In 1977 the Philadelphia Phillies captured their second consecutive NL East Division crown and set a franchise record by winning 101 games during the regular season.
One of the key factors for that Phillies ball club success was a pitching staff that remained largely healthy and intact for nearly the entire year. Manager Danny Ozark only utilized 13 arms all season long. Five starting pitchers made at least 25 starts while four relievers saw action in at least 45 games.
The easy pitching representative from that team for the ‘Phillies 50’ series featuring players who made a minimal impact on both their particular team and in their overall MLB career is right-hander Manny Seoane.
Seoane would make just two appearances with those 1977 Phillies, one as a starter and one in relief. He had been the Phillies sixth round choice in the 1973 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in his native Tampa, Florida. Seoane proved to be an innings-eating workhorse over five seasons in the farm system, going 19-15 with Triple-A Oklahoma City in the 1976-77 campaigns.
When rosters expanded in September, Seoane was given his first shot in Major League Baseball. The Phillies held a healthy eight-game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the division race when Ozark brought him into his first game in relief on September 18, 1977 at Busch Stadium in Saint Louis during a 12-5 loss to the host Cardinals.
Phillies starter Jim Kaat had been roped around for seven earned runs on nine hits in less than two innings on that Sunday afternoon by the Cards’ hitters. By the time Seoane took the mound to start the bottom of the 3rd inning the Phillies already trailed by 10-0.
Seoane displayed typical rookie jitters. He walked the first big-league hitter that he ever faced, Mike Phillips, and then promptly uncorked a wild pitch to move Phillips over to second base. Seoane then enjoyed a career highlight by registering his first-ever strike out, albeith of opposing pitcher Bob Forsch. Future Hall of Famer Lou Brock then singled, and two batters later a Garry Templeton double brought home Phillips to make it 11-0.
Templeton would victimize Seoane once again in his next at-bat in the bottom of the 5th inning, delivering a two-run single that scored both Phillips and Brock and extend the lead to 12-2 at that point.
Over three innings on the mound that day, Seoane allowed three earned runs on seven hits, striking out three and walking one. It was a rude and eye-opening introduction to big-league hitters for the 22-year-old.
The division having already been clinched with a week still to go in the regular season, Ozark gave Seoane an opportunity at a starting assignment on Wednesday afternoon September 28, 1977 at Wrigley Field in Chicago against the host Cubs.
Seoane went three innings that afternoon, allowing one run on four hits with a strikeout and two walks. The lone run came in the bottom of the 1st inning when future Phillies outfielder Greg Gross ripped a one-out double and scored on a base hit by Larry Biittner.
In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Seoane allowed a leadoff bunt single by future Phillies shortstop Ivan De Jesus. After walking Gross he would retire the next three batters. Ozark would send up John Vukovich to pinch-hit for Seoane in the top of the 4th inning, ending what would be the young pitcher’s final appearance with the Phillies. The team would go on to win 5-2 for their 100th victory of the season, the first Phillies ball club to ever reach that century mark in regular season victories.
Cubs’ general manager Bob Kennedy must have liked something that he saw that day. One week after the World Series ended that year, Seoane was dealt by the Phillies to the Cubs in exchange for veteran Jose Cardenal. He would make his final seven big-league appearances with the 1978 Cubs, including one start.
Seoane remained with the Cubs organization pitching as a swing-man with their Triple-A affiliates at Wichita in both 1979 and 1980. He would hang on for one last season in 1981 at two levels of the Detroit Tigers system before calling it a career at age 26.
And then came the incredible incident of notoriety that left the baseball world scratching its head in bewilderment. In January of 1982, Seoane and another former big-league pitcher, fellow 26-year-old Mark Lemongello, were arrested for kidnapping and armed robbery.
The pair had abducted Mark’s cousins, singer Peter Lemongello and pro bowler Mike Lemongello, forcing them into a van at gunpoint in order to settle a dispute over the finder’s fee on a home construction job involving the home of Houston Astros pitcher Joe Sambito.
The incident was described by Brad Kyle of The Runner Sports in his March 2019 article “Just A Bit Outside: The Crime And Punishment Of Astros’ Pitcher Mark Lemongello“:
“A detective at the scene said that Sambito, who pitched in Houston with Mark, and a landscaper were at the home under construction at the time of the abduction, according to UPI. He said when the two suspects arrived and began fighting with the brothers, Sambito tried to intervene but backed away when Mark Lemongello pointed a .32-caliber revolver at him…The detective said that while Peter Lemongello was held in the van by Seoane, Mark accompanied Mike inside a bank where Mike was forced to withdraw “more than $50,000” in cash from a safety deposit box.”
Kyle reported that the two pled ‘No Contest’ and an adjudication of guilt was whitheld, so they were never formally convicted of the crimes. Lemongello and Seoane were ordered to perform 200 hours community service. They were also ordered to stay away from Peter and to make restitution to him if a lawsuit were brought against them and a judgment rendered.