Diego Seguí: From Holguín, Cuba, to Kansas City A’s (Part I)

Diego Seguí, a RHP, was the only major-leaguer to play for the 1969 Seattle Pilots and the first (1977) Seattle Mariners franchise. He was the Pilots MVP in their one 1969 American League (AL) season. In 1970, he led the AL with a 2.56 ERA for Oakland. Seguí eventually won a 1972 World Series ring with Oakland, years after the A’s traded him to St. Louis, June 7, 1972. He pitched a seven-inning perfect game, in Mexico, Class AAA level, June 21, 1978. But Part I covers his first decade, from semi-pro ball in 1958 to the 1967-68 winter season with Caracas.

Seguí pitched semi-pro ball in his native Cuba (1958); pro winter ball in Cuba (1958, 1960-61), Nicaragua (1958-59 and 1961-62), Puerto Rico (1963-64), and Venezuela (1962-63, 1966-71, 1972-73 and 1975-83). His 95 regular season wins and 14 post-season wins in Venezuela, remain an all-time record for imported pitchers in that league. His 1958 semi-pro season in Cuba catapulted him to signing with the Cincinnati Reds organization. Seguí pitched 15 MLB seasons: 1962-75 and 1977; minor-league campaigns and summers, Class AAA Mexican League, 1978-85, until age 47. His W-L record in different leagues, with several honors earned, is Table I.

Table I: Diego Seguí, W-L Record by League-Series, 1958-1985

Pedro Betancourt League, Cuba8-1, .889Best pitcher, one no-hitter
Cuban Winter League1-5, .167 
Nicaraguan Winter League#11-5, .688 
1962 Interamerican Series0-2, .000 
1963 Interamerican Series0-1, .000 
Puerto Rico Winter League5-8, .385 
Mexican League (AAA)96-61, .611June 21, 1978 perfect game
Venezuela Pro Baseball League95-58, .6212003 Venezuela League HOF
Venezuela League post-season14-6, .700Six league championships
Caribbean Series (1973, ‘78, ‘80)4-0, 1.0002004 Caribbean Series HOF
Major-league baseball (MLB)92-111, .4531970 AL ERA leader, 2.56
1971 AL Championship Series0-1, .000 
U.S. minor leagues51-45, .531 
Total W-L, PCT377-305, .553 

# Estimated Seguí’s Nicaragua W-L based on June 14, 2020 interview with the author.

Seguí was born in Holguín, Cuba, August 17, 1937, eastern part of the island, where sugar cane was king. (Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees closer, is from Holguín.) Joanne Hulbert’s SABR Bio of Seguí, with valuable insights, is at:  https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/diego-segui/  In Cuban baseball circles, he is considered an “unknown immortal,” or “inmortal desconocido.”

Cuba and Nicaragua (late 1950s-early 1960s)

Seguí’s 1958 semi-pro career got off to a good (8-1) start in the Pedro Betancourt League, a steppingstone to the majors for many Cuban players. Tony Pacheco was Seguí’s manager in this semi-pro league; shortstop Hiraldo “Chico” Ruiz, was a teammate. Seguí’s no-hitter was a 2-1 win over Central Cuba, allowing an unearned run. He pitched one game for Havana, 1958-59 Cuban Winter League, retiring one hitter and giving up a hit. Fermín Guerra managed that club. Its imports included Albie Pearson, Willie Tasby, John Buzhardt, John Romano and Clay Dalrymple. Seguí traveled to Nicaragua, where he pitched for 1958-59 Leones de León. Two years later (1960-61) he pitched for the Havana Reds, aka Lions, in Cuba’s final Winter League pro season. The 32-34 Reds were third, behind 35-31 Cienfuegos and 34-32 Mariano. Almendares (31-35) finished fourth. Seguí (1-5, 2.47 ERA) was tied for fourth, in the league, in ERA, behind teammate Julio Moreno (2.03), Cienfuegos’s Pedro Ramos (2.04) and Miguel Fornieles of Mariano, at 2.36. Teammate Fernando Rodríguez (2.47) tied Seguí at fourth-lowest. Teams played twin-bills in Havana’s “Gran Estadio.” Imported players were not allowed, due to restrictions imposed by Fidel Castro’s regime. Cookie Rojas (.322 AVG) won the batting crown.

The 1960-61 Havana Reds were managed by Fermín Guerra, ex-catcher, who managed 1948-49 Almendares Scorpions to the February 20-25, 1949 Caribbean Series title, in Havana, first-ever Caribbean Series. Ed Bauta and Luis Tiant Jr. were on Havana’s 1960-61 pitching staff. Bauta recalled Seguí as a 23-year old who “had a long MLB career.” Tiant, three years younger than Seguí, fondly remembered Seguí, his Havana and 1974-75 Boston Red Sox teammate. “I led the AL in ERA, 1968 and 1972, but don’t forget that Diego [Seguí] had the lowest ERA in 1970,” said Tiant. “Diego had a lot of ability and knew how to pitch.”

Seguí wintered in Nicaragua, 1961-62, pitching for Cinco Estrellas (Five Stars), owned by General Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Two teams from Nicaragua (Bóer and Cinco Estrellas) plus Marlboro and Cerveza Balboa from Panamá participated in a four-team circuit. Seguí’s manager was Wilfredo Calviño. Frank “Panchón” Herrera was a Cinco Estrellas teammate; Julio Moreno (fellow Cuban, as was Herrera) pitched for Marlboro. Herrera, Moreno and Seguí flew to Puerto Rico, representing the champion Marlboro Smokers, in the February 6-14, 1962 Interamerican Series, at Sixto Escobar Stadium. Joel Horlen, Luis “Tite” Arroyo and Tiant pitched for Mayagüez; Juan “Terín” Pizarro, Bob Gibson, Orlando Peña and Craig Anderson hurled for Santurce; José “Carrao” Bracho and Bo Belinsky were top starters for the Caracas Lions.

In the nightcap versus Santurce, February 6, 1962, Seguí relieved Moreno (losing pitcher) in the sixth; allowed a run in three plus innings. Gibson, with relief help from Peña, won it, 5-4. On February 8, Seguí pitched a scoreless ninth against Caracas, but allowed four runs in the tenth, in a 9-5 win by Bracho. Seguí’s one start was a 1-0 loss to Mayagüez’s Horlen, on February 13. The last-place (1-8) Smokers trailed Santurce (8-1), Caracas (5-4) and Mayagüez (4-5). “That series preceded my rookie year with the Kansas City A’s,” said Seguí. “The level of competition was close to major-league quality. I faced Santurce’s Orlando Cepeda, Tony González, Cookie Rojas, Miguel de la Hoz; César Tovar and Víctor Davalillo (Caracas); Charley Lau, Joe Christopher, Julio Gotay…with Mayagüez.” Vern Benson, a St. Louis coach, managed Santurce.

U.S. Minors (1958-1961)

The 1958 Class C Tucson Cowboys were Seguí’s first minor-league team, Arizona-Mexico League, an independent one. Seguí was 7-5 with a 5.77 ERA. He started seven of his 39 games in the 120-game season for the 66-5. A Cincinnati scout (Al Zarilla) signed Seguí, but the Reds released him in April 1958. Seguí was purchased by the Kansas City A’s after the 1958 season.

From 1959-to-1961, Seguí advanced in the A’s system, from Class C Pocatello (1959), to Class B Sioux City (1960), to Hawaii (1961), a Class AAA club in the Pacific Coast League (PCL). Seguí enjoyed Hawaii—its weather was similar to his native Cuba—and the quality of play was quite good. With Pocatello, he was 12-14 with a 4.41 ERA in 44 games, 23 of them starts. Sioux City Soos played in the Three-I League, one where the Soos finished 71-68, 11.5 games behind the Fox Cities Foxes, an Orioles farm team, managed by Earl Weaver. Seguí posted a 12-9 record and 3.97 ERA in 21 starts, with five SHO and 15 CG. Ed Napoleon, an OF with the Burlington Bees, in this league, recalled hitting against Seguí in the Three-I League, and later (1961-62) in the four-team Panamá-Nicaragua circuit. “He was a crafty pitcher who could throw hard,” said Napoleon. “Seguí had a variety of pitches including a good forkball.”

Seguí (again) became a swingman in 1961, starting 17 games and relieving in 23 others for Hawaii. He was just 5-10 with a 4.42 ERA for a 68-86 team, but showed enough potential to make his major-league debut in 1962. Carlos Bernier, veteran OF from Puerto Rico, was Seguí’s teammate with Hawaii, and the PCL batting champ with a .351 AVG. Preston Gómez managed the Spokane Indians; he would later (1963-64) manage Seguí with the Santurce Crabbers.

Kansas City A’s (1962-65)

Hank Bauer (1962) and Ed Lopat (1963) were Seguí’s first two managers with Kansas City. Both won multiple World Series rings with the New York Yankees between 1949 and 1958. The 1962 A’s were ninth of 10 teams (72-90), and moved up a notch in 1963, to eighth place (73-89). Seguí had winning records both seasons: 8-5 in 37 games (13 starts and six saves), 1962; and 9-6 in 1963. He had back-to-back losing seasons in 1964 and 1965: 8-17 in 40 games (35 starts), 1964; then, 5-15 in 40 games (25 starts), 1965. Only the 1964 and 1965 New York Mets lost more games than Kansas City’s 105 in 1964, and 103 losses in 1965.

By 1964, Kansas City had a bevy of latino players, including SS Bert Campaneris, Seguí’s roommate; pitcher José “Palillo” Santiago from Puerto Rico; Cuban hurlers’ Orlando Peña, Aurelio Monteagudo and Seguí; Cuban OF José Tartabull. Seguí, listed at 6’0” and 190 pounds, had a cordial relationship with Charles O. Finley, the team owner. “Finley was very business-oriented,” recalled Seguí. “The minimum salary back then was $6,000/year. I never had problems with him, but he negotiated our contracts.”

Valencia Industrialists (1962-63)

Seguí’s first winter in Venezuela was an absolute success. He was the staff ace for the 23-16 Valencia Industrialists, 1962-63 league champions, winning 14 of the team’s 23 games. Seguí was 14-4, 2.64 ERA, in 15 starts and four relief appearances, with 12 CG. In 126 innings, he had 75 strikeouts and 28 walks. “We eliminated the Caracas Lions in the playoffs,” said Seguí. “I pitched two CG in less than 24 hours…then a final series win.” Historian Miguel Dupouy Gómez confirmed this, and elaborated on Seguí’s February 5, 1963 CG win over Rapiños, in the finals. “He [Seguí] allowed three runs (two earned), seven hits, and fanned seven without walking anyone,” said Dupouy, via twitter. “Valencia won, 4-3, in Game Four, of the Final Series.”

Seguí’s catcher was Billy Bryan, of the Kansas City A’s. Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, and Deron Johnson, both A’s prospects, played 1B and 3B. Teolindo Acosta (CF) and Teodoro Obregón (SS) were other teammates. Seguí’s post-season stats reflected a 3-1 record in 34.2 innings; 1.30 ERA, 24 strikeouts-to-12 walks. But the 1963 Interamerican Series in Panamá was challenging for Valencia, winners of one of six games, to finish last, behind the 5-2 Chiriquí-Bocas Farmers, the 4-3 Bóer Indios from Nicaragua and the 3-3 Mayagüez Indios, who featured a Terín Pizarro no-hitter and several HR by Baltimore Orioles prospect Boog Powell. Seguí’s only decision was a loss to the host Farmers, eventual champions, on February 9, 1963.

Latin American Charity Game (October 12, 1963) and Santurce Crabbers (1963-64)

Santurce Crabbers (beisbol101.com archive)

Prior to catching a flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, Seguí played in a special October 12, 1963 Charity Game at the Polo Grounds, the last contest ever played at this historic stadium. It was a Latin American major league players’ game, with the AL squad including Luis Aparicio, Víctor Pellot Power and Orestes “Minnie” Miñoso, facing a NL team led by Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda and Juan Marichal, per https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/october-12-1963-latin-american-charity-game-is-polo-grounds-grand-finale/  Ed Bauta remembered pitching the ninth inning for the NL, with a 5-0 lead. He gave up two runs in the NL’s 5-2 win. “I felt like I LOST it for the NL…wanted to shut out the AL,” said Bauta. Orlando Cepeda may have said it best: “It didn’t matter that it was for charity and that it wasn’t a ‘real’ all-star game. When you put on your uniform, you played hard and tried even harder to win. And that’s what everybody did in that game.” Players received $175 apiece for this contest. Juan Marichal won it over Pedro Ramos.

Preston Gómez, a native of Cuba, managed the 1963-64 Crabbers. This was a factor in Santurce contracting Cuban imports such as Seguí, Miguel de la Hoz, Chico Ruíz, José Tartabull, Aurelio Monteagudo and Orlando Peña. Team owner Hiram Cuevas signed imported catcher Billy Bryan, who caught Seguí in Kansas City and with Valencia; OF Al Ferrara, IF Harry Watts and pitcher Phil Ortega. Santurce finished fifth of six teams, at 31-39. Seguí was 5-8 with a 3.07 ERA. His 93 strikeouts were fourth-best in the league, behind the 132 by Arecibo’s John Boozer; 100 by Mayagüez’s Alan Koch; and Pizarro’s 95 with Santurce. Seguí’s 120 innings pitched were the equivalent of 276 in a 162-game season. He remembered Tony Oliva (of Arecibo) was the league’s best hitter for AVG. (Oliva won the batting title at .365.) Seguí, for the AL, recalled Roberto Clemente from their October 12, 1963 charity game. Clemente starred for Santurce’s arch-rival San Juan, and finished third with a .345 AVG. (Orlando Cepeda, Seguí’s Santurce teammate,  batted .368, but did not qualify for the batting title with too few plate appearances.)

Seguí’s final start for Santurce was at Ponce, Saturday, January 11, 1964. Sonny Siebert won that game, 3-2, despite a Cepeda HR, and solid pitching by Seguí, Ortega, Monteagudo and Rubén Gómez. José “Palillo” Santiago, a San Juan starter and Kansas City A’s teammate of Seguí, did not remember starting a San Juan-Santurce “City Championship” rivalry game versus Seguí. “It was Terín Pizarro or Rubén Gómez who took the mound [for Santurce] when I started,” said Santiago. “But Seguí, Peña and Monteagudo were Kansas City teammates, who pitched for that [1963-64] Santurce team.” Santurce bested San Juan in eight of their 14 “head-to-head” games, but San Juan (35-35 overall) finished third; won the league playoffs; and represented Puerto Rico in the February 1964 Interamerican Series, held in Managua, Nicaragua.

Kansas City A’s, Washington Senators and Minors (1966)

Cot Deal, A’s 1966 pitching coach, was interviewed by Joe McGuff of the Kansas City Star, per Seguí’s SABR Bio. “You know, I think this guy [Seguí] has as much stuff as Juan Marichal. Naturally, he doesn’t have the control Marichal does, but Marichal’s stuff isn’t any better. Segui’s forkball is outstanding. I’d say it’s almost as good as Lindy McDaniel’s and McDaniel has the best one in the business. Segui’s fastball is good, his slider is good and his curve is getting better.” But, Deal was asked, if Segui’s stuff is so outstanding, why did he have so much trouble winning games? Ed Lopat, now the A’s executive vice-president, cut Seguí’s salary.

Per Seguí’s SABR bio, Cot Deal opined that Segui’s “lack of effectiveness was a matter of control and a need to improve his delivery.” (Deal thought Segui kicked too much with his left leg and brought his arm back too far, making it easier for runners to steal on him and upset his pitch delivery.) Deal was confident that Segui “could work out these problems, but for 1966, Diego Segui was just another pitcher fighting for a spot on the A’s roster.” Thus, Deal made him a special project, spending extra time, to try to improve his control and delivery. But “the special attention did not pay off.” Segui was put on waivers before the start of the 1966 season, and he was picked up by the Washington Senators. Seguí was 3-7 for the Senators, with a 5.00 ERA. Seguí also pitched for the 1966 Hawaii Islanders (a Washington farm club) and the 1966 Vancouver Mounties (a Kansas City affiliate), both in the PCL, with a combined 4-3 record.

Caracas Lions (1966-67)

The 1966-67 Caracas Lions featured a starting quartet of Luis Tiant (12-6), Orlando Peña (7-6), Seguí (7-11) and Monteagudo (5-5), with a combined 31-28 W-L record. Luis Peñalver was 1-1 for the 32-29 Lions, winners of the league playoffs. Team ERA was 2.31, led by Tiant and Peña at 1.83 apiece; Seguí’s 2.53 and Monteagudo’s 2.63. All position players had an AVG below .300, led by José Tartabull (.298), Nate Colbert (.282) and Vic Davalillo (.274).  Seguí, who started 18 regular season games and relieved eight other times, pitched 128 innings, prior to going 2-0 in the semi-finals, with a no-decision in the finals versus the LaGuaira Sharks. Caracas won the finals, three games-to-two.

Vancouver and Kansas City (1967)

On Father’s Day, June 21, 2020, Miguel Dupouy Gómez included this Mickey Mantle quote in a direct tweet to the author: “Mickey Mantle referred to Seguí as one of the most underestimated players in the AL.” Mantle was aware of his forkball/assortment of other pitches, as were other AL batters. The A’s reacquired Seguí, in 1967, who learned to throw the forkball from a LHP on a semi-pro baseball team in Cuba. Seguí was magnificent in seven starts for AAA Vancouver: 4-2, 1.29 ERA, in seven starts, with four CG and two SHO. In 56 innings, he had 35 strikeouts-to-12 walks, Then, with Kansas City, he mostly relieved—33 bullpen stints to three starts. He was 3-4 with a 3.09 ERA for the 62-99 A’s, who finished last, behind the ninth-place Yankees.

Stellar Season with Caracas (1967-68)

Segui’s best pro season was 1967-68, at age 30. He was 12-1 for Caracas; a 1.43 ERA, second to Tiant’s 1.34. He completed 10 of 16 starts; had one save; fanned 111 in 132 innings. His WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) was 0.955. Seguí, Ron Klimkowski (8-5) and Tiant (6-5) were three key starters. Urbano Lugo, Peñalver and Monteagudo contributed spot starts and bullpen work for the 37-23 Lions, managed by Regino Otero. The team batting AVG was .289; their team ERA was 2.29. Then, in a four-team round-robin, Seguí started five games; completed four; with a 4-0 record, 1.85 ERA and 0.923 WHIP. When Valencia defeated Aragua, 2-1, it set up an Aragua-Caracas tie-breaker. Seguí scattered 10 hits by Aragua, for a 5-3 win, giving Otero his fourth managing title with Caracas. Gonzalo Márquez, Cookie Rojas and Vic Davalillo were Caracas hitting stars.  https://leonescampeones1.blogspot.com/p/campeonatos.html

Seguí’s Venezuela record is:  http://www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=segudie001

With deep appreciation to Diego Seguí, for his time and goodwill, June 14, 2020. Thanks to Ed Bauta, Cot Deal, Miguel Dupouy Gómez (detailed analysis on Seguí in Venezuela), Carlos González-Mariche, Paul Hartzell, Eddie Napoleon, Tony Piña Campora (Seguí’s Caribbean Series stats), José “Palillo” Santiago and Luis Tiant. Germán J. Rivas furnished photos of Seguí and insights—1963 Interamerican Series. Jorge Colón Delgado confirmed Seguí’s Santurce stats.

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