by Kyle Kubera
August 10, 1997
Diethrick's Day In The Spotlight
College Stadium Renamed in Mr. Baseball's Honor
It's Babe Ruth World Series time in Jamestown - Russ Diethrick's time to shine. Make that Russell E. Diethrick Jr.'s time to shine.
The man who has spent the last several days and most of his life working for the betterment of the community and trying to deflect the spotlight away from himself, spent Saturday evening basking in the glow of honor after honor.
And, no matter how hard he tried to stop them, they just kept coming. Until the bombshell was dropped.
As Jamestown City Council President Michael Mistretta finished reading the resolution changing the name of College Stadium to Russell E. Diethrick Jr. Park, the look on the face of Jamestown's Mr. Baseball said it all.
Diethrick's eyes welled with tears, emotion took over and he knew his friends and admirers had struck the final blow. They had given him the ultimate honor. And there was nothing he could do or say to spread the accolades around.
"I'm overwhelmed. Completely overwhelmed," a stunned Diethrick told the crowd that gathered for the ceremony, which opened with his induction into the Babe Ruth Hall of Fame.
"This is why Babe Ruth Baseball is so successful," he said. "It is because of the people who make nights like this possible."
Just moments before the City Council convened a special session behind home plate to announce the stadium's name change, Diethrick was his usual cool, in-control self.
The Hall of Fame was the honor Diethrick knew about and had prepared for. Babe Ruth Baseball officials announced his induction last December.
What Diethrick didn't know was what made Saturday's ceremony even more special.
As he hugged and shook hands with friends and admirers for an hour after the announcement of the renaming of the stadium, Diethrick still couldn't get over what had happened on the field.
He marveled at how his close friends and co-workers didn't slip and let him know about the announcement. And most of all he basked in the glow of the bright lights and warmth that came with the honor.
Diethrick went out to the front of the former College Stadium and helped take down the plastic cover that unveiled his name in large bronze letters. He even jokingly pulled out his handkerchief and polished the letter R in his first name.
The lettering on the stadium's facade will be matched with a plaque commemorating the day's events.
As he reflected on being named to the Hall of Fame earlier in the ceremonies, Diethrick said he still didn't understand why he was being honored.
"I am only the point person," he said. "If I could have everybody stand up who has helped, you are the reason I am standing here tonight."
Diethrick then turned his thoughts to his parents and said the greatest honor he ever received was on his birth certificate, where he was listed as a junior - Russell Edward Diethrick, Jr.
"I don't fully understand how a coal miner's son could get here tonight," he said.
Then it was time for Diethrick, the seven-time host president of the World Series organizing committee to start deflecting the praise again.
"Thank you for the opportunity to truly, truly love everyone of you," he said to the crowd as he concluded his Hall of Fame acceptance speech.
Charles DeAngelo, an attorney in the city and a former employee of Diethrick's (when he was the city's park director), spoke about the many contributions he has made to the city.
"I know how I feel when I think about (Russ)," DeAngelo said. "It is more than all he has done for the community. Russ Diethrick is the man of integrity who always stood as the can-do individual. He represents what all of us can aspire to do. He is the man who in his kind compassionate way gets the job done."
Other honors given to Diethrick during the event included a proclamation from Mayor Richard A. Kimball, Jr., naming Saturday as Russell E. Diethrick, Jr. Day and awarding him a key to the city.
But it was Diethrick, on his day, having the last word.
"Tonight is only a launching pad for all the wonderful things we still have to do," he said after the stadium was renamed in his honor.
And it was a sign hung on the top of the grandstand that summed up the words of most of the people in Russell E. Diethrick Jr.'s life: "Russ always takes us out to the ballgame."
The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.