While Manny Sanguillen failed to get his body in front of Moose's wild pitch and was not as skillful a defensive catcher as Johnny Bench, he made strong contributions to the Pirates' offense throughout the '72 race. And in game three against the Reds he had driven in two runs in the Pirates 3-2 decision.
He was known as a bad-ball hitter, and pitchers found it difficult to work the count on him. They could throw him a sharp-breaking curve, down and away, and the next thing they knew there was Sanguillen dusting himself off at second base with an opposite-field double. Earlier in the season, when Sanguillen rapped out five hits in a game against the Cardinals, catcher Ted Simmons complained, "we didn't him one pitch in the strike zone."
In fact, Sanguillen that year pretty much typified the Pittsburgh lineup. "Pitching to the Pirates is tough," said Tim McCarver, who was then catching for the Montreal Expos. "You go over each hitter before each game and you really don't know too much. That's because they have so many bad-ball hitters. Some teams have bad-ball hitters and that's good for the other club because they don't get many base hits. The Pirates are a base-hit club."
"It's impossible to throw the ball past Pirate hitters," said left-hander Jerry Koosman, then with the New York Mets. "Even when you pitch them out of the strike zone, they find a way to hit it."
Despite their knack of "hitting balls where they ain't," the Pirates were unable to mount a successful attack against Reds' relievers Pedro Borbon, Tom Hall, and Clay Carroll in the final five innings of the 1972 playoff game, collecting only two singles along the way.
When Moose's pitch skipped away from Sanguillen and Foster headed for the plate, Sparky Anderson almost collapsed in the Reds' dugout. He had to be helped by two of his players to the team's dressing room. "I was having trouble catching my breath," said Anderson. "I was just excited."
Anderson was also a gracious winner. "These two teams are still No. 1," he said afterward. "Pittsburgh is just as good as we are. These are the two best."
Pete Rose echoed his manager's sentiments. "That game represented the world's championship," he said. "I know we've got to beat the American League, but the two best teams in baseball played in this playoff."
Rose had to eat those words 11 days later when the Oakland A's beat the Reds in the World Series in seven games, six of which were decided by one run.
From Heartbreakers: Baseball's Most Agonizing Defeats by John Kuenster.
Copyright © 2001 by John Kuenster. Used by permission.