Meet Dick Stigman
Dick Stigman, a 6’3” 200 pound hard throwing left hander was born on January 24, 1936 in Nimrod, Minnesota and signed as a free agent with the Cleveland Indians after graduating from high school in 1954. Dick made his major league debut with the Indians in 1960 and was selected to the All-Star team during his rookie season although he did not appear in either all-star game and both games were won by the National league. Dick was traded to Minnesota and played for the Twins between 1962 and 1965 and made it to the World Series in 1965. Although Stigman warmed up in the bullpen on a couple of occasions, he did not make an appearance in a World Series game. Dick was traded to the Reds Sox and pitched for them in 1966 and that was the last year that Dick Stigman pitched in the major leagues. Dick was actually traded to the Cincinnati Reds after the 1966 season but did not make it back to the major leagues.
John – Dick, I understand that you were signed as a free agent by Cleveland prior to the 1954 season; can you tell me how that came about?
Dick – During my senior year in high school, I pitched for the Sebeka high school team and an American Legion team in Calaway, just north of Detroit Lakes for the summer. While I was yet in high school, I had already pitched 4 games for Callaway. Three days after my graduation, while working my job at Tomlinson Lumber Company, I was called in from the yard saying I had a visitor. It happened that a Cleveland Indians scout named CY Slapnicka had gone to my hometown, Nimrod and picked up my parents and driven to Callaway to offer me a contract to play pro ball for the Cleveland farm system. Unknown to me, I had been recommended by a bird dog scout named Marv Nutting from Brainerd who had seen me pitch against the Brainerd high school. team in the District playoffs earlier that year. The game that Mr. Slapnicka saw me pitch was against Hawley, where I struck out 21 batters in 7 innings and also went 2 for 3 at the plate. For a contract, I was offered $200 per month and another $200 every month I stayed. I was making $185.00 per month at the lumber yard, so the money was attractive, but the fact that I could play baseball and get paid was even more attractive. Incidentally, CY Slapnicka signed such famous players as Bob Feller, Herb Score, Jim Hegan, Gordy Coleman, and many others.
John – You along with Vic Power were traded to Minnesota on April 2, 1962 for Pedro Ramos, what were your thoughts on that trade?
Dick – I had spent 6 years in the minors and 2 years with the Indians so I had a lot of emotional ties, so I was sad to leave my comfort zone, but knew that it’s all part of the game and a fresh start might be good for me. I felt a little apprehensive too about pitching in my home state. I think it adds to an already pressure situation.
John – What pitches did you throw and what was your best pitch?
Dick – I threw a fast ball and a curve mostly. I threw about 3 variations with my curve, overhand, three quarter, and a fast curve that was sort of a slider. I experimented with a “slip pitch” change-up, but it wasn’t always effective. My “best pitch” was the one I got them out with.
John – You pitched for Minnesota between 1962 and 1965 and you appeared in 138 games starting 85 of them and you ended up with a 37-37 record as a Twin. I believe in each of those seasons you allowed less hits then innings pitched and you struck out your share of hitters. Did you consider yourself a strikeout pitcher and did you prefer starting or relieving?
Dick – I guess I would consider myself a strikeout pitcher in that I averaged around 7 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched. I pitched as hard as I could for as long as I could. Starting was my preference because you could prepare yourself better. When I played, the successful starters made the most money.
John – In 1963 you started 33 games, won 15 of them, had 193 strikeouts, threw 241 innings, and had 15 complete games as well as 3 shutouts. What do you remember most about that season?
Dick – I consider 1963 my strongest season because of the number of innings pitched, and complete games. I could have won 20 games if I had more run support, but it averages out over the years. There are times when you’re lucky and times when you’re not.
John – The Twins 1965 World Series season was your final season in Minnesota and you only appeared in 33 games that year starting only 8 of them. What happened that season?
Dick – My record the previous year was 6-15, so I was relegated to a spot starter and long reliever. The Twins also had some up and coming youngsters coming on the scene as well. I did have an injury late in the season hurting my foot going into 2nd base in K.C. keeping me from pitching for about 3 weeks.
John – Although the Twins played in the 1965 World Series you did not get to appear in any games, what are your thoughts about the 1965 World Series? Did you end up with a ring?
Dick – The World Series wasn’t as exciting for me as it could have been since I did not play a big part during the season, but never the less, it was a thrill. Usually, when a team goes into the playoffs or World Series, they narrow their participants to the ones that are producing at that time. Since I was just coming off my foot injury, I was put at the back of the line. I did warm up in the bullpen in Los Angeles a couple times. Yes, I got my ring.
John – What are your fondest memories of being a Minnesota Twin?
Dick – It made me be proud to be from Minnesota. The fans were terrific, people recognized you on the street, in restaurants and everywhere. It was an exciting time to be a Twin. I felt almost as popular as Killebrew and all the other big names.
John – Would you be willing to share what your highest salary was when you were with the Twins?
Dick – My top salary was $18,000 after my 15 win season. The loser’s share of the World Series was $6400 in 1965.
John – What do you remember about Calvin Griffith and how did the two of you get along?
Dick – My dealings with Calvin were very brief, only about once a year when contract time came around. We did not have agents to negotiate for us, and we had only 1 year contracts. Also, we had no information on what the other players were making.
John – Who do you think was the best baseball player that you ever played with and why?
Dick – In my view, the best players not only have the physical ability, but have good character qualities as well. They are leaders and treat everyone with respect. That man was and is Harmon Killebrew.
John – Your career in Minnesota ended when you were traded to the Red Sox on April 6, 1966 along with Jose Calero and the Twins received Russ Nixon and Chuck Shilling. What do you remember about that trade?
Dick – I was in spring training when I was told. The day was when they make roster changes, send players back to the minors, release players, and make last minute trades. When you get called in, you don’t know what to expect and your heart is beating fast. Jerry Kindall was released that same day, and we rode back to our apartments together, it was pretty quiet. I felt bad for him. We both understood it’s all part of the game.
John – You pitched your final game in September 1966 at the age of 30, what ended your career at such an early age?
Dick – Actually, I pitched another season in the minors for Buffalo in the International League. Over the winter, I was sold to Cincinnati and went to spring training with them. I pitched only 3 innings in the 6 week period, and was sent Buffalo. Toward the end of the season, I was sold to San Diego, and pitched 2 games for them. Over the following winter, I was sold to Columbus (Int’l League) and offered a contract for $9,500. I could not afford to leave my growing family and home in Minnesota so I decided to leave baseball at the age of 31. I was physically sound, but unable to afford to play. I asked for my release 2 years later, but they refused to give it. Kind of a sad ending to 14 years of pro ball.
John – If you could have played baseball in any era, when would you have played and why?
Dick – I figure there’s a time for everything, and my time was when I was born and allowed to play the wonderful game of baseball. Today’s money would be great, but in my 72 years, I’ve discovered there’s way more to life than money.
John – Do you follow major league baseball and the Twins today?
Dick – I am an avid fan, especially the Twins.
John – How do you think baseball compares today to when you played the game?
Dick – It has changed in many aspects. The salaries, artificial turf, the DH, setup men, closers, the conditioning, and obviously many more teams. I can’t judge the quality of the players, that’s impossible.
John – Will you be making a trip to watch the Twins when they open their new outdoor stadium in 2010? You obviously played in Met stadium, what do you remember about that stadium and what stadium was your favorite stadium to pitch in?
Dick – I hope to be at the opener. Met Stadium was too small, that’s a pitcher’s opinion. My favorite ballparks were Yankee Stadium and Tiger Stadium.
John – I understand that you live in Burnsville, Minnesota today, what are you doing now days and how do you enjoy spending your free time?
Dick – For the past 40 years, I have been at a small company that manufactures loose leaf binders and index tabs. I plan to retire at the end of this year. I spend my time with my wife Patti of 45 years and my 9 children and 22 grandchildren. I play golf and do gardening. We travel some in the winter months, mostly on mission trips with our church.
John – Thank you so much Dick for giving up some time for this interview, I really appreciate it and so do the many Twins fans that watched you pitch.
The SABR Biography Project write-up on Dick Stigman can be found here.