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  • From the Soil of Nimrod: Dick Stigman

    David Youngs

    Along the banks of the Crow Wing River sits Nimrod, Minnesota, a quaint town that bears a son of the Twins organization that saw the game of baseball come full circle. 

    Image courtesy of David Youngs, Twins Daily

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    Pitch a canoe on the currents of the Crow Wing River, and you’ll stumble across Nimrod, Minnesota, population 69.

    A bar, church, and campground make up the bulk of the one-horse town that was once a flourishing logging community in the World War II era. Take a few steps past the bar and the sight of four bags 90 feet apart and lush green grass will christen the eyes. 

    Dick Stigman Field, home of the Nimrod Gnats and named after the town’s most famous son. 

    A starting pitcher for the Twins’ infancy in Minnesota, Stigman spent seven years at the Major League level. Starting with a $200 per month contract, the tall lefty grew up in Cleveland’s organization, played two years with the parent club, and spent four years with the Twins from 1962-65. Stigman finished his career with the hallowed Boston Red Sox in 1966. 

    Stigman’s life has run full circle; A small town boy with a deep love of America’s Pastime who had the opportunity to play for the Minnesota Twins. On his 86th birthday, Stigman couldn’t be more thankful for the road that transcended from the rural pines of northern Minnesota to baseball’s biggest stage.  

    The Booming 50’s
    Despite its current quaintness, Nimrod was a bustling small town at the midpoint of the 20th century with a handful of industries painting the Wadena County town. 

    “We had two grocery stores, two gas stations, two restaurants, a blacksmith shop, a feed mill, and a creamery,” Stigman recalled. “There was a pretty good-sized lumber mill. They used to pull logs down the river. It was a great experience. We had a community.”

    Young Dick spent his childhood selling grit, a popular newspaper option in rural America through the 1950s. 

    “We sold it for five cents a copy. I think I got two cents back,” he laughed. 

    Yet in an era when many young men were being drafted for World War II, Nimrod’s isolation provided solace for Dick and his brothers; an opportunity that sprouted a lifelong love for the game of baseball. The son of a catcher, Dick and his brothers spent hours simulating game situations and playing catch. 

    Both Dick and his older brother were southpaws. That didn’t stop them from finding a catcher’s mitt at Montgomery and Ward to compliment each other on the mound.

    The mound? An old tire and some plywood. 

    “We’d put a 2 by 4 on top of a rubber tire to pitch from and simulate situations,” Stigman said. “It wasn’t very high up, but it worked.”

    Barren winters didn’t stop the Stigmans from practicing their craft. The boys’ mother managed the town hall, creating a pseudo-bullpen for them over the winter months. 

    “It was a pretty decent-sized building so we’d pitch inside the hall,” Stigman said. “We'd build a fire and take care of that if there was an event and then we'd have our baseball sessions.”

    Stigman's love of pitching ran deep. With no team in Minnesota during his childhood he fell in love with Cleveland because of talented pitching from the likes of Bob Feller and Bob Lemon. 

    And with a  rich list of MLB names like Williams, Lemon, and Mays to look up to, Dick’s and skill level only rose with time. 

    “There were a couple of other guys in Nimrod that were interested in baseball, but not like we were,” he recalled. 

    That small-town talent would expand outside the silos of Nimrod to the greater Minnesota community. Stigman pitched for Sebeka High School and began to draw looks by shutting down larger schools and towns on the mound. A tournament with strong performances against the ‘big cities’ of Aitkin and Brainerd drew the eye of Cleveland scout Marv Nutting. 

    Impressed with the small town hurler, Nutting name-dropped Stigman to Cy Slapnika, a Cleveland scout based out of Cedar Rapids who had a stellar track record. Slapnika had signed the legendary Bob Feller to Cleveland alongside other household names like Gordy Coleman and Herb Score. 

    Slapkina made the trek up to Minnesota to watch Stigman play Legion ball against Hawley, something that Stigman wasn’t aware of at the time. 

    “I probably would have wet my pants if I had known that someone was watching me.”

    Stigman was electric, striking out 21 batters in seven innings alongside racking up a few hits himself. He even struck out Rodney Skoog, the brother of Minneapolis Lakers star Whitey Skoog who was batting in the .500 range at the time. 

    The magic had been noticed. Slapnika drove Dick and his parents to the Greystone Hotel in Detroit Lakes to sign his first professional contract for the organization he cheered for growing up. 

    That $200 per month contract (with an additional $200 for each month with the club) was a $50 pay raise from what Stigman was receiving at his job at the lumber mill. Was the pay raise nice? Absolutely. Yet the opportunity for Dick was priceless. 

    “I loved baseball so much that I probably would have paid to play.”

    Reflecting with Grace
    Stigman finished his MLB career with 74 wins. His best season was his first with the Twins in 1962, finishing the year with a 12-5 record and 3.66 ERA with three saves to top it off. And while the star season in his home state was memorable, the transition to the Twins from the organization that he cut his teeth in was tough. 

    Being in Cleveland and coming up in the farm system, it was a difficult transition, Dick recalled. “I was very apprehensive about coming to Minnesota; playing in front of people that you know, there's an added expectation.”

    Yet when the nerves melted, the homecoming was one of joy.

    “It was a pleasant surprise,” Stigman said “It was great with all the attention we got, everywhere we went people knew us. And I had a really good year so that added to it.”

    The innings on the ground were great; the memories, comradery, and relationships were what solidified. 

    Earl Battey was one of my best friends. We played cards on the plane. He was just an amazing guy," Dick recalled. "Guys like Lenny Green, Don Mincher, and Jim Kaat (were incredible). Baseball isn't all about skill, it's about chemistry. Even as big of a star that Harmon (Killebrew) and Tony Oliva were, it wasn't about them. It was about winning. And we proved that with some pretty good years.”

    Stigman is now 55 years removed from his MLB career. After years in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, he and his wife moved to the beaming sun of Florida. He still stays knitted to the Twins through rich admiration of the organization and participation in things like Twins Fantasy Camp. 

    A man of deep faith and humility, Stigman looks back with a sense of appreciation and gratefulness that society can admire. Yet even he recognizes the wild ride that the uncertainty and beauty of life has graced him with. 

    “I look back and think to myself ‘did I really do that,’ coming from where I came from,” Dick recalled. “I try not to get in front of myself, I always remember where I came from and who I am.”

    If you're in west-central Minnesota during the summer and happen to catch a baseball game, there is a decent chance you might see the Stigman name in the lineup. 


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    Great story.  The whole Stigman clan was fantastic on the mound.  His brother Al pitched for the Perham Pirates amateur team for years and many people thought his stuff was as good as Dick's, plus he was great at the plate.  He is in the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.  Brother Dave pitched for Wadena as well.  Amazing family.

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    3 hours ago, RJA said:

    Great story.  The whole Stigman clan was fantastic on the mound.  His brother Al pitched for the Perham Pirates amateur team for years and many people thought his stuff was as good as Dick's, plus he was great at the plate.  He is in the Minnesota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame.  Brother Dave pitched for Wadena as well.  Amazing family.

    And their sons and nephews and grandkids and, and, and... 

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    Back when Scouts had to visit small towns and more local games, rather than competitive showcases. Dick has always been a wonderful Minnesota Twins alumni. As an autographer, he was always kind to fans requesting his signature. And was a mainstay at every TwinsFest since they began, until newer fans started NOT knowing who he was.


    There is so much charm from players from the early days before big salaries and such. They really enjoyed playing the game and it was heartfelt when they no longer could and had to walk away, back into their real world. Often their communities where they were absorbed into the everyday workforce.

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