Mariners mourn passing of scout Carroll Sembera
Seattle Mariners Public Relations
June 15, 2005
(c) Houston Astros
The Seattle Mariners family is saddened to announce the passing of longtime scout, and former Major Leaguer, Carroll Sembera.
Carroll William Sembera was born July 26, 1941 in Shiner, Texas, and passed away suddenly last night. Our deepest sympathies are with his wife, Margie, children, Sonya, Michael, Jackie, Michelle and LeaAnn, and 10 grandchildren.
"Carroll was a terrific scout, but more importantly, he was a wonderful man," said Benny Looper, Mariners Vice President of Scouting and Player Development. "He was a true friend and great asset to the Mariners. He will be sorely missed on a personal and professional level."
Carroll was hired by Seattle on September 1, 1993. He served as the Mariners Midwest Scouting Coordinator and National Cross Checker. Carroll was well respected, and well liked, both within the Mariners organization and throughout baseball. Prior to joining Seattle, Carroll scouted for the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau from 1982-93.
Carroll played in the Major Leagues with the Houston Astros from 1965 to 1967 and with the Montreal Expos in 1969 and 1970. He made his ML debut with the Astros on Sept. 28, 1965. Sembera had the first save in Expos history, protecting the win in the first game in Montreal franchise history.
A rosary service will be held Saturday, June 18 at approximately 7:30 p.m. at St. Cyril Catholic Church in Shiner, TX. Funeral services will also be held at St. Cyril Catholic Church on Sunday, June 19 at 2:00 p.m.
Flowers can be sent to: Buffington Funeral Home, 520 North Avenue C, Shiner, TX 77984. The funeral home phone number is (361) 594-3352.
Family, baseball mattered most to Sembera
June 23, 2005
by Mike Foreman
Carroll Sembera made his first start for the Houston Astros on the final day of the 1965 season. Unfortunately for Sembera, it was also the last start of the season for St. Louis' Bob Gibson. "I remember my dad saying while Bob Gibson was going for (win No.) 20, he was going for 1," Michael Sembera said. "My dad got the 1, but it wasn't the 1 he wanted."
Many of Michael Sembera's memories of his father are about baseball, which comes as no surprise since Carroll Sembera's greatest loves were his family and baseball.
Sembera, who died Wednesday, June 15, at the age of 63, was working as the Midwest scouting coordinator and national cross checker for the Seattle Mariners.
But Sembera was also looking forward to retiring so he could spend more time at home in Shiner with his wife, Margie, and visiting their family, which includes Michael and daughters Sonya, Jacqueline, Michelle, and LeeAnn.
"He was an outstanding baseball man," said Jim Walton, Sembera's first professional manager and the person responsible for bringing him into the scouting profession. "He was dedicated to the game. He also had a light side. He had his own domain, which was his wife, children, and family."
There was not much doubt Sembera, who was a member of Shiner's first Little League all-star team in 1952, was headed for a career in baseball.
Dorothy Seale remembers her brother was "always outside with a ball in his hands," and often threw rocks or "green plums he picked off the tree" when a ball wasn't available. Seale recalls the time the school principal asked Sembera to throw him the ball and Sembera threw it so hard it left the principal's hand "burning."
Even though Sembera grew to over 6 feet tall, he never weighed more than 160 pounds. Thus, it came as no surprise that the high school football coach told Sembera to stick to baseball, which proved to be wise advice. Sembera, as a sophomore at Shiner High School, struck out 24 batters in a seven-inning game.
Sembera earned a scholarship to Trinity University in San Antonio but returned to Shiner in short order after discovering one of his duties was to hold tackling dummies for the football team.
Sembera pitched for the semi-pro Shiner Clippers throughout high school and beyond and was signed by the Houston Colt .45s in 1962 - the same year he married Margie - after a throwing session with scout Red Murff.
Sembera's professional career was delayed when his father suffered a serious accident, which left him in a coma for months before claiming his life.
Sembera eventually reported to Moultrie, Ga., where Walton took note of the tall, lanky pitcher from Texas.
"In those days they didn't have radar guns," Walton said. "It was hard to judge someone on anything other than the quality of their pitches. He had a fastball and a great natural slider. I was amused with him. I'd say, 'Carroll you have this natural slider,' and he'd say, 'I don't know how I throw it. I just throw it.' "
Sembera's slider was good enough to earn promotions to Modesto, Calif.; Durham, N.C.; and Amarillo before he was called up to Houston, which had switched its name to the Astros while playing its first year in the Astrodome.
Sembera not only made use of his slider in Houston, he also revealed his sense of humor on a club filled with characters, including his roommate, the late John Bateman.
Sembera earned the nickname "Pencil" from the media because of his slender build, but his teammates called him "The Hat" in a pun-like reference to his surname.
"He was skinny, but he could run everybody into the ground," said Astros broadcaster Larry Dierker, who played with Sembera in Houston. "I wasn't around him that much, but I remember him well. He was kind of a character. He had kind of a dry, Texas sort of a wit."
"He was one of those dry-witted guys," Walton added of Sembera, who often pointed out he made it into the Hall of Fame through the back door by being among the pitchers who surrendered home runs to Hank Aaron. "The things he said were very amusing and sometimes quite comical."
Sembera played three seasons with the Astros, appearing in 71 games and going 3-9 with four saves before being selected by the Montreal Expos in the 1969 expansion draft.
Sembera earned the first save in Expos history by protecting the lead in the franchise's first game. Sembera appeared in 28 games during his two seasons with the Expos, going 0-2 with two saves before being released in 1970.
Margie and the children, as they were born, were there at virtually every stop, which also included a winter league stint in Puerto Rico. They joined Sembera as soon as school ended and returned to Shiner after the season concluded.
"That was our life," said Margie, who remembers the snow on the ground when she arrived in Montreal, the car getting a flat tire on the road from either Montreal to Vancouver or Vancouver to their next destination, and being dropped off at their house in Puerto Rico at night by a cab driver who didn't speak English and not having any food or water only to be welcomed by their neighbors across the street. "He was on the road so much. It was quite different, but I enjoyed it."
Sembera spent three years in the minor leagues with the St. Louis and Cincinnati organizations before arm trouble forced him to retire in 1973.
The family purchased the 10th Inning Lounge in Shiner in 1975, but at the urging of Walton, Sembera joined the Major League Scouting Bureau in 1982.
"He always said he would like to be a scout," said Margie, who ran the 10th Inning until the family sold it in 1996, a year after three men attempted to rob Sembera shortly after he had closed the lounge one night. He fought the intruders off with the lounge's moneybag until a passing car caused them to flee.
Sembera worked 11 years for the Major League Scouting Bureau - turning in a positive recommendation on University of Texas pitcher Roger Clemens, which some teams chose to ignore - before going to work for the Mariners in 1993.
"He had a talent for doing what we do," Walton said. "He had a keen eye for evaluating players. Carroll was an extremely honest guy. He always had an opinion and if you asked him for an opinion, he'd give you an answer."
Sembera, who said Roberto Clemente was the toughest hitter he ever faced, was often so blunt in his scouting reports, he was given the moniker "Mr. Chainsaw Scout," in reference to the movie, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
"He was super critical of the guys that he was going to see," Walton said. "He was not an easy grader. You had to earn it with him."
Or as Margie so aptly said of her husband: "If he didn't like something, he would let you know."
Sembera rarely had anything bad to say about baseball, even though he never made much more than the minimum salary, which was around $12,000 when he played, and he always had good things to say about his family, which includes 10 grandchildren.
"He'll be sadly missed across baseball and even more by his family," Walton said. "You can't replace someone like him."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.