By CALVIN ADKINS
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Despite the fame that Ralph Michael "Mike" Caldwell earned from pitching in the World Series and later coaching in two of Major League Baseball's most decorated games, he hasn't forgotten his Tarboro home. In the past, Caldwell visited as much as his schedule would allow.
Tarboroeans could likely see more of their hometown sport celebrity in the near future — Caldwell said he has retired.
"My mother, (Annie Caldwell) still lives in Tarboro, therefore I still get back to Tarboro quite a bit," he said. "When I come home I do some hunting and fishing with some friends. I'm talking about doing some shad fishing on the Tar River with one of them. It's always fun to get back. I can imagine that I will be getting back more in the near future since I'm retiring from coaching."
Caldwell is retiring as a pitching coach of the World Series champions San Fransico Giants. Caldwell was with the Giants team that won the World Series in 2010 and 2012. He was also the pitching coach for the 2006 Detroit Tigers American League Championship team.
During the Twin County Hall of Fame ceremony last Thursday at Nash Community College in Rocky Mount, Caldwell wore his 2010 and 2006 diamond rings.
But it was in Tarboro where Caldwell had his beginnings, where the left-hander was ring less and just a diamond in the rough. The rough started falling away from the diamond when Caldwell pitched two no-hitters for Tarboro High School in 1967. Caldwell went on and became a star at North Carolina State University, where he pitched in the ACC championship and College World Series.
By then, Caldwell was not just a star in Tarboro, but Major League Baseball teams also had their eyes on him. In 1971, he was drafted in the 12th round by the San Diego Padres. Management apparently needed the lefty. Caldwell was pulled up to the big leagues without ever playing in the minors.
Caldwell spent three years with the Padres before he was traded to the Giants. In his first year with the Giants, he pitched six complete games and two shutouts. Caldwell completed his playing career with the Milwaukee Brewers. There, the Tarboro native became a polished stone. In eight seasons with the Brewers he had a 3.74 earned run average. He pitched in the 1982 World Series against St. Louis and won two of the three games, including a 10-0 shutout. Caldwell still has the record for most complete games (81) in Brewers history and is second in wins, shutouts and innings pitched.
Caldwell's pro pitching career spanned 14 years in which he recorded 939 strikeouts. During the Twin County Hall of Fame ceremony, Monika Fleming, a board member of the Twin County Hall of Fame, presented Caldwell. During her speech, she shared some of Caldwell's outstanding statistics.
"Monica said some nice things about my career and I did do some very good things," Caldwell said during his acceptance speech. "But I also lost 100 games. I also led the American league in home runs twice — given up. My first appearance on national television, I gave up five home runs in the same ball game. We won the game 18-5. I didn't walk anybody and I only gave up five hits. They just happened to be home runs."
Caldwell's response was met with laughter by the audience. Before the ceremony he spoke on a serious note about being inducted.
"If you are inducted in a Hall of Fame anywhere near where you have grown up, it's a great honor," he said. "It brings you back with the peers that you grew up with and it brings back great memories."
Some of those memories included Caldwell's high school football career. Caldwell was the starting quarterback on Tarboro's 1965 state championship team. He said back then, he liked football better than he did baseball.
The 1965 state title was the first for Tarboro's tradition-rich football program. Today, Tarboro has collected four more state titles in recent years. Caldwell has an idea where the tradition may have started.
"In 1965, we may have been the team who got it started and what a tradition it has become," he said. "Tarboro is well known around this state as a tremendous football program. I watched a couple of (Tarboro) championship games around the Raleigh area. I do keep up with them."
He also keeps up with the Tarboro Vikings baseball team. Caldwell said he has worked with some of the Vikings pitchers over the years.
Perhaps he will have more time devoted to the Vikings soon. He's done all he wants to do in the big leagues.
"I just about had it," he sad. "I guess I will see where the fish are and a few squirrels and rabbits are. I had a great career. I enjoyed baseball."