facing Dodgers' pitcher Don Drysdale, who was in the midst of a scoreless inning streak that would eventually reach a record-setting 58 and two-thirds innings. The Giants had the bases loaded with no outs and Dietz at bat. Dietz was hit by a pitch, apparently ending Drysdale's scoreless innings streak. However, home plate umpire Harry Wendelstedt, citing a rarely enforced rule, refused to allow Dietz to take first base, claiming that Dietz did not attempt to avoid being struck by the ball. Drysdale then retired Dietz and the next two batters, keeping his scoreless streak alive. Dietz was the Giants catcher on September 17, 1968, when Gaylord Perry pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1969, Dietz continued to share the catching duties with Hiatt and Barton. When the other two players were traded before the start of the 1970 season, Dietz became the Giants' regular starting catcher.
In his first season as a full-time player in 1970, Dietz hit for a .337 batting average with 18 home runs and 77 runs batted in at mid-season. Although he wasn't listed on the All-Star ballot and received few write-in votes, the manager for the National League All-Star team, Gil Hodges, named Dietz as a reserve player for the National League team. In the 1970 All-Star Game, Dietz replaced Johnny Bench in the top of the seventh inning and led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a home run off Catfish Hunter that helped spark a rally that tied the game. The National League went on to win the game in the twelfth inning with a climactic collision at home plate between Pete Rose and Ray Fosse (It was Dietz who was in the on deck circle, congratulating Rose immediately after the collision). He ended the 1970 season with career-highs in batting average (.300), home runs (22), runs batted in (107), walks (109) and in on-base percentage (.426). His 1970 season remains historic as of 2009, as he is the only catcher to tally 100 walks, 100 RBI and hit .300 in the same Major League Baseball season.
Dietz was an integral member of the 1971 Giants team that clinched the National League Western Division title. The Giants had a nine-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers on August 1, but held on during a pennant race to win the division by a narrow one-game margin. Dietz caught every game during the tense final stages of the season, and provided offensive support with 19 home runs and 72 runs batted in. In the only post-season appearance of his career, Dietz had only one hit in 15 at-bats, as the Giants lost to the eventual world champion Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1971 National League Championship Series.
In 1972, Dietz fell from favor with the Giants' management for his role as player representative during the 1972 Major League Baseball strike that delayed the start of the season. Other reports stated that the Giants gave up on Dietz because of his defensive liabilities, having led National League catchers in passed balls in 1970 and 1971. Soon after the strike was settled, he was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Unfortunately, Dietz broke his wrist on July 30 and missed much of the 1972 season. In 1973, Dietz had an excellent season as a reserve first baseman and catcher for the Braves, batting .295 with a .474 on-base percentage. However, the Braves released him after the season, and after no team signed him for 1974, Dietz' career was over at the age of 32.
In an eight-year major league career, Dietz played in 646 games, accumulating 478 hits in 1,829 at bats for a .261 career batting average along with 66 home runs, 301 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .390. Although he was better known for his power hitting, he was a capable defensive catcher, ending his career with a .981 fielding percentage.
After his retirement as a player, Dietz served as a minor league coach and manager. He managed the San Jose Giants in 1993 and 1994, the Sioux Falls Canaries in 1995 and the Sonoma County Crushers from 1996 to 1999.
- "Dick Dietz statistics". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "Dick Dietz minor league statistics". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- Twombly, Wells (October 1970). "A New Image for Giants' Dick Dietz". Baseball Digest. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "Topps Rookie Team Named". The Morning Record. Associated Press. September 9, 1967. p. 9. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
- "Hunt, Oliver Dealt To San Francisco By LA For Haller". Tri City Herald. Associated Press. February 12, 1968. p. 13. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
- Bush, David (June 24, 2011). "DICK DIETZ: 1941–2005". sfgate.com. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- Marazzi, Rich (November 2002). "Baseball Rules Corner". Baseball Digest. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "September 17, 1968 Cardinals-Giants box score". retrosheet.org. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "1970 Dick Dietz batting log". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "National All-Stars Completed, Umpires Named". The Palm Beach Post. Associated Press. July 10, 1970. p. 5. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "1970 All-Star Game". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "1971 San Francisco Giants Schedule, Box Scores and Splits". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "1971 National League Championship Series". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved December 24, 2011.
- "Dodgers claim Dick Dietz". The Rock Hill Herald. Associated Press. April 7, 1972. p. 7. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
- "Swoboda, Dietz Cut". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Associated Press. March 26, 1974. p. 3. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
- "Dick Dietz minor league managerial statistics". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved December 24, 2011.