Rick Stelmaszek, a fixture on the Minnesota Twins coaching staff from 1981-2012 passed away at the age of 69 after a courageous battle with cancer. His 32 seasons as a coach with one team (Twins) are the third longest such stint in major league history, and he had the longest tenure of any uniformed employee in Twins history.
Richard Francis Stelmaszek known to all his baseball friends as “Stelly”, was born in Chicago, IL on October 8, 1948 and passed away in the city where he was born on November 6, 2017.
According to baseball-reference.com Rick’s father, Raymond Stelmack was a pitcher and outfielder that played in the Yankees, Cardinals, White Sox, and Cubs farm systems from 1939 to 1946 but he never reached the big leagues.
Rick Stelmaszek was drafted after graduating from high school by the Washington Senators as a catcher in round 11 of the 1967 amateur draft and started his professional career in 1968 with the “A” ball Salisbury Senators in the West Carolinas League. Although not a great hitter by any means, Stelmaszek reached the big leagues in 1971 at the age of just 22 and made his big league debut on June 25 at Yankee Stadium when he entered the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter for catcher Paul Casanova and finished the game going 0 for 2. The visiting Senators lost that game 12-2 and it was one of the six big league games he played in 1971.
The Washington Senators left Washington after the 1971 season and moved to Arlington, Texas where they became the Texas Rangers. Stelmaszek spent all of 1972 in the minors perfecting his trade. In 1973 in his seventh game in a Ranger uniform and 0 for 17 in his big league career, Stelly finally got off the snide with a single off of future fall of famer Nolan Ryan of the California Angels for his first big league hit.
That hit must have impressed the Angels because the next day they acquired him in a five player trade with the Rangers. Stelmaszek spent the rest of 1973 with California but found himself in AAA when the 1974 season started. In July of 1974 Stelmaszek was packing his suitcase again, this time he was off to his home town of Chicago where he appeared in 25 games for the Cubs. Stelly hit his first and only major league home run wearing a big league uniform when hit the “tater” off future hall of famer Don Sutton in an 18-8 Cubbies loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field. Stelmaszek went 2 for 4 with a double when he played in his final big league game at the age of 25, a 3-2 loss at Wrigley to the Montreal Expos.
Stelmaszek spent all of 1975 with the Cubs AAA team and in January of 1976 he was on the move again, this time he was headed for the bright lights of New York City to play with the Yankees. However; Stelly never got to wear the Yankee pinstripes and he spent 1976 with the Yankees AAA team and in 1977 he was playing in AAA for the Rangers.
1978 found him with the Minnesota Twins organization as a player manager for the “A” ball Wisconsin Rapids Twins in the Midwest League. His record that season was only 62-76 but the only player that ever reached the big leagues that played on that team was Mark Funderburk and he only played in 31 major league games for the Twins. Stelmaszek retired as a player after the 1978 season but he continued managing at Wisconsin Rapids through the 1980 season.
After winning the Midwest League Manager of the Year award in 1980, Stelly joined the Twins big league coaching staff in 1981 as the bullpen coach under manager Johnny Goryl and continued in that roll for 32 years and coached under five managers, Goryl, Billy Gardner, Ray Miller, Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire.
When the Twins finished 2012 with the worst record in baseball, Rick Stelmaszek was one of the coaching casualties and lost his long time coaching job with the Twins. Stelmaszek was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2016. The Twins talked him into returning to Target Field to throw out the first pitch on Opening Day in 2017. He also made it back to Target Field for the 30-year anniversary celebration of the 1987 World Series team in July. The team recently announced that Stelmaszek would receive the Herb Carneal Lifetime Achievement Award, to be presented in January.
Here is the Twins’ statement after learning that their long time coach had passed away.
“The Minnesota Twins are deeply saddened by the loss of Rick Stelmaszek. A true Twins legend, “Stelly” was widely respected throughout baseball. He was a professional who dedicated his life to Twins baseball and instilled a winning culture into generations of Twins players. The club, like many of his friends throughout the game, is thinking of his wife and son, Kathy and Michael, and the entire Stelmaszek family during this difficult time.”
Thank you for the memories Rick Stelmaszek and we here at Twinstrivia.com would also like to pass on our condolences to the Stelmaszek family and friends.