Manny Sanguillen is a throwback, one of those ballplayers who inspired the baseball cliche about swinging the bat before he even gets out of the dugout.
Tonight the veteran Pittsburgh Pirate backup catcher kept swinging at enough pitches to win his team the second game of the 1979 World Series.
Called on by Manager Chuck Tanner to pinch hit for pitcher Don Robinson in the ninth inning with the score 2-2, two men out and Ed Ott on second base with the go-ahead run, the 35-year-old Sanguillen poked a line single to right field on a 1-2 pitch from Oriole reliever Don Stanhouse to drive Ott in with what proved to be the winning run.
"I was just trying to make contact," Sanguillen said in his broken English after the game. "I wasn't trying to pull the ball with two strikes, I was trying to hit it through the middle."
Before he hit the Stanhouse slider, Sanguillen had fouled off four straight fast balls to stay alive on the 1-2 count.
"He kept throwing me strikes," said Sanguillen, who drove in only four runs in limited duty during the season. "Last night when I pinch hit they throw me a strike and I made an out. My wife told me today that if I keep getting strikes I'll never get another hit. Finally he threw me a silder outside."
Stanhouse, losing pitcher in the 3-hour 13-minute game, agreed with Sanguillen's analysis of his hitting ability.
"Sanguillen is the kind of batter who will not hit you when you throw the ball down the middle," the Oriole relief ace said. "But if you throw it anywhere else, he hits. He's a free swinger.
"The four pitches he fouled off were all fast balls. I was trying to set up my slider. The pitch he hit was a slider that didn't slide very much. In fact it didn't slide at all."
Many in the crowd were somewhat surprised when Tanner sent Sanguillen to the plate in the crucial situation instead of Rennie Stennett and Lee Lacy, both of whom had higher averages on the season.
"I just felt that Sanguillen could handle a pitcher like Stanhouse," said Tanner. "I thought if Stanhouse came inside he could jerk it out."
Sanguillen said he was ready to hit -- something he has done consistently during his 12-year career (.298 average) -- and hoping for a chance to hit.
"I know I have to always be prepared," he said. "I try to keep myself mentally ready on the bench all the time and just go up, no matter what, and swing the bat. That's what I've always done, swing the bat. I can hit most pitches except good strikes."
Stanhouse was not surprised by Tanner's decision: "He hits all kinds of bad pitches. I throw a lot of bad pitches. It was a good decision," he said.
Oriole Manager Earl Weaver didn't comment on Tanner's moves, but noted that, "we probably knew more about Sanguillen (he played for the Oakland A's for a season) than anyone else. We had a book on him. He just did a good job. The man rose to the occasion, give him credit. I'm just like the rest of you. I'm sitting over there watching both these teams play their butts off. Manny made a helluva play. It was a helluva game."
Sanguillen's hit was the key moment in the game offensively for the Pirates. There first came in the sixth inning with Eddie Murray on third base, one man out and Oriole left fielder John Lowenstein at the plate.
Lowenstein lined starter bert blyleven's fast ball to right field. Dave Parker, who had dropped a popup earlier, moved in, made the catch and threw the ball home in one motion.
Murray, charging for the plate on the catch, was a dead duck, out by 10 feet and not even bothering to slide as Parker, considered to have the National league's strongest arm, nailed him to keep the scored tied, 2-2.
"I sent him because it was a low-scoring game and we're not swinging the bats well," said third-base coach Cal Ripken. "Parker had to make a running catch and set himself up to throw. I was gambling that he might have trouble on the wet field. You don't gamble on his arm."
Parker was not surprised to see Murray run. "you have to make me throw it," he said. "If I'm a little off line or I slip, they go ahead. It was the right play. I made a good throw and Eddie (catcher Ott) made a good tag. Just good baseball."
Tanner agreed. "These two teams got here by playing aggressive baseball. You can't stop now. Parker had to make a perfect throw to get him. no question they made the right play sending him. Parker just made a great play."
Tanner didn't need Parker for his next crucial play. It came in the seventh inning. Don Rodinson had relieved Blyleven. He was alternately overpowering and wild.
After getting Billy Smith to pop to first baseman Willie Stargell, Robinson walked Rick Dempsey and pinch hitter Pat Kelly, then struck out Al Bumbry and walked pinch hitter Terry Crowley on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.
That brought up Ken Singleton with Pirate relief ace Kent Tekulve in the bullpen. Tanner never moved.
"Don Robinson can throw as hard as anyone in baseball," Tanner said. "He has real fine control and he was just missing. It was a tough situation and I had complete faith in his ability to get the out. I never considered taking him out."
Tanner's faith was rewarded when Robinson struck out Singleton on three pitches to get out of the jam. "Fast balls," said Robinson. "I wasn't going to get beat by getting cute."
Orioles' final threat in the eighth inning against Robinson, men on first and second, and none out, was quickly choked off when Lowenstein, swinging away on Weaver's orders, grounded to shortstop Tim Foli, who was cutting toward third base.
"We had a play on," said Tanner. "Billy Madlock charges and Foli heads over to cover third. We were lucky he hit the ball right to Tim to start the double play."
That double play -- the Pirates' third -- kept the score knotted until Sanguillen, who batted only 71 times for a .230 average this season, could get his bat out of the dugout and up to the plate in the ninth.
A close friend of the late Roberto Clemente and a member of the 1971 Pirate world championship team, Sanguillen said the memory of Clemente still burns bright in the Pittsburgh clubhouse.
"I wanted to get the hit for Roberto Clemente," he said. "I'm glad i had the chance to win the game. We all want to win for Clemente."