Former Captain, CWS Winner and Three-Sport Athlete Roger Detter is an ASU-Lifer
By Griffin Fabitt
To this day, Roger Detter is still 'Captain.'
It's been more than 50 years since Detter, then the captain of the Sun Devil baseball team, guided the Sun Devils to their second College World Series title in three years, but he's still referred to this day by his 1969 teammates as 'Captain.'
That is the pinnacle of Detter's playing career at Arizona State, winning in Omaha in the summer of '69, but it was made even more magical by head coach Bobby Winkles, who named his senior shortstop the team's captain before the season began.
It was the honor of a lifetime then, and the same holds true now.
"The mindset was, first and foremost, that [Coach Winkles] had the confidence in me as an individual to lead the team," Detter said. "Him coming to me for advice or to counsel on things for the team, it was one of the proudest things in my whole life."
That was one of many accolades Detter added to his Sun Devil resume over his playing career. At the same time as he dazzled on the diamond, he was also getting it done on the hardwood, as the star point guard for the men's basketball team.
He was named the team's Most Valuable Player in 1968. He was the team's captain for the 1968-69 season, a year in which he averaged 12.0 points per game. He shot 83 percent from the free-throw line that winter, and he still holds the school record for consecutive free-throws made with 36.
And sprinkled somewhere in that mix was also a brief stint with the track and field team. Detter threw javelin -- but only for home matches. How'd he weave that into an already jam-packed schedule?
Head track and field coach Baldy Castillo learned that Detter had been the state champion in javelin as a high schooler, and he needed a second thrower. Castillo asked Winkles if he could borrow Detter for home matches.
Winkles obliged, and Detter was more than happy to lend his cannon of a right-arm to Castillo and the track team.
"I never practiced, did not travel for track or participate beyond those meets. On Saturday in those 'olden days' we would have a double-header in baseball in the afternoon. I would then grab something to eat, change and go over to the track that evening and throw javelin."
A star shortstop, a game-changing point guard and an occasional javelin thrower: Detter was a busy man during his Tempe tenure.
And his memory remains fabulously sharp. He holds the keys to endless stories and memories from a life that has been centered around Sun Devil athletics. And he unlocks those with ease.
He'll tell you, without hesitation, who started on the mound for the 1969 Sun Devils on the Saturday afternoon in Omaha when they knocked off the UCLA Bruins in an elimination game. He'll tell you the joke Coach Winkles told him when he began his senior season in a slump, when his batting average had dipped below .200.
"'Are you seeing the ball OK?'" Winkles inquired one afternoon on a bus ride to a game.
"'I think so,'" Detter said.
Winkles smirked, and Detter knew a punch-line awaited him.
"'Well, it sure doesn't look like it.'"
And he'll tell you the time he walked into a men's basketball practice -- more than a decade ago -- and five minutes into watching drills knew, "'That kid is the best player on the court. He's better than everyone.'"
The kid was James Harden, then a standout sophomore donning baggy gym shorts with the No. 13 across his chest.
"By far and away," Detter said, "James Harden was the top [ASU] player I've seen in recent times."
Detter even still grimaces at the thought of snapping his consecutive free-throw streak at 36.
"I can picture in my mind, to this day, my 37th free throw [that missed]. It went to the right side of the rim, started down and came back out.
"During the streak, I also had one where I missed a free throw at New Mexico, in a game, but one of their players had stepped in the lane and it didn't count. It was a lane violation, so I got to do it over," Detter chuckled.
He's remained rooted in Sun Devil Athletics since the end of his playing career in the late 1960s. He's still a season-ticket holder, a donor and had closely worked with previous athletic directors, Gene Smith and Sandy Hatfield Clubb, to remain involved with the basketball program.
Remaining tightly-knit with the school and its athletics is of utmost importance to Detter. He wants to give and provide for a school that did so much for him.
"ASU means everything to me," he said. "Whether it's from getting my education here or having the relationships that were built from all the athletic endeavors and everything. "It molds people. I think athletics has a special way of molding individuals and ASU does a terrific job in that as well."
Detter is an ASU-lifer, though it didn't appear to be in the cards early on. Born and raised in a small-town in Kansas, he began looking for colleges as a junior in high school. He received offers from a handful of schools, some offering football scholarships, some offering basketball. But he wanted to play baseball, even though his high school wasn't big enough to have its own team.
The University of Arizona was one of the schools that had offered him an athletic scholarship. He liked that, liked the idea of spending the next four years of his life in Arizona. Perhaps there was a fit there.
But, he was really holding on to the hope that he'd be a Sun Devil. Somehow, some way, Detter had to be a Sun Devil.
As a high schooler, Detter flew in from Wichita for an official recruiting visit with Coach Ned Wulk and the Sun Devil basketball program. There, he introduced himself to Coach Winkles, expressing an interest in walking-on the baseball team.
"He said he'd be glad to give me the opportunity to come out as a walk-on for baseball. No guarantees or anything, but that if I made the club, I'd be welcome on the team.
Detter committed to Arizona State soon after the visit.
He made the baseball team, too. And he'd go on to win two national championships before being drafted into the Chicago Cubs organization in 1969.
The former walk-on is still 'Captain,' even to this day.
Detter will always be 'Captain.'