Thursday, October 8, 2009

The original Manny being Manny

In my quest to determine the best card of some of the more notable players of the 1970s, I've decided not to limit it strictly to the brightest stars.

Sure, Reggie Jackson and Johnny Bench drew most of the attention, but the 1970s was filled with wonderful baseball characters, true fan favorites, even if they didn't receive the most publicity. And they shouldn't be ignored.

One of my favorites as a kid was Manny Sanguillen. The Pirates were a semi-regular presence on television in the 1970s because they were good throughout the decade. And by 1979, you couldn't avoid The Fam-i-lee. In 1979, Sanguillen was just a bit player for the champion Pirates, but I still followed him.

The 1970s was a watershed period for great-hitting catchers -- Bench, Carlton Fisk, Thurman Munson, Ted Simmons. No longer were teams content to have someone behind the plate hit .214 year after year after year. And Sanguillen was part of that, hitting almost .300 for his 13-year career. He also was probably the most famous bad-ball hitter of the 1970s -- Manny being Manny when it came to pitch selection.

But most of my interest in Sanguillen came from what I saw on his baseball cards. The 1976 Topps card started it off. It's a Cardboard Appreciation subject, even if it didn't win one of the recent vote-offs. And there are a number of Sanguillen cards featuring his familiar gap-toothed smile.

So I'm going to find out which of Manny's 1970s cards is the best. He has a couple memorable early '80s cards, too, but I'm sticking with the '70s here. So vote for your favorite.

The cards that aren't from my collection are from 1970, 1977 and 1979. And the quality of some of the scans might not be up-to-par. I'm on the verge of drop-kicking my scanner into the river. So if you see a streak of image-less posts, you'll know why.

Poll is up on the sidebar. Yes, that means I have two polls going at once. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

1970 Topps: This is the first time I've seen this card. Look at the size of that glove. Is that regulation? I think the image is off-center because they had to get the entire glove in the shot.

1971 Topps: I'll come right out and say it: This is my favorite. Sanguillen, literally wearing two hats, appears to be kicking off a letter to mom. Or starting a grocery list. Great card.

1972 Topps: This is a pretty standard '70s photo: Sanguillen in mid-swing, wearing his jacket under his uniform. But I really like the '72 Pirates cards.

1973 Topps: Not much to say here.

1974 Topps: One of the few horizontal cards in 1974 Topps. It certainly is a different shot. The lack of a right arm is disturbing. But I like the wide-angle view.

1975 Topps: "Uncertain Manny." Sanguillen looks like he's not too sure about whatever is off to his left. But one thing is a definite: he is bundled up for the occasion.

1976 Topps: I've talked about this card plenty. One thing I haven't said though: notice how big Manny's eyes are as he zeroes in on the pitch. That's awesome.

1977 Topps: Total airbrush job after Sanguillen was traded to the A's for manager Chuck Tanner. The helmet and jersey are painted green, but someone also apparently decided that orange was one of the A's colors.

1978 Topps: There's that strange thing approaching Sanguillen from the left again. And it's followed him to Oakland.

1979 Topps: Sanguillen is happy to be back in Pittsburgh. He is wearing one of the 237 uniform combinations the Pirates had then. 237 combinations and all of them were bad. Wow.

I wanted to show one more 1970s Sanguillen card, even though it's not up for a vote. It's after the Pirates won the World Series in 1971.
See? How can you not like Manny?

OK, I've got to prepare for Game 2 of the Dodgers series. I'll be at work when it's going on and my boy Kershaw is starting, so I don't expect to get a lot accomplished.


  1. Manny Sanguillen was the Original Manny?

    What about Manny Mota (1962-1982)?
    Or Manny Montejo (1961)?
    Or Manny Salvo (1939-1943)?

    Mota had a .304 BA (over 20 seasons) and he, too, played catcher for the Pirates (but just for 2 innings in 1964). Mota was an All-Star, but just once (1973).

    And Mota was a Dodger. Not a poser Manny who hopped back and forth between leagues.

    So, Manny was Manny before Manny was Manny. Current Manny? Meh...

  2. Being a fan of catchers, I want to vote for the card with the huge catcher's mitt, but I just have to vote for the 1976 card. I likes it, I really, really likes it!

  3. You have a case with Mota, Mark. Although he was a part-time player by the time I figured out who he was. But the others? Sorry. This is my blog and "original" means "original" to ME. And that means Sanguillen.

  4. Lots of great cards here. I voted for the 1974 since it's so different. The 1976 and 1971 cards also merit serious consideration.

  5. I own a copy of 1975 but my vote goes to 1974 because he looks like !Geronimo!

  6. Email me at
    Manny's 1977 OPC is completely different from the 77 Topps. It's the king of the airbrushed cards, and has an awesome Manny smile. I'll send you a scan.

  7. I'll concede on your original Manny being Sanguillen.

    Actually, Manny Salvo had the dreadlocks thing going in 1938 in San Diego. His manager, Frank Shellenback, told him that they had to go or he'd never make it to the bigs.

    His teammate, Chick Starr, gave Manny a trim and the next year he was playing with the Giants.

  8. I suspect that Sanguillen used the oversized mitt when catching knuckleballer Roy Face.

    And I agree with Mark... Sanguillen wasn't even the original "Manny" on the 1960's Pirates!

  9. I am with M Emphemera up top - I scanned the title and was fully expecting a Mota post. Don't get me wrong Manny S is a solid. But I feel a little duped.

  10. "Manny Being Manny" isn't just about two people who share the same name. It's about an attitude, a personality, a vibe. Sanguillen was/is a character. Ramirez is a character. Mota, as far as I know, was pretty stoic, except for riding his bike around spring training.

    You want me to write about Dodgers every single post? You don't know how sorry you'll be.