This ‘Phillies 50’ series was designed to highlight the performance of one position player and one pitcher from each Philadephia Phillies team between the years 1971-2019 as part of my celebration of following the ball club for a half-century.
Veterans Stadium was opened in my South Philadelphia backyard for the 1971 season, and that would also signal my first full season following the Phillies. At age nine, it would be the first year during which I would attend a big-league game.
This series was designed with a special purpose, not to highlight the stars, but instead to remember just the opposite. Those mostly forgotten players who made a minimal contribution to each specific Phillies season while also combined with a minimal impact over the course of their full career in Major League Baseball.
For this first season, or the last if you have been following my reverse countdown over the past few months, the pitching representative fits the definition well. Manny Muniz was a right-hander who appeared with the 1971 Phillies for the only five games of his big-league career.
Muniz signed with the Phillies all the way back in September of 1964, when I was just two years of age. He was just 16 himself that year, signing out of his native Puerto Rico as an amateur free agent.
Used almost exclusively in relief as he rose through the Phillies farm system during the 1960’s, Muniz pitched well in a 1971 campaign split between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Eugene. That performance would gain him a promotion to make his Major League Baseball when rosters were expanded in September.
If you look at his official record, Muniz’ initial appearance appears to come on August 1, 1971. But that is a bit deceiving. On that date the Phillies and visiting Saint Louis Cardinals battled into the 12th inning tied at 3-3. The Cards then scored three times in the top of the 12th to take a 6-3 lead, but also lodged a formal protest which was later upheld.
That contest would be picked up on September 7, and by that time Muniz had joined the Phillies. He was inserted on the mound by manager Frank Lucchesi as the game resumed with one out in the top of the 12th, Cardinals runners at second and third, and one out. Muniz would retire two straight to get out of the jam. The Phillies scored three of their own in the bottom of the frame to once again tie up. But again the Cardinals scored three in the 13th, going on to close out a 9-6 win.
The actual debut in Major League Baseball for the 23-year-old had come on September 3, 1971 at Veterans Stadium against the visiting New York Mets. He came on in the 4th inning in relief of starter Ken Reynolds and provided three innings over which he allowed two earned runs on two hits, striking out four and walking four. He struck out Cleon Jones in the top of the 5th inning for his first big-league punch-out, and Tommie Agee got to him for a 7th inning solo home run.
He made five appearances overall that month and produced a mixed bag of performances. On September 6 in the first game of a doubleheader at The Vet against Saint Louis he went four shutout frames. But on September 11 at Shea Stadium the host Mets lit him up for five earned runs on five hits over just 2/3 of an inning.
Overall, Muniz went 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA and 1.645 WHIP, allowing nine hits over 10.1 innings with six strikeouts and eight walks. He would pitch one final season at Triple-A Eugene in 1972 before calling it a career.