by Editor Rick Cabral

Larry Manuian 1920-2011

"End of An Era" 

Larry Manuian, Manager, Sacramento Smokeys

Larry Manuian, who founded and managed the Sacramento Smokeys for 62 years, passed this week at age 90 of cancer.

Friends and former Smokeys players have spent the Fourth of July weekend fondly reminiscing about 'the ol' Skipper."

Manuian was a legend in Sacramento baseball circles for managing  the Smokeys, one of the " longest lasting independent semi-pro baseball teams in the world." The Smokeys battled teams from the Bay Area and Reno in the Western Baseball Association League.

He estimated that his club sent 30 players to the major leagues, including Butch Metzger, Fernando Vina, John McNamara, Woodie Held and F.P. Santangelo among others.

Steve Brown, who called Manuian "the most colorful character" and a dear friend, also credited him for shrewdly  building teams that were a hybrid of former professional players who wanted to maintain their baseball skills with top college prospects from the area.

Brown played in the mid-70s for the Smokeys. Following two seasons with the California Angels (1983-84), he was a fixture on the Smokeys pitched staff from 1989 to 2006.

"Larry didn't like to describe his team as 'semi-pro'," Brown remembers. "He preferred the term 'outlaw.'"

Gary Szackas, who played in the Phillies organization in the early 1970s, remembers Manuian with fondness. "He's done so much for baseball in Sacramento."

"Larry was the most lovable, generous guy to play for," said Szackas, who joined the Smokeys in the mid-70s and played through the early 199os. 

Szackas remembers going with Manuian to the batting cages at Scandia Park in North Highlands, and winning bets with bystanders who couldn't believe the 60-year-old could touch, let alone hit, the 90 mph speed coming out of the pitching machine. In games, the team manager would insert himself third in the lineup ahead of the power-hitting youngster; a testament to moxie more than skill.

Manuian often motivated his players with the promise of pizza after the games. Then, he if they won, he would take the Smokeys out to Luigi's on Stockton Blvd. "He would treat not just his players, but the player's girl friend, and her girl friend