|Catcher / First baseman|
October 10, 1946 |
|May 29, 1969, for the Oakland Athletics|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1983, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Runs batted in||674|
|Career highlights and awards|
Fury Gene Tenace (//; born Fiore Gino Tennaci; October 10, 1946), better known as Gene Tenace, is an Italian-American former professional baseball player and current coach in Major League Baseball. He was a catcher and first baseman from 1969 through 1983. Tenace was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics from Valley High School in Lucasville, Ohio and played for the Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates. He batted and threw right-handed. Tenace was one of the top catchers of his era and won the 1972 World Series Most Valuable Player Award. He was known for his power, especially versus right-handed pitching.
Oakland Athletics (1969–76)
Tenace was selected in baseball's first entry draft, being taken in the 20th round of the 1965 Major League Baseball draft by the then Kansas City Athletics. Tenace made his major league debut for Oakland on May 29, 1969 against the Detroit Tigers at Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum where he went 0–4 with 2 strikeouts in an 8–4 Oakland loss. He hit the first home run of his career on June 6, 1969 at Tiger Stadium against Earl Wilson of the Detroit Tigers. He finished the 1969 season with a .158 batting average, 1 home run and 2 runs batted in, appearing in just 38 games as a third-string catcher.
He continued to play the next two years as the third-string catcher before serving as Dave Duncan's backup in 1971. Tenace entered the 1972 season backing up Duncan, but was given a chance to show his abilities by being made the team's regular catcher in the post-season. Tenace took full advantage of this opportunity, excelling in the 1972 playoffs and World Series. In the 1972 American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers, he drove in the clinching run in Oakland's 2–1 victory in game 5; it was his only hit of the series.
He put himself in the spotlight once again in Game 1 of the 1972 World Series when the Athletics faced the Cincinnati Reds. He became the first player to hit home runs in his first two World Series at bats and drove in all three runs in the A's 3–2 victory. In Game 4, the A's were losing 2–1, with their only run to that point coming on Tenace's solo home run. A ninth-inning one-out rally consisting of four singles, with Tenace's the second and the rest coming from pinch hitters, won the game against Cincinnati's ace relief pitcher, Clay Carroll. He hit a three-run home run in the A's Game 5 loss. Before Game 6 of the 1972 Series, he was the target of a death threat. In Game 7, he was once again the hero, driving in two runs in a 3–2 victory for Oakland. In total, he went 8 for 23 in the Series, with 4 home runs and nine RBI to earn the World Series Most Valuable Player Award.
Tenace's heroics helped him earn a full-time job in Oakland's lineup. He served as the team's starting first baseman for two seasons, while still serving as the backup catcher to Ray Fosse. He had his roles reversed in 1975, starting at catcher while backing up first base. As a regular starter for the A's, Tenace had a low batting average but a fair amount of power, hitting 20 home runs in four consecutive years in Oakland, finishing among the top 10 home run hitters in the American League each year. He further made up for his lack of a high batting average by sporting a tremendous batting eye. He drew over 100 walks in a season three times for Oakland, and led the American League in walks in 1974, making up for a career-low .211 average that year. Statistically, his best year with Oakland was in 1975, when he hit a career-best 29 home runs and drove in 83 runs, drew 106 walks, finished 18th in the American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting and was selected to be the starting first baseman for the American League in the 1975 All-Star Game.
Also while a member of the A's, Tenace hit what turned out to be the final home run in the history of Kansas City's Municipal Stadium on September 30, 1972, in a 10-5 Oakland victory over the Kansas City Royals.
San Diego (1977–80)
Tenace was one of several Athletics who became free agents after the 1976 season and participated in a newly created re-entry draft, in which teams acquired the rights to negotiate with veteran free agents. Tenace and teammate Rollie Fingers were the first players from that draft to sign, with both joining the San Diego Padres in December of that year. In four years as a starter with the Padres, his power numbers dropped in part due to the cavernous dimensions of San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, only reaching 20 home runs once; but his batting eye remained, recording three more seasons of 100 walks, with a career best of 125 in 1977. In 1979, Tenace led National League catchers with a .998 fielding percentage, committing only 1 error in 94 games. He recorded an on-base percentage of over .390 in each of his years in San Diego, and finished 3rd in the National League in that department in 3 consecutive years.
St. Louis (1981–82)
After the 1980 season, Tenace, Fingers, and two others joined the St. Louis Cardinals in a trade for Terry Kennedy and six minor league players. In his two years in St. Louis, Tenace primarily played against left-handed pitchers, platooning with Darrell Porter. As a member of the Cardinals team he won the 1982 World Series, giving him four World Series rings.
Tenace became a coach after retiring as a player. He was touted as a possible managerial candidate during his later years. The Pittsburgh Pirates became strongly interested in the possibility of hiring Tenace as their manager to replace Chuck Tanner. When the year ended, however, Tanner was still the manager, so Tenace became a coach at the Major League level with the Houston Astros in 1986 and 1987, and later coached with the Toronto Blue Jays from 1990 to 1997. When manager Cito Gaston was sidelined with a herniated disc in 1991, Tenace served as the team's interim manager, going 19–14 and keeping Toronto competitive en route to an eventual American League Eastern Division title. He was part of Toronto's World Series-winning teams in 1992 and 1993, giving him 6 rings in 6 World Series appearances as a player and a coach. Tenace has also served as a hitting instructor for the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He was re-hired as the Blue Jays' hitting coach on June 20, 2008, when Cito Gaston replaced John Gibbons as the team's manager. Tenace replaced hitting coach Gary Denbo. He was one of two members of Gaston's old coaching staff from his last World Series championship team who were brought back to the team (third base coach Nick Leyva being the other).
Tenace advocates a more aggressive approach to hitting. Under his guidance, hitters spend less time working the count and more time preparing to hit. He stresses the mental part of hitting, such as the mental preparation for what a pitcher will do, rather than just the physical aspect. Under Tenace, the philosophy of hitting can be described as "Grip It And Rip It" and more of an old school approach to hitting.
Before Gaston was hired the Blue Jays had a record of 35–39 and since Gaston and his coaches took over the Blue Jays went 51–37 to finish with an 86–76 record on the season. The offensive improvements under Gaston are one of the reasons for the resurgence and as the hitting coach, Tenace has been credited with rejuvenating a stagnant offense. Adam Lind commented: "The thing is, a lot of people can teach you how to hit, but not a lot of people can teach you how to hit in the big leagues", referring to the major league experience of Gaston and Tenace. Blue Jays' former center fielder Vernon Wells has said he likes the approach to hitting that Tenace teaches: "One thing Gene talks about is having that approach mentally when you go up there, in your mind you already guarantee yourself that one run on third, but you want to do more than that. Gene always says that first runner is a gimme, you should be able to come through in pretty much every situation like that. And then you try to do more damage than just that one run".
In a 15-year major league career, Tenace played in 1,555 games, accumulating 1,060 hits in 4,390 at bats for a .241 career batting average along with 201 home runs, 674 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .388. He not only caught nearly 900 games, but also played first base over 600 times. Tenace ended his career with a .986 fielding percentage as a catcher and a .993 fielding percentage as a first baseman. He reached 20 home runs in five of his seven seasons as a regular, with a high of 29 in 1975. After becoming an everyday player in 1973, he did not have an on-base average below .370 until his final year; his OBP was above .400 five times and over .390 (about 60 points above the league average) an additional three times, ending his career with an impressive .388 on-base percentage. Six times he drew more than 100 bases on balls, and he led his league twice. He set the American League record for having the lowest batting average while leading the league in walks in 1974 when he posted a .211 batting average with a league-leading 110 walks. In 1977, he had a .415 on-base percentage while posting a .233 batting average, the second lowest batting average with a .400 on-base percentage in major league history. Less than half of his career trips to first base came via base hits, reaching 1,075 times through walks (984) and being hit by pitches (91) as opposed to only 1,060 hits.
In his book, The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract, baseball historian Bill James ranked Tenace 23rd all-time among major league catchers. Chuck Rosciam, a Baseball historian and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, believes that Tenace deserves a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Using six offensive measures: Average, On-base percentage, Slugging, RBIs, Runs created and Win shares—all League-Era adjusted, Rosciam ranks Tenace sixth offensively behind Mickey Cochrane, Mike Piazza, Bill Dickey, Gabby Hartnett and Joe Torre among catchers. Tenace is tied for third in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) with Johnny Bench and Torre. He's only behind Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra.
- AL All-Star (1975)
- 1972 World Series MVP
- 2-time League Bases on Balls Leader (1974/AL & 1977/NL)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 5 (1973–1976 & 1979)
- Caught Vida Blue's no-hitter on September 21, 1970 
- Won four World Series as a player with the Oakland Athletics (1972, 1973 & 1974) and the St. Louis Cardinals (1982)
- Won two World Series as a coach and manager with the Toronto Blue Jays (1992) & (1993)
Appearances in other media
- Tenace did a voice cameo in an episode of The Simpsons entitled "Regarding Margie" in 2006.
- Tenace appeared in a television commercial for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2008.
- Tenace was mentioned by sportscaster Champ Kind in the party scene in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy while describing his signature catchphrase. "Gene Tenace at the plate, and Whammmy!"
- Tenace is portrayed on one of the Floodwall Murals in Portsmouth, Ohio honoring local Major League Baseball players.
- "Gene Tenace". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "Post-Season World Series MVP Awards & All-Star Game MVP Award Winners". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- 1965 Major League Draft 20th Round at The Baseball Cube
- "May 29, 1969 Tigers-Athletics box score". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "June 6, 1969 Athletics-Tigers box score". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "1971 Oakland Athletics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "Gene Tenace post-season statistics". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- Murray, Jim (January 1973). How The A's Curbed the Big Red Machine. Baseball Digest. Books.Google.com. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "1972 World Series Game 4 box score". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "1972 World Series Game 5 box score". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- Fimrite, Ron (1973-04-02). "A Hero Finds There's No One For Tenace". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-11-05.
- "1972 World Series Game 7 box score". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "Video". CNN. 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
- "1974 American League Batting Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "1975 American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "1975 All-Star Game". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "Gene Tenace Trades and Transactions". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "1979 National League Fielding Leaders". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "1982 World Series". Baseball Reference. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "The Official Site of the Houston Astros: History: Astros All-Time Coaches". Major League Baseball. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- "The Official Site of the Toronto Blue Jays: History: Blue Jays All-Time Coaches". Major League Baseball. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- "Jays' Manager is Hospitalized". The New York Times. 1991-08-22. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- "Cardinals make staff additions and promotions at minor league and scouting levels" (Press release). St. Louis Cardinals. 2006-12-12. Retrieved 2007-05-26.
- "Lind finds comfort in a big league approach". CBC News. 2008-07-29.
- Lowest Batting Average While Leading the League in Walks. Baseball Digest. Books.Google.com. November 1988. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- Lowest Batting Average With .400 On Base Percentage. Baseball Digest. Books.Google.com. June 2004. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- James, Bill (2001). The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Free Press. p. 390. ISBN 0-684-80697-5.