Remembering Chuck Tanner and Winning Championships

Pirates 1979 Team Photo taken from Google Images

Chuck Tanner sadly passed away on February 11th.  One thing you will never hear me criticize when writing about Pittsburgh is the loyalty that fans have shown to those who have given their best.  Sometimes, one’s best isn’t enough to win a championship. Fortunately for Chuck Tanner, his best was good enough to claim a World Series with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979.

Chuck Tanner broke into the majors as a rookie left fielder with Milwaukee in 1955.  He spent a couple of seasons with the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, and Los Angeles Angels before retiring as a player in 1962.  Tanner batted .261 with 21 HR and 105 RBI over his playing career.

Tanner stayed around the game and got his first job as a manager with the Chicago White Sox in 1970, and won Manager of The Year in 1972.  He also managed teams in Oakland (1976), Pittsburgh (1977-1985) and the Atlanta Braves (1986-88).  Tanner compiled a 1352-1381 overall record as the skipper of the four teams spanning 18 consecutive seasons.

Tanner was actually acquired by Pittsburgh as a manager in exchange for a player,  Manny Sanguillen.  The apex of Tanner’s managerial career came in 1979 with the “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates.  That team included Hall of Famers Willie “Pops” Stargell and Bert Blyleven.  Other key players on that successful team were Dave Parker, Bill Madlock, and Kent Tekulve.  The fete was accomplished when the gutty Bucs overcame a 3-1 series deficit to win out and upset the Baltimore Orioles that year.

Current Pirate GM Neal Huntington named Tanner a senior advisor in 2007.  Tanner was born and passed away in the same town – New Castle, Pennsylvania, about 35 minutes West of Pittsburgh.  Tanner ran a successful restaurant business called, what else, Tanners Restaurant.

Chuck Tanner was unconventional and liked to take chances and was as much a fan of the game as a manager.  He can be credited with the lofty stolen base totals now seen in modern-day baseball.  Pittsburgh would prosper under his leadership and could probably have used his wisdom heading into 2011.

Off the field, Tanner did the right things.  He was a devout family man who enjoyed being with family and friends.  He had a smile on his face, kind words about everyone,  and a memory which still amazes me.  Pittsburgh lost a little chunk of class with Tanner’s passing.

Let his teachings, and more importantly, his demeanor, live on at PNC Park.

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