Sunday, March 8, 2009

#60 -- Manny Sanguillen

Manny Sanguillen

Manny Sanguillen was one of the most fun guys playing ball in the early 70's. You could tell he loved what he did because he almost always had a smile on his face and was as chatty as any catcher around. He was a good hitting catcher and came to field his position OK. He's got 2 World Series rings and was a force in 1971. If it weren't for Roberto Clemente completely taking over that Series, Manny could have been the MVP because he hit .379. He went 1-2 in the 1972 All-Star Game (grounding out against Gaylord Perry and singling off Wilbur Wood).

One thing Manny didn't do was walk. Jeff Francouer and Vlad Guerrero could aspire to be as big of a free-swinger as Manny was. He had 6 straight seasons (1969-1974) where he had over 475 plate appearances and his highest walk total was 21. Still, his OPS+ never dipped below 94. If he'd had a little more discipline his stats would look better today, but in his day, Manny was thought of, along with Johnny Bench, as an elite catcher in the NL.

After the 1972 season, Manny had some tough times. He was great friends with Roberto Clemente. He didn't go to Clemente's funeral after the plane crash. Why? He refused to believe his friend was dead and he spent that time diving in the area of the crash looking for Clemente. The Pirates had a tough choice to make in 1973 with who was going to fill the huge void in right field. Since Manny had good speed and a rocket arm, they tried him. It didn't work and by July Richie Zisk and Dave Parker started getting time there and Manny went back behind the plate.

Manny was also part of a strange trade. Danny Murtaugh stepped down (again) after the 1976 season. In November Manny was traded to the A's for manager Chuck Tanner. It worked out well for the Pirates because Tanner led them to another World Series win over the Orioles in 1979. Manny played 1 year in Oakland and was traded back to the Pirates. By that time, he was a pinch-hitter, but he was also an excellent clubhouse guy. When Tony Armas, Jr. went to spring training with the Pirates a year or two ago, the first person he sought out was Manny Sanguillen. Why? His father made his big league debut with the Pirates and when the rest of the team was hazing him a little too hard, Manny took him under his wing and he never forgot that.

Manny now has a barbecue joint in PNC Park, kind of like Boog Powell in Baltimore and Greg Luzinski in Philadelphia. I know if I ever get to go to PNC I'll be finding his spot and having that for dinner. Manny just seems like one of those guys that if you get to spend 5 minutes with him, your day is going to go better. Just look at this guy! Buy another sandwich from him, will you?!?


  1. I met Manny at his place in PNC Park. My friend Jim was a huge Manny fan growing up. Manny was exactly as you said. Just a fun guy. Thinking about it puts me in a good mood.

  2. Sanguillen IS fun. "Manny being Manny"!

  3. Did he have a velvet covered batting helmet?

    1. I thought I was the only person who remembered Manny Sanguillen wore a velvet helmet!!! I distinctly remember seeing a photo (baseball card?) of him wearing a helmet that had "hairs" all over it and thought it was the coolest thing ever!!

      So the fact that you, Ikonoklast44, also thought he had a velvet helmet makes me think he did! Never saw one before and haven't seen one since.