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|| News Item: Posted 2005-07-05

Leading Off: Lesson learned from a .043 batting average
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by
The 7th inning stretch of my life passed recently and I became a little sanguine when I read an obit in the newspaper for Dick Dietz.

For 99.9 percent of you the name doesn't mean much, but for a kid growing up a San Francisco Giants fan in Fresno it means a lot.

Dietz was a catcher for the Giants in the 60's and 70's. While other Giants fans collected the bubble gum cards of future Hall of Famers like Willie Mays, Juan Marichal, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry, my dad Seico and I rooted for Dick Dietz.

After my wife and daughter gave me The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract for Father's Day the first player I looked up was Dietz. He was not among the top 100 catchers of all time.

In 1966 Dietz had his first "cup of coffee" with the Giants and batted .043. Yup, a whole .043.

During Spring Training the following season I was reading one of my dad's most treasured books, "Who's Who In Baseball" and asked him why should the Giants play a guy who batted a whopping .043.

I remember my dad looking at me with a smile and saying that a measure of a ball player and a person isn't judged just by a number but what he had in his heart and how hard he tried. He added that we would root especially hard for Dietz during the upcoming season.

For an 11-year-old that was pretty heady stuff. But from April through September while listening to Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons and Bill Thompson on our old radio we cheered on the Giants and especially catcher Dick Dietz.

I remember coming home from school one day in early May and asking my dad what Dietz had done the night before. He laughed and said "The paper says Dickie Dietz went 2 or 4 against the Cards last night, drove in a run and the Giants won!"

And so went the rest of the summer. And at the end of the season, Dietz batted a whole .225.

Photo by

Dick Dietz's catchers glove.
When you reach the grand old age of 50 lots of things clatter around in your mind, half of them are forgotten in a few minutes. You tend to look back on things a lot more and reflection becomes more of an avocation than simply something to do during an idle moment or two.

Reading the short obit on Dick Dietz brought back lots of memories of good times in the late - 60's, baseball, my family and my budding journalism career. At the time I wanted to be a sports writer or maybe a baseball play-by-play announcer, something my dad (and my mom) encouraged and nurtured.

That time of my life was simple and it also seems, on reflection, so was sports. We could all make heroes of any ball player we read about in the paper and heard about on the radio. It was fun to be a kid back then.

In the obit former teammate Jimmy Davenport was quoted "I remember him being a great teammate. He was great to be around, always had a smile on his face."

During the pennant run, Dietz was hit in the head with a pitch but played the rest of the season with a bandage wrapped around his head.

" 'The Mule' (Dietz's nickname) was a joy to work with ... a sweet, gentle man who loved to laugh and loved the game of baseball. His favorite times were spent around the batting cage, encouraging the hitters and enjoying the moment,'' said Sonoma Crushers owner Bob Fletcher in the Chronicle write up. Dietz served as the manager of the independent league team for several years.

So now almost 40 years later when I think about Dicky Dietz, the Giants and my dad I can't help but feel that I grew up and learned a lot about life by rooting for a guy who hit a whole .043, that a true measure of a person isn't in the stats but in how he is thought of by his friends (and fans) and what was in his heart and head.

Photo by

"The Dodgers can go to hell!" - Dick Dietz
(For those not in the "Dicky Dietz Fan Club": Dietz played 8 years in the Major Leagues, 6 with the Giants. His best season was 1970 when he hit .300, slugged 22 homers, drove in 107 runs and was named to the All Star team. Dietz' most (in)famous moment has to be when he was hit by a pitch by the Dodgers' Don Drysdale with the bases loaded, but the umpire ruled he didn't get out of the way thus preserving Drysdale's consecutive shutout streak. My favorite Dietz memory has to be after the Giants won the NL West in '71 and during the post-game celebration told the radio listeners "The Dodgers can go to hell!")

* * *

And then there is the curious case of Kenny Rogers.

First off I have to ask: Barry Bonds, OK I can see him boycotting the media. Kobe Bryant, sure. Marion Jones, lots to hide, all right I can see it.

But Kenny Rogers?

What did this clown think would happen after he misses a start because he punched out a water cooler?

"Perp walks" are not a kind of photo coverage I like to see, let alone be a part of. And personally I think I would have taken the hint that a guy who just did violence to a jug of water in the dugout might be a canon ready to blast away if you get my drift.

(As I like to say, things look a lot better through a 400mm … as long as someone with a 14mm isn't in the face of whom I am trying to photograph!)

Nonetheless, what Rogers did to a TV cameraman before the Rangers' game against the Anaheim Angels last week was not only a crime but also something the game of baseball and his team should have dealt with more harshly.

Commissioner Bud dished out his punishment for Rogers the other day: a 20 game suspension and $50,000.For a pitcher that translates to missing 4 maybe 5 starts.

To me it hardly comes close to the harm Rogers did to the cameraman (putting him in the hospital), let alone to the game of baseball.

The MLB Players Union, of course, is appealing the suspension and Rogers made a start Sunday, losing to the Seattle Mariners where it was also announced he had been named to the American League All Star team.

Some statement that makes not only the media, but to fans and the general public.

Rather than show that violence and boorish behavior is not tolerated (even to the a member of the media) baseball is allowing Rogers to be a part of their showcase game.

Am I the only one who sees a pattern that has developed in sports?

- Last season a chair is flung into the stands by Texas Ranger reliever Frank Francisco, breaking the nose of an unsuspecting fan.

- Last March Orlando's Steve Francis is suspected for just three games for kicking a baseline photographer.

- A fight between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons earlier this year spills into the stands, resulting in criminal charges and several suspensions by the NBA, most notably Ron Artest for the remainder of the season.

I am not sure if the cause for all this is the general violence in our culture or if it is partially due to the elitist attitude many athletes have with regards to fans as well as the media.

Anyway, I think I found a piece of advice that Kenny Rogers the pitcher should have taken from Kenny Rogers the country singer in his tune "The Gambler":

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away and know when to run.

* * *

It's July and baseball has announced the rosters for the upcoming All Star Game in Detroit.

I was sitting at the kitchen table Sunday morning reading the players named to round out the rosters and I got to thinking: Who would I name to my "All Star Baseball Photo Team" if I were to make assignments for the game.

So I came up with my All Star Team … granted it is a little biased (friends, colleagues, members and generally photographers I know and whose work I admire) but here it is anyway.

- Brad Mangin (shoots for SI and MLB): overhead third.
There isn't a photographer out there that knows the game, stadiums and the players better than Brad. The best baseball shooter working, period.

- Keith Birmingham (Pasadena Star News): outside first.
I'd have Keith just "sit on" the third basemen and shortstops because nobody has more diving infielder photos in his member galleries than Keith.

- Robert Seale (The Sporting News): portraits.
Robert would set up in a little studio somewhere in the stadium tunnels near the clubhouses so he can work his lighting and portrait magic. Sky backdrops, trampolines, optical spots, fresnels … whatever he needs he can use for this gig.

Photo by Chris Detrick

Photo by Chris Detrick
- Chris Detrick (recent Missouri grad, currently interning at the Salt Lake Tribune): features.
I've seen this kid in the field and I haven't seen many "work an assignment' harder than Chris. Low angle, pole cam, talk his way into the coach's office … nothing is impossible for him because of his drive, determination and cheerful personality.

- Rod Mar (Seattle Times): outside third.
No photographer I know can sense what the "news of the game" is better than Rod. He not only will know what the play (or player) of the game is but will have it and also will get the appropriate player jub'ing or dejected in the locker room.

- Bob Deutsch (USA TODAY): outfield.
You have to have someone on the "team" that knows where the best restaurant in town is or where to get that post-game Scotch!

- Tracy Boulian (Naples Daily News, recent New York University grad): roamer.
I always said that if I were a editor on a big gig like an All Star Game or World Series I'd take a flyer on someone new that doesn't have a preconceived notion of what is expected. I love her portfolio and would turn her loose and if she came back with just one great photo, it was worth it.

* * *

This delayed issue of the Sports Shooter Newsletter features a report by Darrell Miho on his recent visit to New York and what editors had to say about his portfolio. Attention students: Here is some advice to live by!

Vincent Laforet and Walter Calahan give us some tech info.

And Mark Stallings, with tongue firmly in cheek, writes about covering his first national championship.

So sit back, relax, adjust the contrasts on your monitor, turn down the volume on that Uptones CD and enjoy Sports Shooter v.80!

As always, thanks to Special Advisors & Contributors: Deanna & Emma Hanashiro, Brad Mangin, Anne Ryan, Rick Rickman, Joe Gosen, Peter Read Miller, Rod Mar, Vincent Laforet, Trent Nelson, Jason Burfield, Grover Sanschagrin, Photodude, Scott Sommerdorf, Reed Hoffmann and Bob Deutsch.

Thanks this month to: Darrell Miho Walter Calahan and Mark Stallings.

I welcome any comments, corrections, suggestions and contributions. Please e-mail me at

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