In the shadow of every Rose, an obscure player grows Dietz, Hunter among game's shooting stars

July 11, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Pete Rose barreled into Ray Fosse in the 12th inning of the 1970 All-Star Game, creating instant pain, fame and fury.

Few games in All-Star history ended as dramatically -- or as controversially -- as the National League's 5-4, come-from-behind victory at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium. Rose, the Cincinnati Reds firebrand, not only ran over Fosse at the plate for the winning run, but also sent the Cleveland Indians catcher to the hospital with a career-altering shoulder injury.

Pop quiz: Who delivered the hit that scored Rose?

Answer: Jim Hickman of the Chicago Cubs.

Call him the forgotten man in one of the All-Star Game's most memorable plays. And add his name to a long list of players who paused briefly at the All-Star Game's window of opportunity, who left their imprint, then slipped back into baseball's shadows. This is the story of a handful of such players. For Mark Fidrych, the moment was almost perilous. For Billy Hunter, it was one daring sprint around the bases. For Cleon Jones, it was a time to learn. For Dick Dietz, it was a time to shine.

JIM HICKMAN, 1970

Twenty-three years later, Hickman says he isn't haunted by the fact that The Crash rendered The Hit a mere afterthought in All-Star lore.

"Sure, everybody remembers that more than who got the hit," he said. "That doesn't bother me. There's one guy who remembers who got the hit, and that's me."

It was one of several clutch hits Hickman delivered in 1970. Playing in cozy Wrigley Field for the Cubs, he hit 32 homers, drove in 115 runs and batted .315, all career highs. In Hickman's 13-year big-league career, it was the only season he was named to the All-Star team.

Hickman, who had 19 homers at the All-Star break, almost missed his date with fate. He skipped the banquet the day before the game to tend to personal business in Chicago. Mechanical problems delayed his flight into Cincinnati, and he arrived in the first inning.

Sent in to replace left fielder Rico Carty early in the game, Hickman said he "was scared to death. . . . That was the game, so to speak."

It showed; so did his lack of batting practice. He went hitless in his first three at-bats, but a three-run, ninth-inning NL rally afforded him a shot at redemption. He came to the plate in the bottom of the 12th against the AL's Clyde Wright of the California Angels with two outs and Rose on second.

"I hadn't had a real good night," Hickman said. "I struck out two or three times. I just wanted to hit the ball and redeem myself a little bit."

He caught a fastball out over the plate and lined it to center field, where Amos Otis fielded the ball cleanly and quickly. Otis' throw home brought Fosse up the third-base line and into Rose's path. After the crash, many wondered about Rose's intentions on the play.

"When I first saw it, I thought he ran over the guy intentionally," Hickman said. "But when you watch it, you can see him flinch like he's going to slide, and at the last second, he stays up. All those years, I thought he was going to run over him from the word go."

Today, Hickman, 56, lives in Henning, Tenn., and is a roving hitting instructor in the Reds organization. He said not all of the players he coaches are aware of his role in the 1970 All-Star Game. "A lot of them ask if I played with Babe Ruth," he said, chuckling.

DICK DIETZ, 1970

If Rose was the hero of the 1970 All-Star Game, and Hickman the forgotten man, Dick Dietz is the hero who might have been. He was on deck for the National League when the game ended.

"I was the one who picked Pete up," Dietz said. "I had the best seat in the house. I was telling him to slide. But Ray went three feet up the line, and Pete had no choice but to try to run over him. Amos Otis made a heck of a play, but his throw was up the line a little bit. If it was on line, maybe I would have been MVP."

Dietz, then a catcher for the San Francisco Giants, might have been, indeed. He already achieved a line in All-Star history when he became the eighth player to homer in his first All-Star at-bat, leading off the ninth against Catfish Hunter.

He didn't know what elite company he had joined until 1989, when Bo Jackson became the ninth player to homer in his first All-Star at-bat. But Dietz was so excited after hitting a 2-1 pitch over the center-field fence that he was barely able to control himself.

"I was running like hell," he said. "As I rounded first, the ball had gone out of the park. I didn't realize it until I got to second base. Then I jumped straight up in the air. I had to play it cool, though, to make people think I did it all the time."

Like Hickman, 1970 was Dietz's career year. He had been given the regular catching job that season and responded with 22 homers, 107 RBI and a .300 average.

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