Archdeacon: Dietrich, 92, on his Stivers Hall of Fame induction -- ‘I love my high school’

Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Joe "Little Joe" Dietrich who was two-sport all city athlete in high school, then after two-year stint in Navy, was highly touted basketball player at Boise State ( then known as Boise Junior College) and also was a point guard stalwart of the Gonzaga University team for two years even though he was just 5 foot-7. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Joe "Little Joe" Dietrich who was two-sport all city athlete in high school, then after two-year stint in Navy, was highly touted basketball player at Boise State ( then known as Boise Junior College) and also was a point guard stalwart of the Gonzaga University team for two years even though he was just 5 foot-7. CONTRIBUTED

They were jolted awake by a rumbling sound that got louder and more earth-shaking as it roared toward them in the nighttime darkness.

Suddenly there was a burst of bright lights and deafening sound and a strong whoosh of wind and clattering rails and screeching wheels.

Joe Dietrich – known as Little Joe in the basketball world – had gotten a big surprise that night in 1948. He and Corky Bausman and Stanley Magulac – weary from another full day on their drive from Dayton toward the West Coast – had pulled their little three-seater coupe off the highway that night, spread out their sleeping bags and bedded down on the roadside.

“In the darkness, we didn’t know we’d pulled off right next to a railroad tracks,” Dietrich recalled with a chuckle. "When the train came by, it scared the hell out of us.

“It was all part of our adventure.”

The trio had quit their jobs in Dayton and driven off on something of a “yellow brick road” search for a college all three could attend.

Dietrich and Bausman, both of whom had been all-city basketball players at Stivers High School a couple years prior, had been working at NCR. Magulac, who hadn’t played sports, had left his father’s tavern on East Fifth Street.

“He was tired of serving beer to drunks,” Dietrich laughed.

The three had no set destination, Dietrich said. They were just looking for a locale the all liked.

They finally found it in Idaho when they visited Boise Junior College, now known as Boise State University.

“Corky was 6-foot-4 and that was considered pretty big then,” Dietrich said. "The basketball coach looked at him and said, ‘Wow! 6-foot-4! We can use him.’

“And that’s when Corky pointed to me and said, ‘Coach, he plays, too!’”

The coach looked at the 5-foot-7 Dietrich and with a lot less enthusiasm, supposedly said, “OK, I guess we can take him, too.”

It would turn out to be an affirmation of that old adage about not judging a book by its cover.

Bausman soon washed out at Boise, but Little Joe – who’d already spent two years in the Navy and had some moxie -- quickly became a much talked about sensation on the court and in the sports pages of the local Idaho Statesman.

Thanks to newspaper research done by Stivers grad and historian Paul Lewis, Dietrich was described in various game accounts as: “the Bronco fireball…Bronco sharpshooter…the number one spark plug …passer par-excellent… a star among stars.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Joe "Little Joe" Dietrich who was two-sport all city athlete in high school, then after two-year stint in Navy, was highly touted basketball player at Boise State ( then known as Boise Junior College) and also was a point guard stalwart of the Gonzaga University team for two years even though he was just 5 foot-7. CONTRIBUTED

Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Joe "Little Joe" Dietrich who was two-sport all city athlete in high school, then after two-year stint in Navy, was highly touted basketball player at Boise State ( then known as Boise Junior College) and also was a point guard stalwart of the Gonzaga University team for two years even though he was just 5 foot-7. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Joe "Little Joe" Dietrich who was two-sport all city athlete in high school, then after two-year stint in Navy, was highly touted basketball player at Boise State ( then known as Boise Junior College) and also was a point guard stalwart of the Gonzaga University team for two years even though he was just 5 foot-7. CONTRIBUTED

He was named a first team of the Intermountain Collegiate Athletic Conference and made the ICAC All-Tournament Team, too.

He went on to play at Gonzaga University in Spokane Washington, where the Spokesman Review referred to him as “the flashiest player” on the team.

After college, Dietrich returned to Dayton, got a job at Delco and soon starred in the Dayton Industrial League. In that time, teams he was on often were matched against the Dayton Flyers freshmen team.

A box score from a 1951 game shows UD being led by Don Donoher, who had 14, while Dietrich led Delco with 17. A year later he scored 11 against a UD team that featured Bill Uhl and Bucky Bockhorn.

Eventually, Dietrich became a teacher, administrator and successful coach at schools in Eaton, Germantown and Centerville.

Today, at age 92, he’s still adding to his sports resume.

He is part of the 2020 induction class into the Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this month’s gala, enshrinement ceremony has been postponed until sometime next year.

But the delay hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm of Dietrich, who lives in Centerville.

“I can’t tell you how honored I am by this,” he said quietly. “This is one of the greatest things that ever happened in my life.”

‘That’s where I met my wife'

Dietrich grew up on College Park Ave. near Brown Street next to the University of Dayton, where his father worked as a plant engineer.

He recalled slipping into football games at Baujan Field when he was a kid: “They had that green wooden fence in the back and we’d wait until no one was looking and get in there.”

He had easier access to UD basketball games at the Fairgrounds Coliseum in the early 1940s: “When I was 14 or 15, they weren’t very good. The never had any fans. They’d let me in for free and I’d sit there with about 50 people.”

He drew bigger crowd when he teamed with Gene “Whiff” Brown to lead Stivers to the city’s Big Seven basketball title his senior season in 1946. The pair starred on the Tigers baseball team, as well: Whiff as the ace pitcher and Little Joe was the third baseman and a pitcher with a good curveball.

Combined ShapeCaption
Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Joe 'Little Joe' Dietrich who was two-sport all city athlete in high school, then after two-year stint in Navy, was highly touted basketball player at Boise State ( then known as Boise Junior College) and also was a point guard stalwart of the Gonzaga University team for two years even though he was just 5 foot-7. CONTRIBUTED

Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Joe 'Little Joe' Dietrich who was two-sport all city athlete in high school, then after two-year stint in Navy, was highly touted basketball player at Boise State ( then known as Boise Junior College) and also was a point guard stalwart of the Gonzaga University team for two years even though he was just 5 foot-7. CONTRIBUTED

Combined ShapeCaption
Stivers Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Joe 'Little Joe' Dietrich who was two-sport all city athlete in high school, then after two-year stint in Navy, was highly touted basketball player at Boise State ( then known as Boise Junior College) and also was a point guard stalwart of the Gonzaga University team for two years even though he was just 5 foot-7. CONTRIBUTED

As for his biggest Stivers' accomplishment?

“That’s where I met my wife,” he said of Donna Rae Willoweit, who he claimed didn’t like him when they went to school there.

“But I wore her down,” he laughed

They married in 1953 while she was a student at Hiram College and their marriage lasted 58 years and produced two sons. She died nine years ago.

A day after Dietrich graduated from Stivers on June 6, 1946, he was in the Navy and soon assigned to a tugboat that kept him at sea for two years.

He has stories of towing subs in the Atlantic Ocean, fighting fires in Maine, going up the Mississippi River and passing through the Panama Canal.

I probably would have stayed in the Navy, but I had one problem," he said.

“I got seasick.”

‘I love Stivers’

When he quit his factory job and followed his wife-to-be to Hiram, they soon married and he became a teacher in the Cleveland area. When they moved back here he continued in the classroom and as a coach. He retired in 1982.

“I keep in touch with a lot of my students through Facebook,” he said. “My wife and I were chaperones for a class trip from Dixon Israel (in Eaton) to New York and I still communicate with a lot of that class.”

He told of another former student, Linda Crawford, who he’d taught in the fifth grade:

"We had the same birthday and she’d come over every year for a birthday party. Her mother used to live pretty close to us here and (years later) when she visited, she’d make a point of stopping by for chocolate cake and ice cream.

“She lives in Kentucky now and her mom moved down with her so she doesn’t come up as much. We talk on the phone, but last year she stopped by and left chocolate covered pretzels.”

Dietrich said just he and Whiff Brown – who was part of the inaugural Stivers Hall of Fame class 15 years ago – are the only ones still living from that 1946 team.

Whiff lives in Columbus and they talk on occasion by phone. Now – with Little Joe’s Hall of Fame induction – they’re part of another special Stivers' team.

“Stivers is a real special place for me,” Dietrich said in a voice that began to catch on welling emotion. "That’s where I met my wife, where I made a lot of friends and played on some good teams.

"Just thinking about it now is bringing tears to my eyes.

“I love Stivers. I love my high school.”

STIVERS HIGH SCHOOL

ATHLETIC HALL OF FAME

2020 INDUCTEES

ATHLETES

Ferron “Fred” Sifford….Class of 1921

Harvey O. Schwab…Class of 1921

William Gitman…Class of 1926

Bobby Vales…Class of 1928

Abe Pretekin …Class of 1933

George Schweitzer…Class of 1935

Harvey J. Schwab…Class of 9141

Bob Graeff…Class of 1943

Joe Dietrich…Class of 1946

TEAMS

1916 State Basketball Champs

1924 State Basketball Champs

1924 National Football Champs

TEACHER

Evelyn Choate

SPECIAL RECOGNITION

William Hale Charch …Class of 1915

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