Diego Seguí: Oakland A’s to Seattle Pilots, Oakland, St. Louis and Caracas Lions (Part II)

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. Part I covered his first decade, from 1958 semi-pro ball to the 1967-68 winter season with Caracas. Part II focuses on his 1968 AL season with Oakland-to-February 1-6, 1973 Caribbean Series.

Oakland A’s (1968)

Seguí had a good year for the 1968 Oakland A’s: 6-5 W-L, 2.39 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, allowing 52 hits and 31 walks in 83 innings. He fanned 72 and saved six games, in 52 relief appearances. He recalled that Joe DiMaggio was one of the A’s coaches, but DiMaggio “was a private person who kept to himself.” (DiMaggio agreed to coach the 1968 and 1969 A’s to maximize his major-league pension, with 15 years, instead of 13 years’ credit.) Seguí had some conversations with1968 teammate Reggie Jackson, but opted not to elaborate on them. Jim “Catfish” Hunter was Oakland’s top starter; he pitched a perfect game in 1968. Rollie Fingers made his big-league debut. Sal Bando took over the 3B job after his fine season for Puerto Rico’s 1967-68 Arecibo Wolves. The AL’s top 1968 pitcher was Cleveland’s Luis Tiant, Seguí’s ex-Havana teammate, 1960-61. Cleveland would not permit Tiant to pitch winter ball in Venezuela. Oakland, however, was OK with Seguí playing the 1968-69 winter season with Caracas. They did not protect Seguí, so was eligible to be drafted by the Seattle Pilots or Kansas City Royals.

AL Expansion Draft (October 15, 1968)

The Pilots selected Don Mincher, Tommy Harper, Ray Oyler, Jerry McNertney, Buzz Stephen and Chico Salmón in their first six rounds. Kansas City chose Roger Nelson, Joe Foy, Jim Rooker, Joe Keough, Steve Jones and Jon Warden. The Royals’ seventh-pick was Eliseo “Ellie” Rodríguez, New York Yankees catcher, originally from Fajardo, Puerto Rico. “The Yankees were grooming Thurman Munson to be their [long-term] catcher,” opined Rodríguez, June 25, 2020, on “Baseball entre Amigos” (Baseball among friends), hosted by Raúl Ramos and Jorge Colón Delgado. Seattle called Seguí’s name as their seventh-pick, 14th overall, AL. He went from a sixth-place team in 1968 (82-80 A’s) to an expansion club with many question marks.

Stellar Season with Caracas (1968-69)

Segui went 10-3 with a 1.85 ERA for Caracas. His 12 starts and 10 CG were in addition to four bullpen efforts with two saves. He had 81 strikeouts and 32 walks, and 1.071 WHIP. Howie Reed (11-7), Mike Paul (7-2) and Bob Lee (9-5) were the other starters. All had four-to-six relief appearances, plus starts. The 39-21 Caracas Lions had a 2.44 team ERA. Their line-up included natives (or criollos) Víctor Davalillo (.339 AVG), Gonzalo Márquez (.333 AVG) and César Tovar (.317 AVG). Roberto Herrera (.320 AVG), José Tartabull and Chico Ruíz were Cuban imports. The team fell short in the round-robin series, but Seguí performed well in four starts: 2-2 record, 2.67 ERA, 24 strikeouts, seven walks and 1.185 WHIP.

Seattle Pilots MVP (1969)

Perhaps 1969 (and 1970) were Seguí’s most rewarding big-league seasons. He was 12-6 for the 64-98 Pilots, a seventh-place club, seven-team AL West. Joe Schultz Jr., the Pilots skipper, had managed in Puerto Rico (Ponce), Dominican Republic (Licey) and Venezuela. Seguí was Schultz’s best pitcher with 58 relief appearances, eight starts, two CG and 12 saves. “I liked Schultz,” said Seguí. “No se metía con nadie (he did not mess with anyone). He came from St. Louis [as a 1963-68 coach] and liked that Budweiser beer. He had the right approach for me.” Jim Bouton, a Seguí teammate with the Pilots, wrote Ball Four, which enabled a new generation of baseball fans to appreciate Joe Schultz Jr. Schultz’s SABR Bio by Rory Costello is at:  http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/joe-schultz/ Jerry McNertney, a catcher with the 1969 Pilots, had played against Seguí in Puerto Rico, 1963-64, when San Juan (McNertney’s team) faced the Santurce Crabbers (Seguí’s club). “Seguí was a good pitcher and a tough competitor,” said McNertney. “He could throw pitches from different angles. His forkball was outstanding.” When the season ended, Seguí was voted Team MVP. He pitched 142.1 innings in Seattle’s only season, before they became the 1970 Milwaukee Brewers.

More Work in Caracas and Trades (1969-70)

Seguí’s 148.1 innings for the Lions were six more than his Seattle innings. He hurled 290.2 combined innings between April 1969 and January 1970. While in Caracas, Seguí found out the Milwaukee Brewers traded him and Ray Oyler to Oakland for Ted Kubiak and George Lauzerique, December 7, 1969. Charlie Finley was busy in Oakland, having received Felipe Alou from Atlanta, four days earlier, in exchange for Jim Nash; purchasing Jim “Mudcat” Grant from St. Louis, December 5, 1969; and trading Danny Cater and Ossie Chavarría to the Yankees for Al Downing and Frank Fernández.

Circling back to Caracas, the 28-32 Lions missed the post-season. Luis Peñalver (9-3, 1.40 ERA and 135.1 innings) was superb, but Seguí (7-10, 2.61 ERA) suffered from lack of run support. Gene Tenace, Seguí’s 1970-72 teammate with Oakland, caught 33 games with Caracas. Tenace, the 1972 World Series hero, gives credit to all the countries where he played winter ball—Venezuela, Mexico, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. “That’s why you go there,” said Tenace. “I was converted to a catcher, so winter ball really helped me fine-tune my catching skills for the big leagues.” Third baseman Bobby Cox was another Caracas import.

Oakland A’s (1970)

Oakland’s 89 wins in 1970 were second to Minnesota (97-65) in the 1970 AL West. When Seguí rejoined Oakland in 1970, John McNamara was the A’s manager. Seguí liked his role as a swingman—45 games, 19 starts, three CG, two SHO and two saves. Rollie Fingers was used in the same manner by McNamara: 47 games and 19 starts, but Seguí was more effective than Fingers, pitching 14 more innings (162-to-148); throwing two more CG and SHO than the future Cooperstown Hall of Famer; and recording an equal number of saves. (Mudcat Grant was the closer with 24 saves.) Seguí was 10-10, the third-most team wins, behind Catfish Hunter (18) and Chuck Dobson (16). Seguí led the AL with a 2.56 ERA, with a 1970 salary of $28,000.

“I’m grateful to McNamara for bringing me in (relief), next-to-last day of the season,” said Seguí. “Those two (scoreless) innings allowed me to reach 162, to qualify as ERA leader.”

That special game was September 30, 1970, when Oakland hosted Milwaukee. Tenace caught; Tony LaRussa played 2B; Reggie Jackson hit fifth, as the RF; Joe Rudi (1B) and Sal Bando (3B) batted third-fourth. Seguí pitched the sixth and seventh frames after John Donaldson pinch-hit for starter John “Blue Moon” Odom. Emmett Ashford was the home plate ump. Paid attendance was 2,302. Seguí walked Skip Lockwood to open the sixth; induced Tommy Harper to hit into a 6-4-3 double-play; fanned Mike Hegan; and retired the side in the seventh, getting Dave May on a 3-1 play; retiring Ted Savage on a pop fly to Rudi and Bob Burda, F-7. Felipe Alou pinch-hit for Seguí in the home seventh.

Table I: Top Ten 1970 AL ERA Leaders

Diego SeguíOakland1622.56139
Jim Palmer^Baltimore3052.71134
Clyde Wright!California260.22.83128
Fritz PetersonNew York260.12.90122
Sam McDowell^Cleveland3052.92134
Dick Bosman#Washington230.23.00118
Andy MessersmithCalifornia194.23.01120
Jim PerryMinnesota278.23.04125
Ray CulpBoston251.13.04131
Bob JohnsonKansas City2143.07121

^ Palmer (1968-69) and McDowell (1962-63) pitched for Santurce.

! Wright (1969-70) pitched for Ponce.

# Bosman led the AL in 1969, 2.19 ERA; Palmer (2.34) was second.

Caracas Lions (1970-71)

Seguí (5-5, 3.56 ERA) started 11 games for Caracas. He was joined on the pitching staff by Camilo Pascual (7-0, 2.31), Ed Sprague (7-5, 3.12), Rich Folkers (4-3, 3.29), Luis Peñalver (4-5, 2.64), Luis Tiant (2-1, 3.08) and Urbano Lugo (2-3, 2.74). Ten years earlier, Seguí and Tiant were with the Havana Lions. Caracas had another winning season (35-24), but the LaGuaira Sharks were league champions and represented Venezuela in the February 1971 Caribbean Series. George Lauzerique, traded for Seguí in the four-player, December 7, 1969 trade between Milwaukee and Oakland, won a Caribbean Series Game for LaGuaira, at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn Stadium. The undefeated Licey Tigers (6-0) from the Dominican Republic won that series, one which Mexico took part in for the first time. (Maury Wills managed Mexico’s Hermosillo Orange Growers and Frank Robinson managed the host Santurce Crabbers.) Circling back to Caracas, Víctor Davalillo (.379 AVG) and César Tovar (.338) formed a strong one-two punch at the plate. Cookie Rojas (2B), Kurt Bevacqua (3B) and Richie Scheinblum (CF) were three imported position players with Caracas.

Oakland A’s (1971 and 1972)

Dick Williams led the 1971 A’s to a 101-60 season, 16 games ahead of the 85-76 Kansas City Royals. Earl Weaver managed Baltimore to a 101-win season, too, but the Orioles only lost 57, due to four rainouts. Baltimore was defending World Series champion, having bested Cincinnati, four games-to-one, in the 1970 World Series. For Oakland, it was 40 years since their franchise made it to the post-season—Connie Mack led the Philadelphia A’s to the 1931 World Series versus St. Louis. Dick Williams inserted Rollie Fingers in a closer role (17 saves), but gave him eight spot starts. Oakland featured Vida Blue (24-8, 1.82 ERA), Catfish Hunter (21-11, 2.96) and Chuck Dobson (15-5, 3.81) as their one-two-three starting pitchers. Seguí (10-8, 3.14) and Blue Moon Odom (10-12, 4.29) were the other starters. (Blue-Hunter-Dobson started 106 games between them; Seguí and Odom had 46 combined starts.) Reggie Jackson clouted 32 HR for the A’s, after hitting 20 for Santurce, 1970-71 winter season. Sal Bando hit 24 HR and led the club with 94 RBIs, outdistancing Jackson’s 80 RBIs. Bert Campaneris, Seguí’s roommate during his years with Kansas City and Oakland, stole 34 bases.

The Orioles, winners of the AL East by 12 games over Detroit, had four 20-game winners: Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Miguel Cuellar and Pat Dobson. (All four pitched in Puerto Rico; Cuellar, a native of Cuba, once pitched in the Cuban Winter League, Venezuela and Nicaragua.) The 1971 ALCS began in Baltimore, October 3; and concluded in Oakland, October 5. Game One, lasting two hours and two minutes, was on a Sunday. McNally bested Blue, in a 5-3 Orioles win. Angel “Cookie” Mangual, who platooned with Rick Monday in the regular season, and served as the team’s fourth OF, drove in two of the A’s runs. Baltimore rallied for four in the seventh, with Paul Blair’s game-winning two-run double the difference-maker, off Blue. In Game Two, Cuellar outpitched Hunter, in a 5-1 win. The two-hour and four-minute contest featured four Baltimore HR: two by Boog Powell, driving in three; and solo shots by Elrod Hendricks and Brooks Robinson, all off Hunter. (Baltimore’s starting line-up, except for SS Mark Belanger, had played Caribbean winter baseball.)

Both teams flew to Oakland in later that day, post-Game Two, since there was no off-day. Dick Williams gave the ball to Seguí; Weaver summoned Palmer for Game Three. The Oakland Coliseum had 33,176 paid fans watch the Seguí-Palmer duel. Seguí faced Don Buford (LF), Blair (CF), Powell (1B), Frank Robinson (RF) Hendricks (catcher), Brooks Robinson (3B), Davey Johnson (2B), Belanger (SS) and Palmer. Palmer pitched to: Campaneris (SS), Monday (CF), Jackson (RF), Mike Epstein (1B), Bando (3B), Cookie Mangual (LF), Tenace (catcher), Dick Green (2B) and Seguí. Hendricks’s sacrifice fly drove in Buford with the first run, top of the first. Jackson’s HR in the third, tied it. Seguí was pitching well into the fifth frame, but allowed a lead-off hit to Buford; got Blair on a 6-4 play; walked Powell, before getting Frank Robinson on a 6-3 grounder, with Blair advancing to second.

Per Seguí, “my manager, Dick Williams, wanted me to walk Hendricks intentionally, and face Brooks Robinson. But I could pitch more effectively to Hendricks…” So, Hendricks took first after the intentional walk, and Brooks Robinson drove in two runs with a bloop single to CF. Fingers was brought in to relieve Seguí, and got the third out. Bando’s solo HR in the sixth, cut the Orioles lead to 3-2. Baltimore scored two insurance runs in the seventh, charged to Fingers, on a Frank Robinson RBI double and a Darold Knowles WP. Oakland’s final run was a Jackson HR off Palmer in the eighth. Palmer struck out the side in the ninth—Tenace, plus pinch-hitters Mike Hegan and Curt Blefary—to send Baltimore to the 1971 World Series, versus Pittsburgh.

The 1972 Oakland A’s were 93-62, and won the first of three straight World Series crowns. Seguí was with the A’s until his trade to St. Louis, June 7, 1972. He was 0-1, 3.57 ERA, in 22.2 innings, at the time of this deal. Oakland signed Dennis McLain and he was the team’s fifth starter the first month of the season, before Joel Horlen and Dave Hamilton got some starts. Seguí’s only decision was a 4-2 loss at California, May 16, allowing three earned runs in four innings. But his 1.93 ERA, after that defeat, proved he could get help the A’s as a swingman. Four days earlier, he relieved McLain, who only lasted two innings against Boston. Seguí pitched five scoreless frames, before Bob Locker blew a save opportunity in the ninth, and Fingers gave up the winning run in the eleventh, in a 7-6 win by the Red Sox. Seguí recalled that his spikes got caught on a close play at first. He left the game after Blefary pinch-hit for him.  Luis Tiant and Bill Lee, future Boston teammates of Seguí, pitched in relief for the Red Sox.

Oakland, with a 30-13 record, was in Cleveland, for a June 7, 1972 night game, when Seguí found out he was traded to St. Louis for “future considerations.” Seguí said goodbye to Campaneris, his roommate. “We had talked about this [possibility] for some time,” said Seguí. “[Dick] Williams and I had words after he took me out [with a lead]. My days were numbered.”

(Seguí did not receive a 1972 World Series share, but eventually received his World Series ring.)

Seguí stepped in nicely as the closer for Red Schoendienst. He earned a team-leading nine saves, for a team with 13 saves. He struck out 54 batters in 55.2 innings; won three of four decisions; and posted a 3.07 ERA. Bob Gibson (19-11) was the staff ace with 23 CG out of 34 starts. Rick Wise completed 20 of 35 starts; Rick Cleveland had 11 CG in 33 starts. “I was comfortable in St. Louis,” said Seguí. “[José] Cheo Cruz and [Luis] Torito Meléndez, both from Puerto Rico, and [Dominican] Mateo Alou were on that team. Joe Torre and Lou Brock became [Cooperstown] Hall of Famers. So did Ted Simmons, my catcher.” Moe Drabowsky provided fun and humor in the St. Louis bullpen, with his antics. Al Hrabosky was a late-season call-up for the Cardinals.

Caracas Lions (1972-73) and First Caribbean Series (February 1-6, 1973)

So, Seguí went from the St. Louis Cardinals closer to a starter for Caracas. He went 8-4 in 13 starts; pitched 96.2 innings; fanned 86 and walked 37, with a 2.98 ERA. Caracas used 19 pitchers including Urbano Lugo (5-3, 2.38 ERA), Ed Sprague (5-2, 2.49), Luis Peñalver (5-5, 2.32) and Barry Lersch (6-3, 2.68). Caracas finished 37-33 under manager Osvaldo “Ozzie” Virgil Sr., before winning their semi-finals (Seguí was 1-0) and finals. Seguí had two good catchers: import Joe Ferguson, with a .294 AVG, 15 HR and 51 RBIs, in 55 games; and 19-year old Baudilio “Bo” Díaz, with a .300 AVG in 17 games. Davey Lopes led the team with 13 SB. Bert Campaneris played in 20 games and hustled, as did Lopes. Hal McRae played 14 games, but went 22-for-52, a .423 AVG. Gonzalo Márquez (.380 AVG, 20 games); Víctor Davalillo (.337 AVG) and César Tovar (.320 AVG) were hitting machines. Seguí’s Venezuela record is at:  http://www.pelotabinaria.com.ve/beisbol/mostrar.php?ID=segudie001

Caracas hosted the fourth Caribbean Series of Phase II, February 1-6, 1973. On February 3, Seguí fanned 15 Santurce Crabbers, in a 2-0 win. His 15 strikeouts (one game) are second-best to Juan “Terín” Pizarro, in Caribbean Series history. Pizarro fanned 17 Carta Vieja Yankees, for Caguas, on February 8, 1958. “That [1972-73 Santurce team] was a big-league line-up,” said Seguí. “They had Tony Pérez, Willie Crawford, Ron Cey…would have struck out more if I knew I had 15…I also struck out Steve Garvey and one other Licey hitter, in relief.” Seguí still holds the Caribbean Series mark for most strikeouts (K) per nine innings pitched (IP), in one series.

Table II: Strikeouts per nine IP, one Caribbean Series, minimum nine IP^

PitcherTeam and SeriesIPKK/ 9 IP
Diego SeguíCaracas (1973)9.21715.82
Terín PizarroCaguas (1958)16.22915.66
Odell JonesLicey (1977)121813.50
Francisco CamposMazatlán (2005)162312.94
Joe HattenAlmendares (1954)11.21612.34
Giancarlo AlvaradoPonce (2009)11.21612.34
José AcevedoAguilas Cibaeñas (2003)11.11511.91
Wilson AlvarezZulia (1992)151911.40
Pete WojeyMayagüez (1957)121511.25
Aurelio MonteagudoMagallanes (1970)13.21711.19
Earl StephensonAragua (1972)10.21210.97
Héctor MercadoBayamón (2002)101110.80
Humberto RobinsonCarta Vieja (1955)10.11110.45

^ José Rijo had some Caribbean Series with many K, but less than nine IP.

Seguí (RHP) and Pizarro (LHP) were selected to the Series All-Star Team, with Licey players’ Steve Yeager (catcher), Garvey (3B), Bobby Valentine (SS), Jesús Alou (LF) and Manny Mota (CF). Gonzalo Márquez (1B), Gustavo Gil (2B) and César Tovar (RF) were Caracas All-Stars. Licey (5-1) won it, over Caracas (3-3), Santurce (3-3) and Mexico (1-5). LHP Al Hrabosky pitched for Mexico’s Yaquis de Obregón. RHP Reggie Cleveland reinforced Caracas. Tom Lasorda, Licey’s manager, felt this Caribbean Series crown was helpful to his being chosen to replace Walter Alston as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers at the end of the 1976 season.

With deep appreciation to Diego Seguí, for his time and goodwill, June 14 and 24, 2020. Thanks to Jorge Colón Delgado, Miguel Dupouy Gómez (Seguí in Venezuela), Carlos González-Mariche, Paul Hartzell, Tom Lasorda, Jerry McNertney, Tony Piña Campora (Seguí’s Caribbean Series stats), Raúl Ramos, Germán J. Rivas, Eliseo Rodríguez, Gene Tenace and Luis Tiant.

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