Several weeks ago I posted this classic photo of Rochester manager Stan Cliburn rockin’ the Fred Flintstone ermine vest at a team function last winter.
Stan is a very funny guy and for the past few years he’s been my favorite opposing manager to talk to. Typically, when I approached him for a pre-game interview, he would say, “It’s about time I talked to a real radio man!” just loud enough for Rochester broadcaster Josh Whetzel to hear.
(Stan was obviously kidding . . . Josh is one of the best in the business and they had a great relationship).
Stan also has the distinction of having been Tim Wakefield’s first pro baseball manager in Single-A Watertown, NY back in 1988 – a story covered in the New York Times in July. Wake was a first baseman back then and batted a mere .189 in 54 games. But Cliburn loved Wakefield’s work ethic was one of the people who helped convince the Pirates to give Tim a shot at becoming a knuckleball pitcher the following spring.
I had a great conversation with Stan about that when Wakefield pitched against Rochester at McCoy Stadium on August 21st. Unfortunately, it appears that I won’t have the opportunity to talk to Stan next season as he’s been fired by the Minnesota Twins as their Triple-A manager.
“I was shocked,” Cliburn told Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “(Twins farm director Jim Rantz) told me I’d lost communication with the players – that they weren’t responding to me like they had in the past.”
“I respect Stan for what he has done for this organization the past 10 years,” Rantz told the Rochester paper, “but I felt something had to be done. It was time to make a move. There’s more to managing than wins and losses.”
Former big league catcher Tom Nieto is reportedly the front runner to replace Cliburn as Rochester’s manager after leading Double-A New Britain to the Eastern League playoffs this year.
The next skipper in Rochester might win more games, but he’ll have a hard time giving us more laughs.
One of my favorite Stan Cliburn stories – which he wasn’t too embarrassed to tell – involved the time he went golfing with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor (now a minor league instructor with the Twins) at Rochester’s famed Oak Hill Country Club.
Apparently, the walls of the clubhouse at Oak Hill are lined with autographed photos of the legendary golfers and celebrities that have played the course over the years and when Cliburn and Molitor finished their round, one of the people from the country club said, “Would you mind autographing something to add to our collection?”
Cliburn said “Sure!” and immediately reached for a sharpie before being politely told that Molitor was the celebrity they had in mind.
I guess 3,319 hits trumps a fur vest.
Best of luck Stan and thanks for the laughs. We’ll miss you next year.