Imagine being a Seattle Pilots fan in the spring of 1970. You had heard the threats of ownership towards the end of the past season: show up, or else. Other threats came from the city: pay up, or face eviction. It had become quite apparent during the off-season that the financially strapped team could not survive long enough to move into the new stadium that was to be built in Seattle Center. A judge would declare the team bankrupt on April 1, 1970 and ordered the team be sold to an ownership group headed by Bud Selig, the man who had struck an agreement to buy the team during secret negotiations during Game One of the 1969 World Series. And so just days before the beginning of what was to be their second season, the Pilots took flight. Destination: Milwaukee.
I wonder how many disappointed fans tore up their 1970 Topps Pilots cards upon the news of their team leaving town. I certainly would have, as a child. But some fans/collectors, the discerning ones, might have look at their Diego Segui card and seen hope. After all, here was a man who had left has family and home in Cuba to pursue a career in the Major Leagues. And yet, despite not living up to the promise that he had shown, with stuff that former pitching coach Cot Deal once compared to Juan Marichal, Segui was chosen by the Pilots with the 14th pick in the (American League) Expansion Draft that followed the 1968 season. He would go on to become the team’s MVP during their lone season.
I look at the back of Segui’s 1970 Topps card, from a set as drab and gray as a Seattle winter, and wonder if anyone back then saw a foreshadowing in his card number. There didn’t appear to be a bright future for baseball in Seattle- certainly not a second major league team. But there it was: 2.
Of course the city would later be awarded another franchise, and when the Mariners team officials began putting together a roster prior to their 1977 maiden voyage, they turned to the former Pilots star.
The Mariners set sail on April 6, 1977 with the thirty-nine year old Segui getting the nod. Diego took the loss that night against the Angels and would struggle to an 0-7 record through what would be his last season in the majors. On the positive note, he did strike out 10 Boston hitters in a game and watched his strikeout/walk ration improve to the best it had been in nine seasons. He also saw his hits per 9-innings hover around 9 and the number of home runs per 9 increase to the highest of his career. After 39 appearances (six of which had been starts), Diego Segui pitched the final game of his major league career, a September 24th start against the Chicago White Sox. And, as you might have heard, the righty holds the distinction of being the only player to have played for both the Pilots and the Mariners.