Baseball cards didn’t take center stage in my childhood until 1975, but I got several packs of cards in 1974. When I think of that very first year of cards, I think of journeymen in mushy doctored caps and altered uniforms staring out into the void above a word that was by far the biggest to ever appear on any of my cards: TRADED. I don’t remember if I even understood this word when I first read it, but I knew the players branded with it were somehow diminished, as if the word been stamped onto them by a large steely mechanism at the end of a conveyor belt sifting defectives from the main assembly line. From the first, my world of gods was defined by obscurity and banishment.
None of the players in these cards were known to me, and none would ever make much of an impression in years to come. Diego Segui is the emperor of the TRADED wing in my collection. He showed up two more times in one of my packs, once in 1975, with a demented cockeyed grin on his face, and again in 1977, wearing a Seattle Mariners batting helmet even though he hadn’t been in a league where pitchers batted since the trade alluded to on this TRADED card, the card I will forever associate with Diego Segui.
It’s no accident that he wears an expression of weathered resignation above the declarative banner. His career to that point had been a tour of places that had vanished. Signed and then quickly released by the Cincinnati Reds during the era when the team, due to lingering McCarthy-era paranoia, was officially known as the “Redlegs,” Segui began his major league career with the Kansas City A’s (death date: 1967), moved on to the Washington Senators (death date: 1971), then after one more season (their last) with the Kansas City A’s and the inaugural edition of the Oakland A’s, he joined the Seattle Pilots for their one and only gasp in 1969. After his first few years in the league presiding over various extinctions, Segui settled into a few years as a journeyman traveling among teams that managed to survive his apparently apocalyptic presence. He even went to the World Series with the Red Sox and pitched one inning, mopping up in a lopsided loss. Nonetheless, the Red Sox released him the following spring. He hooked on with the Padres, but, alas, Diego never appeared in a game for San Diego, and the following year he moved on again, back to Seattle, to a team that was, oddly enough, beginning rather than ending. The development would have made for a hopeful ending to Segui’s itinerant, doom-laced career had he not gone 0 and 7 with a 5.69 ERA before slipping out of the picture altogether.