The following continues with our series of interviews we recently enjoyed with the Legends of the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame. The 62nd Annual Induction Ceremony and Banquet that will feature the Class of 2024 as well as the “Walk of Fame” with past honorees is set for May 20 at the Columbia Convention Center.
Richard Wieters, a standout two-way baseball player at The Citadel, was inducted into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016. The Charleston native was a four-year letter-winner and was named the Southern Conference’s Baseball Player of the Year in 1976 and 1977 while playing for the legendary head coach Chal Port, also an inductee of the SCAHOF.
At the plate, Wieters hit .343 over 117 games and 431 at bats. He hit 11 homers, drove in 84 runs and had a .391 on-base percentage. On the mound, he posted an 18-10 career record with a 2.10 ERA over 35 games, including 28 starts. He had 15 complete games, three shutouts and 176 career strikeouts.
Wieters played minor league baseball in the Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox organizations.
SCAHOF: What does it mean to be a member of the SCAHOF?
WIETERS: It’s just a real honor. When I look around, when we go every year and I see all the people there, I say, what am I doing here? It makes you feel proud. It’s an honor being in this iconic Hall of Fame.
SCAHOF: Where did you go to high school and why did you choose to go to The Citadel?
WIETERS: I went to St. Andrews High School and I played football, baseball and basketball, and I wanted to play both sports (baseball and football) in college. Most of the Southern Conference schools like Furman, Davidson and others recruited me, but seemed like every time I visited one of those schools, their coach would get fired.
The Citadel recruited me and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I tore up my knee at the end of Legion season. So, everybody kind of backed off. Bobby Ross was at The Citadel (head football coach) and one of his recruits that was coming in got in a car wreck and decided not to come. Football offered me a half scholarship, and coach Port had already offered me half of a baseball scholarship.
I have three brothers who were all in college at the same time, so I went to The Citadel. I grew up with The Citadel. Billy Port (Chal Port’s son) was my best friend, and we went to a lot of Citadel events.
SCAHOF: Talk about your relationship with Chal Port because he once said you were the best player he ever coached.
WIETERS: His son (Billy) and I were best friends. Chal knew me really well, and I knew him really well. He was the greatest teacher of baseball and knew all the fundamentals. He taught us the right way to play a game and you know, I passed on what he’s taught me to my kids. Baseball was Chal Port and he was just a good man.
SCAHOF: You helped the Bulldogs to a 77-40 overall record and a 35-18 SoCon record during your four years, but the SoCon didn’t have a league tournament during that time (there wasn’t a SoCon tournament from1954 through 1983). Describe Bulldogs baseball and some of your teammates during that time.
WIETERS: Bulldog baseball is a tradition. You’re expected to play well every year. We only played 30-something games every year but we’d finish 22-9, 21-10. But, if you didn’t win the conference, you didn’t go anywhere. But we had a lot of good players when I was there … Gene Dotson, Paul Martin, Mike Hawkins, Ricky Jarrell and Dickie Jones … we are all there together. We always had good pitching, Chal knew how to recruit pitching. It’s a Citadel tradition to play good baseball and that’s how we played.
SCAHOF: You hit .343 for your career and went 18-10 with a 2.10 ERA over 35 career games on the mound. What did you enjoy more, pitching or hitting?
WIETERS: I enjoyed hitting much more. I grew up hitting and I never had to pitch growing up. When I got to college, I was also a pitcher. I could always throw hard but I didn’t know how to pitch but I always knew how to hit. I was hoping I’d get drafted as a hitter but when you throw in the mid-90s you become a pitcher.
I always show (son) Matt (an All-Star catcher with the Baltimore Orioles) my stats when I hit like .556 (5-for-9 with two doubles and two RBI) for my minor league career, so he can’t beat that (laugh).
SCAHOF: You played minor league baseball for the Braves and the White Sox. What are your memories of minor league baseball?
WIETERS: Just the great coaches I got to play for. I got to play for Smoky Burgess, Sonny Jackson and Bobby Veale. All the Braves coaches were just so
good to everybody. Then I went over to the White Sox (and) Tony LaRussa and Mike Pazik were there at that time. There were a lot of good coaches and just a lot of good friends. I still see guys all the time. Brian Snitker (Atlanta Braves manager) was my catcher in the minor leagues.
SCAHOF: While you weren’t a part of this team, how special was the 1990 squad that went to the College World Series and did it validate what Bulldog baseball was all about?
WIETERS: After they made it to Omaha everyone knew what Citadel baseball was and what The Citadel tradition was. When you played them, (you’re) going to have to play hard to beat them. We played the same way back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. That’s the way The Citadel has to play to win.
SCAHOF: Your son Matt just finished an outstanding MLB career. How early did you see a career in baseball was in his future?
WIETERS: He was always a good player. He started playing travel ball. He was 86-87 mph pitching, and he could always hit and he was a good catcher. I told him his best shot was being a switch-hitting catcher. He went to Atlanta to play one summer and he was throwing 95 mph. All of a sudden everybody in the world showed up. From an early age, he just loved playing all the time. He was switch-hitting from T-Ball on up. He keeps telling me he’s not going to have his sons play catcher, but they’re all catchers (laugh).
SCAHOF: Matt’s not the only athlete in the family. Your daughter Rebecca was a standout volleyball player at the College of Charleston.
WIETERS: Rebecca is probably the best athlete out of all of us. In fact, Matt couldn’t throw harder than her until he was 13 or 14 years old. She probably could have played baseball. She was such a good athlete and she loves volleyball and played hard.
SCAHOF: What’s life like today for the Wieters family?
WIETERS: Life is great. We have five grandchildren, four boys and a girl. We have a great time. I’m helping Rebecca with her coach-pitch team. We go to the beach. We live in Charleston and like to play golf. I’ve got 100 different hobbies now and I try to stay involved as a CPA. Life is great!
This interview was conducted by Tony Ciuffo, a member of the SCAHOF’s board of directors. A native Charlestonian and a career media relations professional, Tony recently retired to Clemson. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.