It's a moment frozen in time. Maybe the last real iconic moment in recent Pirates history. It was Game 7 of the 1979 World Series, and the Pirates found themselves trailing, 1-0, with two outs in the top of the 6th inning. Bill Robinson was on first base after a single. Willie Stargell, the heart and soul of the '79 Pirates, stood in the batters box, winding his bat in his familiar clock-wise manner. Orioles starter Scott Mcgregor unloaded a pitch, and much like he often did during his MVP '79 season, "Pops" brought his team from behind as he deposited the pitch over the right field wall and into the Pirates bullpen to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead that they would never relinquish. The Pirates went on to win, 4-1, and capture their fifth World Series title.
It was a tremendous victory for the Pirates, one that has been celebrated time and time again. But there may not have been a Game 7 if not for the heroics of Manny Sanguillen in Game 2.
After dropping the first game, 5-4, the Pirates found themselves in a 2-2 tie with the Orioles in the top of the 9th inning.
There were two-outs and Ed Ott was on 2nd base and Phil Garner on first. Sanguillen, in the twilight of his career and appearing in only 56 games in '79, pitch-hit for Bill Robinson and came through with a two-out single to right-field that barely scored Ott for the eventual game-winning run.
Sanguillen got a hero's welcome before game 3 in Pittsburgh, but his efforts were quickly forgotten as the Orioles took the next two games to go up 3-1 in the Series.
The only bright spot for the team through the first four games was Manny's clutch hit in Game 2. Otherwise, it would have been a clean-sweep for Baltimore.
Fortunately, the Pirates responded like few teams have in World Series play and staged an historic comeback. Once momentum shifted in Pittsburgh's favor, there was no turning back.
However, much like Hal Smith's three-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series that eventually paved the way for Maz's historic shot, the amazing performances by Omar Moreno, Tim Foli, John Candelaria, Jim Rooker, Phil Garner and Willie Stargell would never have been possible without the clutch hit from Manny in Game 2 that kept the team afloat through the rough first four games of the series.
Sanguillen accomplished a lot during his career--he made several All Star appearances and was the starting catcher of the '71 World Series team--but what he did in '79 as a little used utility player may have been his most significant contribution to Pirates history.
Sanguillen frequents a bar near my house. One of these days, I'm going to go up to him and shake his hand. He was just as responsible for that World Series title as any other member of "The Family."
However, if I never get the chance to shake his hand, maybe he'll read this blog and know how much I appreciate what he did.