Contributor Terri Winaught – Chuck Tanner: Remembering a Baseball Legend

While attending a Pittsburgh Pirates game during the summer of 2009, I had the unexpected pleasure of meeting former manager Chuck Tanner.

Since that was such an enjoyable encounter, the news on February 11th, 2011 that Chuck Tanner had died at the age of 82 filled me with surprise and sadness.  “We certainly lost a baseball great,” I remarked when the news broke for a commercial.

I certainly wanted to know more about the man who was baseball and family personified, and I love searching the Internet, so I Googled “Chuck Tanner” and “Pittsburgh Pirates”, and learned the following about this legend.

Charles William (Chuck) Tanner was born on July 4th, 1928 in the small Western Pennsylvania town of New Castle.

Before Chuck’s managerial and front office careers, he got out there on scorching summer days and hot humid nights to play ball.

According to Wikipedia, Tanner’s playing career spanned eight years, from April 12th, 1955 to May 8th, 1962.  During this part of his career, which began when Tanner was 27, the teams he played for were the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, and the Los Angeles Angels.

Tanner’s batting average was .261, he hit 21 homeruns, amassed 105 RBI’s, and played in over one thousand games. He performed these feats as a left-handed batter and thrower.

Chuck went from playing the game to managing some of its players by working his way through the Los Angeles Angels Minor League system from 1962 to 1970, when he became a Major League manager.

The Major League teams chuck managed from 1970 to 1988 were the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Whitesox, Oakland Athletics (Oakland A’s), and the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Chuck began managing the Pirates in 1977 after being traded by the Oakland A’s.  Some of the greats on Tanner’s team were future Hall of Famers Bert Blylevin and Willie Stargell, along with Dave Parker, who has yet to be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Upon getting into the World Series in 1979, the Pirates met a tough team.  Though not expected to win because they were three games behind the Baltimore Orioles, Chuck Tanner successfully led the underdog Pirates to a World Series victory.

Chuck continued to manage the Pirates until 1985 when drug abuse scandals among some team members threatened to pull apart the fabric of the family.

When Tanner’s management career ended in 1988, he served the team in front office capacities, his last position being Senior Adviser to new Pirates Manager Neil Huntington.

Chuck retired from his successful and multifaceted career in 2007.  Despite the Pirates having lost way too many games lately, they were never losers in Tanner’s eyes.

When baseball great Tanner said his final farewell to his hometown on February 11th, 2011, after what has been described as “a long illness,” his life was celebrated at a public memorial service and at a private funeral.

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