Legends: Trout Creek native Pole had humble MLB career
TROUT CREEK — Of all the great athletes who came out of Trout Creek, Dick Pole had one distinction.
He appeared in the major league baseball postseason as a player and a coach.
Pole pitched six seasons in the major leagues and then logged 14 more as a pitching coach.
That represents quite an achievement for someone coming from a town with roughly 700 residents.
Dan Ojala, Ontonagon County sports historian, said Pole did scale the heights.
“Trout Creek produced two guys who made it to the majors — Jim Manning and Dick Pole. Not many towns that size can make that claim.”
The late Manning — also a great basketball player — pitched one season for the Minnesota Twins.
Pole, who was 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, first attracted the attention of big league scouts while pitching for the local baseball club in Trout Creek,
He was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1969 and was sent to Greenville in the Southern League. He posted a 13-9 record with an earned run average of 3.18.
That led to a promotion to Pawtucket of the International League.
After posting a 12-9 record with a league best 2.03 ERA, and a seven-inning no-hitter, Dick was called up to the Red Sox.
In 1975, he saw duty as a spot starter and reliever.
In one memorable game against Baltimore, he was holding a 4-0 lead after eight innings, but gave up three hits in the ninth before being struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Tony Muser.
The injury sidelined him for two months, but he appeared in relief in Game 5 of the World Series against Cincinnati.
The following season saw him close with a respectable 4-2 mark and a 4.11 ERA.
He wound up with Seattle the following season and spent three seasons with the Mariners. His best season was in 1977 when he went 7-12.
Released a year later, Pole ended up in the Chicago Cubs farm system, where he was hired by manager Don Zimmer as pitching coach.
Later Hall of Famer Greg Maddux was one of his coaching prospects. Maddux credited Pole with “teaching me how to pitch, not just throw.”
“He told me to try to stop thinking about striking out batters … and just try to get them out,” Maddux later said. “That advice really helped me.”
He served as pitching coach in Chicago for four years and later filled that role in San Francisco for manager Dusty Baker.
Pole and Baker knew each other from minor league stints.
“He (Pole) was a thinking man’s kind of coach,” Baker said. “He was more interested in having his pitchers know how to pitch, rather than just throw.”
Pole retired in 2012 after coaching stints with Cincinnati and Montreal.
He was inducted into the U.P. Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.