The 1970s had some darn good catchers. Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk have made the Hall of Fame, Ted Simmons was just as good as that duo, if not better, and Pittsburgh had a contact-hitting, swift (for a backstop) receiver in the Panamanian Manny Sanguillen. Manny was one of the most difficult strikeout victims of his time.
Manny was originally signed by the Pirates in 1964 and made his Major League debut in 1967. He spent the entire 1968 season with the Columbus Jets of the International League but when the Bucs recalled him in 1969, Sanguillen was up to stay. Manny enjoyed a breakout season in ’69–his first full season at the Major League level–by leading all catchers in batting average and stolen bases.
Hitting .300 wasn’t a chore for Manny like it was for his Hall of Fame peers. Manny hit a sharp .325 in 1970–tops among ML catchers–while leading all catchers with nine triples. He followed up his solid 1970 season with an All-Star appearance in ’71. That year Manny led all catchers with a .319 batting average–his third straight year of .300 hitting (Johnny Bench only hit .300 once in his career, in a shortened season at that). The Bucco backstop and Ted Simmons were the lone .300 hitting catchers in the Major Leagues in 1971. Manny led the Pirates to the postseason and hit .379 in the World Series win over the Orioles.
Manny led National League catchers with eight triples in 1972 and hit .313 with a homerun in the NLCS. An All-Star for the second time, Manny’s team fell to the Reds of Johnny Bench in the NLCS. After an NLCS loss to The Big Red Machine Manny entered 1973 with his batting skills intact. During the season, Sanguillen posted 589 at-bats but only struck out 29 times. In ’74, Manny finished second to Bench in hits among NL backstops.
Sanguillen enjoyed his highwater season for batting in 1975 when he hit .328 and made his third All-Star team. Still swinging some solid lumber in 1976, Manny finished second to Ted Simmons in batting average among NL backstops. After the season Manny was involved in a rather uncommon trade. The Pirates sent Manny to Oakland for Chuck Tanner, who became their manager. Manny spent one year in Oakland, hitting .275 for a last place team, before returning to Pittsburgh for Miguel Dilone and Elias Sosa.
Although Manny returned to familiar grounds, his days as a regular were over. He played in 85 games in 1978 and just 56 games in the Pirates Championship season of 1979. He played one final year with the Pirates in 1980. Currently, Mr. Sanguillen operates a BBQ stand at Pirates stadium in Pittsburgh.
G 1,448/R 566/H 1,500/2B 205/3B 57/HR 65/RBI 585/BB 223/SO 331/SB 35/BA .296/SA .398