Carpenter etches name into hall of fame
Royle Stillman led the Rochester Red Wings in batting in 1973 (.354) and 1975 (.313).
He hit .314 over 387 games for Rochester.
He is the eighth person from the 1974 club to be inducted into the Red Wings Hall of Fame.
Royle Stillman stood at home plate before the fans of the Rochester Red Wings on Aug. 29 for induction into the minor league baseball team’s hall of fame.
At home in Glenwood Springs, you might not know Stillman, a carpenter, had a strong minor league career and short stints in the majors. He hasn’t tossed a baseball for 10 years and never coached a team.
Back in Rochester, New York, “I was nervous when I was asked to say something because I was thinking I wouldn’t have to,” said Stillman, 63.
He got up to the podium and expressed his gratitude for all the great memories. “This is an honor, and something I will never forget,” he said to the fans.
It was his first time in Rochester since his Red Wings’ tenure ended in 1976. He and two deceased players, Bob Barr, a right-handed pitcher; and Pepper Martin, an outfielder who went on to star for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1930s and early ‘40s, were inducted into the Red Wings’ Hall of Fame.
Because of Stillman’s presence, Frontier Field sold out that evening, with 13,000 fans. He and his wife, Cindy, arrived with no idea what to expect.
Cindy didn’t know until that night how big a deal her husband had been.
“Everywhere we turned, people were coming up to us, and telling stories of what they remembered when Royle played,” she said. “There were a couple of wonderful ladies that followed every move he made in baseball and had huge scrapbooks of him.”
Stillman, a left-handed hitter, led the Red Wings’ in batting in 1973 (.354), which is the highest by a Wings player since Harry Walker, who also went on to star in the majors, hit .365 in 1952.
Stillman was an essential part of four playoff teams in Rochester — including the 1974 Governors’ Cup championship team, for which he hit .292 with 7 homers and 49 RBI over 111 games. As they were leaving Frontier Field, a man in a walker slowly approached and asked Royle if he was “Sugar Bat.” The man’s face lit up as soon as he got confirmation.
“The highlight of my night was meeting my fans,” Stillman said, “Some of them said I was their favorite player. It was just amazing that people remember things from that long ago.”
Life after baseball
Things turned out well for Stillman when he decided baseball would no longer be his life. He headed back to his native California, where he met Cindy, a Glenwood Springs native.
He and Cindy have been married for 26 years, and for 20 of those years they have lived in Glenwood.
“We wanted a small-town atmosphere where we could raise a family,” he said.
They have three daughters in their 20s: Ali, Carly and Sadey. All are athletic, but didn’t pick up Stillman’s love for baseball.
“When I moved to Glenwood I got removed from baseball. Yes, it was difficult, but I needed to do something different,” he said. Since he left his baseball career in 1980, Stillman has been a carpenter.
He has played in the Vail Labor Day Softball Tournament.
Now, it’s been 10 years since Stillman has thrown a baseball. His involvement in baseball is to watch the World Series and follow the Colorado Rockies.
“It has been so disappointing to watch the Rockies,” he said. I can’t stand watching after a couple of innings because it takes them so long to get the game going.”
Stillman’s baseball career
His love for baseball started while growing up in Southern California and was a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. He and his older brother would spend their time listening to Vin Scully on the radio.
“He always made baseball sound interesting and fun,” he said.
He remembers attending a World Series game in 1965, when the Dodgers met the Minnesota Twins.
Four years later his childhood dream became a reality. The Dodgers drafted him out of North Torrance High School in 1969 in the 22nd round. Well before the days of ESPN and instant news, he found out from his older brother, who read it in the paper the next day.
“I had never been so excited,” he said. “Two days after high school graduation I began my baseball career.”
Stillman reached Double-A, but his Dodgers career ended in 1971 when he was included in six-player trade between the Dodgers and the Baltimore Orioles that included future Hall of Famer Frank Robinson.
After a strong 1973 season, he was invited to spring training, but couldn’t come to financial terms with the Orioles and was sent back to Triple-A.
“At the time the Orioles were backed up in talent,” he said. “They had Don Baylor, Paul Blair and Al Bumbry, who were star outfielders. There was no room for me to play with any regularity.”
Stillman played for the Red Wings from 1973-76. He was the eighth member of that team to be inducted in the Red Wings Hall of Fame, joining Joe Altobelli, Jim Fuller, Jim Hutto, Bill Kirkpatrick, Paul Mitchell, Mickey Scott and Tommy Shopay.
He finished his Wings career with 27 home runs and 209 RBI.
Stillman didn’t reach the majors until 1975. He played for the Orioles at the end of the 1975 and 1976 seasons. After not getting much playing time, he became a free agent. He signed with the Chicago White Sox in 1977, where he played in 56 games.
He finished his three-year major-league career with a .213 batting average. After three more years in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, he retired after the 1980 season.
“I had a great minor league career,” he said. “I wish I had a longer major league career, but life turned out great.
“Baseball opened a lot of doors for me,” he added. “People love to talk baseball, and now because of my career it created a social network.”
Even though he no longer throws a baseball around he does have an autographed baseball sitting on his mantel.
About 14 years ago, his daughter Carly went to a Rockies game and had planned to get autographs.
“I told her to get Don Baylor’s autograph, who at the time was the manager for the Rockies, and my former teammate from the Orioles,” he said. “I now look at that baseball daily and remember the good old days.”
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