Monday, March 16, 2015

Manny Being Manny, Before Manny

Minor league cards, especially of the team issue variety are often very much lacking in the quality control department.  Thin card-stock, out of focus or unusually dark photos, head-scratchingly loud or bland designs (no in-between), etc. permeate the market; but, I absolutely love them just the same.

After all, without these regional issues, how would we remember the forgotten prospects of yesteryear?  Their stories are often more interesting than most of those that made the ultimate ascent.  This guy here is no exception:




I first saw this card at The Phillies Room and I knew I had to have it; it hails from the 1976 team set of Phillies' AAA affiliate.  Even though it looks like it was made on an old Xerox machine, there's always room for an oddball like this in my collection, especially when it depicts a Cub needed for my CATRC.

According to Jim's research, the set was handed out to the first 2,000 fans attending the 89ers' July 26th home game that year.  Now, I missed that game by - oh - 13 years, but now I have this rarity.

Outside of a couple TCMA minor league cards, no other cards exist of Manny Seoane.  This is unfortunate, as although his big league career was brief, undistinguished and unsuccessful, he was later involved in one of the most bizarre incidents in baseball history.


Manny warming up at Wrigley in 1978


The Phillies prospect didn't do so hot in Oklahoma City that season, posting an 8-7 record with a 4.77 ERA in 21 starts.  The next season was only mildly better, but he was able to get a September call-up with the Phils for 2 games, giving up 4 runs in 6 IP during the playoff chase.

His second appearance came against Chicago and though the Phillies were unimpressed with his work, the Cubs must have thought they saw something.  Manny was traded straight up to the Cubs for the aging Jose Cardenal in October of 1977.


At this point, Jose was "robbed" of his abilities by age.


Manny was stashed at AAA Wichita for 1978 and he continued his streak of mediocrity, going 12-9 with a 4.50 ERA in 28 games.  But, since the Cubs of the late 70's were the embodiment of mediocrity, Manny got another September call-up.

This time around, he saw a little more action - but not much more.  He gave up 5 runs in 8.1 innings across 7 games, one of which was a start.  This was to be the end of the line for his MLB career.

But, this is not where his story ends; au contraire, this is where it gets interesting.

Before eventually washing out of the Cubs organization, Manny became associated with the eccentric Mark Lemongello while still with Wichita - another washed up pitcher who had come to the Cubs organization to string along his MLB dreams.

Previously, Lemongello had only been known to the Wrigley faithful for this incident:


video


Figure out where this story is going yet?

In 1982, while Manny was in the Detroit farm system, he and Mark were arrested for the kidnapping and robbery of Lemongello's cousins Mike Lemongello, a former professional bowler, and Peter Lemongello, an entertainer who had appeared on the Tonight Show among other gigs.

The co-conspirators held the brothers at gun point, forced them into a van, forced them to withdraw $50,000 from a safe deposit box at a bank and left the brothers in a nearby wooded area in Florida.

Gotta get creative when your making minor league money, I guess.

Ultimately, both got off with just 7 years probation, but neither played professional baseball again.


                         Mike Lemongello - The Bowler                               Peter Lemongello - The Entertainer
                                    Courtesy of Historic Images                                Courtesy of History For Sale


There you have it, the story of one Manuel M. Seoane, who without a half-baked idea and a poorly executed plot would have been entirely forgotten to the annals of baseball history.

Now, thanks to this team-issued, OK City minor league card, he is now immortalized in my Cubs All-Time Roster Collection.  

If any of my cards go missing though, I'll know exactly where to begin my search!



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