“That summer feeling’s gonna haunt you the rest of your life.” -Jonathan Richman
Spring 1982: Manny Sarmiento mentions his history with acute anxiety in this article from 1982. It’s a family thing—his mother suffered similarly and at the time of this article his older brother had not left his house in a year and a half. Sarmiento’s own issues—“I lost my confidence. I used to worry too much. I was always thinking. I wouldn’t sleep well when I went to bed at night”—led to a nervous breakdown and got him jettisoned from his first team, the Cincinnati Reds, for whom he was a significant contributor on the 1976 World Championship squad. In the article he expresses hope that his problems are behind him and that he’ll be able to make some more major league money to help pay for treatment for his house-bound brother.
Spring 1985: Manny Sarmiento did indeed make it onto the Pirates’ roster in 1982 and held onto his major league job for a few more seasons. Injuries derailed him in 1984, setting the stage for another comeback in 1985. Buried in this article—which focuses on Sarmiento’s struggles, the long odds against him making the major league roster, and his determined avowal to beat the long odds—is a reference to the family member he’d been hoping in an earlier spring to help: in the off-season of 1984 Sarmiento’s brother committed suicide.
Fall 1985: Manny Sarmiento did not make it back to the big leagues but surfaced in the news in September in an article about Pirates’ slugger Dave Parker’s testimony in the trial against a caterer named Curtis Strong charged with selling cocaine to National League players:
Parker named three players who had not been previously named in the trial [including] former Pirate Manny Sarmiento, who now pitches for the Pirate farm team in Hawaii . . .
So that’s where it ended for Manny Sarmiento: in Hawaii in the fall. But if Jonathan Richman is right, it’s not the fall or the spring that are gonna haunt you. So here’s the headline from one last article about Manny Sarmiento, from the summer of 1978, when the pitcher was still just 22 and the ball was flying off his fingers and the Reds were showing signs of being able to reclaim their place atop the National League West: “The Reds find a savior.” Sarmiento, full of belief, opined: “We’re hot, and we’re going to catch the Giants. We might win 20 in a row.” (In the 20 games following this statement the Reds went 8 and 12, but they did eventually catch the Giants; unfortunately, the Dodgers leapfrogged both teams.)
Why I’m still drawn to the baseball cards that came to me through the summers of my childhood is beyond me. I’m an anxious person who would benefit from much more help than I’ve ever been able to ask for. There aren’t many things that calm me down. Thinking about my cards and the players on my cards is one of those things. That summer feeling. You wound up and threw the ball to the target. You were full of belief.