Most of you are probably too young to remember the so-called “Dick Dietz” incident. But last night, in the final out of the 2022 WBSC World Cup game between the USA and Canada, we saw that history does indeed repeat itself.
The original version took place on May 31, 1968 at Dodger Stadium. Vin Scully, was, of course, behind the mike and described the events, in a game that is still talked about by Dodger and Giant fans today. It has been mentioned among Vin Scully’s greatest calls of all time. Here’s the short version of what happened:
May 31, 1968 – Controversial play extends Drysdale’s streak – In the midst of throwing his fifth consecutive shutout and setting a then-Major League record of 58 2/3 scoreless innings, Don Drysdale loaded the bases in the ninth inning against the Giants before hitting San Francisco catcher Dick Dietz with a pitch. The hit batter would have ended his streak, but the plate umpire determined that Dietz made no attempt to get out of the way of the ball, extending the at-bat and allowing Drysdale to keep his streak intact.
Vin initially thought that the plate umpire said the pitch had hit the bat, but quickly clarified that the plate umpire was refusing to award first base to Dietz, because he didn’t attempt to avoid the pitch. Regretably missing from this video is Vin’s explanation of the rule.
Here’s Vin with the call:
The above video is the only one of the “Dick Dietz” incident, which I call the “short version”. As a kid, I had a cassette of the longer version, and it was glorious. Vin describing the 25 minute argument in vivid detail. The Giant’s manager, Herman Franks was eventually ejected, and third base coach Peanuts Lowry took over the argument. Vin noted that he was trying not to get ejected: “Peanuts Lowry puts another plug of tobacco in his mouth, perhaps to keep him from saying one word to many”, then waxing poetically about the “hit by pitch”, then, without missing a beat, quoting baseball rule 6.08.
Sadly, that cassette tape of Vin on the call disappeared, a childhood friend at the time later admitting that he tossed it because I played it one too many times. He was right, of course, I played it endlessly. But unfortunately for him, I had committed Vin’s call to memory, and his kharma-like penalty was that he had to listen to me doing the call instead of the GOAT, Vin Scully.
Fast forward to 2022 at the WBSC Men’s World Cup in Auckland New Zealand, 7th inning, bases loaded, USA trailing Canada 4-3, and Canada trying to close out a come-from-behind win. Canada’s Justin Schofield pitching for Canada, Jonathan Lynch at the plate. 2-2 count. We’ll let @OutsidetheChute take it from there:
History repeats, 54 years later, and we now have the “Jonathan Lynch incident” to talk about for a long time to come.
What do you think? The right call?
I do have a question, though. What is the fastpitch rule and does it vary from the baseball rule? In the Dick Dietz incident, Rule 6.08 was applied, but Dietz wasn’t called out. Home plate umpire Harvey Wendelstat said that Dietz didn’t make an attempt to get out of the way of the pitch, and therefore, called it a ball. Dietz eventually flied out. Lynch, in last night’s game, was called out. Is there a distinction made if/when the umpire determines that the batter not only did not get out of the way, but intentionally? tried to get hit?
Comments on Twitter when this posts are invited.
Editor’s Note: An alert viewer notes: “The reason Lynch was called out was because that was strike three. It was a 2-2 count.”
For baseball history buffs that want to read a bit more about the famed “Dick Dietz incident”, we share Mark Langill’s piece written in 2020. I can still hear Vin making the call, “Hold everything…..and the Giants are all over the plate umpire….”
by Mark Langill
During his heyday with the Dodgers, if Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale perceived the opponent had thrown at one of his teammates he would plunk two in retaliation. But the most famous hit batsman of Drysdale’s career never made it to first base, because the umpire ruled the result was “intentional.”
If you’re confused, imagine the ninth-inning controversy involving the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on May 31, 1968, when Drysdale was in the midst of a record scoreless streak of 58 2/3 innings and six consecutive shutouts.
The streak was in jeopardy at 44 innings when Drysdale, nursing a 3–0 lead, loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. On a 2-2 count to Dick Dietz, catcher Jeff Torborg called for a slider. Drysdale’s pitch sailed inside and broadcaster Vin Scully initially wasn’t sure whether the ball struck Dietz or his bat, thus a foul ball.
“The ball just sort of grazed Dietz on the elbow,” Drysdale said in his 1990 autobiography “Once a Bum, Always a Dodger.” “He was all set to head to first base and ending my streak. But Harry Wendlestedt, the plate umpire, ruled that Dietz hadn’t tried to get out of the way of the pitch, so Dietz stayed right there. It took a lot of (guts) on Harry’s call, but I felt he was absolutely right. Dietz had made no effort to avoid the pitch, and that was confirmed to me the next day. Juan Marichal, the Giants’ great right-hander, told me that Dietz had said in the dugout before he came to bat, ‘If it’s anything but a fastball, I’ll take one and that will end the streak right there.’ In other words, knowing that a hit batsman would bring in a run, Dietz was willing to get in the way of a pitch.”
Drysdale estimated the game was delayed 25 minutes while Giants manager Herman Franks and third base coach Peanuts Lowrey argued. Drysdale tried to stay warm by silently playing catch with Torborg and the other infielders. None of his teammates said anything to Drysdale, because the streak was still intact. Meanwhile in the press box, Scully was reading the rule book on the air as he described the frantic actions of Dietz, Lowrey and Franks, who was finally ejected by Wendlestedt.
When play resumed, Drysdale now had a full count on Dietz because the pitch had been ruled “ball three.” After fouling off a pitch, Dietz hit a shallow fly to left fielder Jim Fairey. Nate Oliver didn’t test Fairey’s arm and remained on third base. The next batter was Ty Cline, pinch-hitting for shortstop Hal Lanier. Cline hit a sharp grounder to first baseman Wes Parker, who fired to Torborg for the force on Oliver. Pinch-hitter Jack Hiatt popped up to Parker, and Drysdale’s great escape was complete.
Because the Dodgers would suffer consecutive losing seasons in 1967 and 1968 for the first time in franchise history since 1937–38 in Brooklyn, Drysdale’s streak was one of the few bright spots of the post-Sandy Koufax era. Drysdale had tied the MLB record of five consecutive shutouts set by Guy Harris of the 1904 Chicago White Sox. The next targets were Carl Hubbell’s National League scoreless streak record of 46 1/3 innings with the 1933 New York Giants and the MLB mark of 56 innings by Walter Johnson of the 1913 Washington Senators.
“It was almost like a World Series celebration,” Drysdale said of the Dodger clubhouse after the victory over San Francisco. “I had no trouble grasping the significance of my accomplishment then, even though, in all honesty, it hadn’t affected me that much to that point. I always operated on the theory that you break down a ballgame — inning by inning, batter by batter, pitch by pitch. I never did put much stock in streaks that lasted over days or even weeks. What’s done is done. Let’s get on to the next thing. That was my game plan. It was contradictory to my nature to worry about the big picture, so to speak.”
Drysdale credited Alston’s defensive strategy. In the seventh inning, he moved Parker from left field to first base to replace veteran Ken Boyer. Fairey went to left field in place of veteran Rocky Colavito. Boyer switched to third base, replacing Bob Bailey.
“In the ninth inning with the bases loaded and none out, (Alston) played the infield at double-play depth to protect the victory,” Drysdale said. “He didn’t play the infield in to protect the shutout. I wouldn’t have expected anything but that from Walt, who had his priorities in order. The reason we were out there was to beat the Giants, not to pad my scoreless streak. When we were fortunate enough to do both, Walt was among the first to spring out to the mound to shake my hand.”
Thanks to a 12-game homestand, Drysdale was able to pitch the final three games of his streak in Los Angeles. Drysdale pitched a shutout in his next start on June 4 against the Pirates in a 5–0 victory. He surpassed Johnson’s record on June 8 against the Phillies. The streak ended in the fifth inning on two singles and a sacrifice fly by Howie Bedell.
During Drysdale’s streak, he stranded 11 runners on third base and 10 on second base. Opponents batted a collective .145 (27-for-186) with three extra-base hits: doubles by Jimmy Wynn (Astros), Lou Brock (Cardinals) and Gary Kolb (Pirates).
When Orel Hershiser broke Drysdale’s streak 20 years later with 59 scoreless innings in 1988, he received a “Dick Dietz reprieve” on Sept. 23 at San Francisco. The Giants, with runners on first and third and one out, scored an apparent run on a fielder’s choice grounder. The run, which would’ve ended the streak at 42 innings, was nullified when umpire Bob Engel ruled that Brett Butler went out of the basepath toward shortstop Alfredo Griffin to break up the play at second base, resulting in an inning-ending double play.
Hershiser finally broke the record with 10 scoreless innings on Sept. 28 at San Diego. When he walked off the mound, he was greeted in the dugout by Drysdale, in his first year as a Dodger broadcaster. Hershiser received a no-decision in the 16-inning game, which meant Drysdale kept the record for consecutive shutouts.