|Outfielder / Manager|
July 4, 1928|
New Castle, Pennsylvania
|Died: February 11, 2011
New Castle, Pennsylvania
|April 12, 1955 for the Milwaukee Braves|
Last MLB appearance
|May 8, 1962 for the Los Angeles Angels|
Career highlights and awards
Charles William "Chuck" Tanner (July 4, 1928 – February 11, 2011) was a left fielder and manager in Major League Baseball. He was known for his unwavering confidence and infectious optimism. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series championship in 1979. He last served as a senior adviser to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.
A left-handed batter and thrower, Tanner signed his first contract with the Boston Braves. He played for eight seasons (1955–1962) for four different teams: the Milwaukee Braves, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians and Los Angeles Angels. In 396 games played, Tanner batted .261 with 21 home runs. While with the Braves, Tanner hit a home run off the first pitch in his first career at-bat on April 12, 1955. He is the only Braves player to hit a home run in his first at-bat in Milwaukee. The book, "Portrait of a Franchise: An Intimate Look at Cleveland Indians Baseball During the Rockin' Sixties" by Doug Kurkul relates a story in which Tanner was at the center of a lineup-related dispute between Indians Manager Joe Gordon and General Manager Frank Lane.
Tanner is best known as a manager, having managed four teams from 1970 to 1988. His overall managerial record was 1,352–1,381 in 17 full seasons and parts of two others.
Tanner would spend his entire Minor League managing career in the Angels' system. In 1963, Tanner began his managerial career with the single-A Quad Cities Angels in the Midwest League. Tanner would spend the next seven season climbing the Angels' organizational ladder and in 1970 he led the AAA Hawaii Islanders to 98 wins in 146 games and a Pacific Coast League pennant. In late September, he received his first major league managing assignment guiding the Chicago White Sox for the final 16 games of the season after the firing of manager Don Gutteridge and interim manager Bill Adair.
Chicago White Sox
With the White Sox, Tanner managed such star players as Wilbur Wood, Carlos May, Bill Melton, and the temperamental Dick Allen. His most successful season with the Sox came in 1972, when he managed them to a close second-place finish behind the eventual World Series champion Oakland Athletics in the American League (AL) Western Division. The pitching staff was led by 24-game winner Wood, whom Tanner had converted from a reliever to a starter. Tanner was voted that year's The Sporting News Manager of the Year Award. He also converted Rich "Goose" Gossage from a starting pitcher to a reliever, a role that would lead Gossage to the Hall of Fame. Tanner managed the Sox until 1975, when he was fired and replaced by Paul Richards.
After firing Alvin Dark following Oakland's three-game sweep at the hands Boston Red Sox in the 1975 AL Championship Series, Charlie Finley hired Tanner on 19 December 1975 to manage the A's. With speedy players such as Bert Campaneris, Bill North, Claudell Washington, and Don Baylor, Tanner made the A's into a running team, stealing an AL league-record 341 bases. Eight players had 20 or more steals, including 51 by pinch runners Matt Alexander (who only came to the plate 30 times) and Larry Lintz (who had one at-bat all season). However, the days of the juggernaut A's of Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter had passed with the coming of free agency and Tanner's switch to small-ball couldn't prop up a crumbling dynasty as the team finished second in the AL West, 2 1⁄2 games behind the Kansas City Royals.
Before the 1977 season, the A's were in the process of trading off many of their stars of the great team that won three straight championships from 1972 to 1974. Part of the sell-off was the trading of Tanner's services to the Pittsburgh Pirates for an aging Manny Sanguillén. This was the second instance in major-league history where a manager has been part of a baseball trade (Joe Gordon and Jimmie Dykes were traded for each other in the 1960s; Lou Piniella of the Seattle Mariners was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays almost 30 years later). However, Sanguillén would be traded back to the Pirates, reunited with Tanner in 1978.
He reached the pinnacle of his managerial career in 1979 as the skipper of the Pirates' 1979 World Series champion team. The team included future Hall of Famers, first baseman Willie Stargell and pitcher Bert Blyleven, along with curmudgeonly stars like third baseman Bill Madlock and outfielder Dave Parker. Tanner guided the team together, and the players selected the Sister Sledge hit “We Are Family” as their theme song. The Pirates were able to win the World Series after falling behind three games to one to the Baltimore Orioles. Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson wrote of the Pirates, "They do everything with abandon, because that’s the way Chuck Tanner wants it. He’s an aggressive manager, a manager who doesn’t go by the book. That’s why Pittsburgh is such an exciting team." 1979 would be Tanner's only divisional winner as a manager.
Tanner's next few teams would not match his 1979 World Series winner as the 1985 Pittsburgh Drug Trials showed that serious drug problems beset the team—arguably the worst of any major league team. The most famous Pirate affected by his usage was Parker as cocaine punched a hole in his offensive production in the middle of his career, possibly costing him a chance at Cooperstown. Reliever Rod Scurry had it much worse as his drug usage cost him his life. Following five years of mediocre seasons in which the Pirates neither lost nor won no more than 84 games, but only finished as high as second place in the division once, Tanner was allowed to leave the Pirates following leading the team to 104 losses in 1985.
Tanner was hired by the Atlanta Braves prior to the 1986 season, but his teams would continue to muddle along near the bottom of their division—finishing last and second to last in the NL West in his two full seasons. Following a 12–27 start to the 1988 season, Tanner was fired by the Braves and replaced by Russ Nixon.
Front office career
After spending five seasons as a special assistant to the general manager of the Cleveland Indians, Tanner was named a senior advisor to new Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington in the autumn of 2007.
In 2006, he was invited to be a coach in the 2006 All Star game by NL manager Phil Garner, who had played for both the A's and the Pirates during Tanner's tenure as manager. Prior to the start of the game, Tanner threw out the ceremonial first pitch.
In 2007, the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh began the Chuck Tanner Baseball Manager of the Year Award. For the first three years, the award was given to a manager in Major League Baseball. In 2010, a second award was presented to the "Chuck Tanner Collegiate Baseball Manager of the Year"; the original award was renamed the "Chuck Tanner Major League Baseball Manager of the Year Award".
He was the father of former major league player and coach Bruce Tanner. Tanner later opened a restaurant in his hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania, that is currently run by his family. It is simply named "Chuck Tanner's Restaurant". Tanner died at age 82 on February 11, 2011, in New Castle after a long illness.
- Cook, Ron (May 28, 2011). "Tanner has a lot of life left". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Weber, Bruce (February 12, 2011). "Chuck Tanner, Who Managed Pirates to ’79 Title, Dies". The New York Times. p. D8.
- "Tanner selected Oakland skipper". Spartanburg Herald (AP). 19 December 1975. p. C2. Retrieved 3 June 2010.
- Associated Press (February 11, 2011). "Chuck Tanner dies at 82". ESPN.com.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- Chuck Tanner managerial career statistics at Baseball-Reference.com