Stan Cliburn shared memories of his only Major League Baseball season to the Our Love Affair with Baseball luncheon at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art on Friday.
Cliburn expected to spend the 1981 season with the California Angels or the team’s Triple-A club in Salt Lake City. He spent most of 1980 as an Angels backup catcher.
As Cliburn was leaving the Spring training parking lot, then-Angels general manager Mike Post flagged him down. The Jackson native asked about his future.
“Am I going to the Angels or Salt Lake City,” Cliburn asked Post.
Never miss a local story.
Post replied: “Neither, we’re releasing you. You are going home.”
Cliburn’s MLB career was over. He played seven more seasons in Triple-A.
“(Then Angels manager) Jim Fergosi and I didn’t see eye-to-eye,” Cliburn said. “I think (Fergosi) saw that. A lot of that was my fault, and it cost me being a Major League baseball player. I was shocked.”
Stan Cliburn finished his Minor League playing career in 1987 for the Richmond Braves, Atlanta’s Triple-A team before starting a long Minor League managerial career with the Pirates New York – Penn League Team in Watertown.
In 26 seasons as a Minor League manager, Cliburn was 1635-1623. This year as the inaugural coach of the Atlantic League New Britain Bees, Cliburn was named the league manger of the year.
Cliburn often reflects on getting released by the Angels.
“I made a mistake by not being the type of player I should have done,” he said. “I tell my players today not to be too big for the game, not to be too arrogant.”
Cliburn has sent 188 players to MLB, including 18 to eventually play in the All-Star game.
Cliburn has a connection to the Chicago Cubs, who are facing Cleveland in the World Series. Cubs manager Joe Maddon was Cliburn’s backup catcher in the Angels’ Minor League system during the late 1970s.
“When the team would start to go bad, everyone would go to Joe Maddon,” he said. “He was like the Wizard of Oz. He had all the answers.”
Cliburn also remembered Gulf Coast baseball. Pascagoula beat Forest Hill in a 1972 state baseball playoff game. He eventually helped Forest Hill win a state championship in 1974.
“When we came down the Coast, we always thought we were going to the big leagues,” he said. “Pascagoula was always a class act. They had some very good athletes.”