Chuck Tanner
Tanner with the Chicago White Sox in 1971
Outfielder / Manager
Born: (1928-07-04)July 4, 1928
New Castle, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died: February 11, 2011(2011-02-11) (aged 82)
New Castle, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Batted: Left
Threw: Left
MLB debut
April 12, 1955, for the Milwaukee Braves
Last MLB appearance
May 8, 1962, for the Los Angeles Angels
MLB statistics
Batting average.261
Home runs21
Runs batted in105
Managerial record1,352–1,381
As player

As manager

Career highlights and awards

Charles William Tanner (July 4, 1928 – February 11, 2011) was an American professional baseball player and manager. A left fielder and pinch hitter who appeared in 396 games in Major League Baseball between 1955 and 1962, he was known for his unwavering confidence and infectious optimism.[1][2] As a manager for all or parts of 19 seasons, he led the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series championship in 1979. In his last baseball job, he served as a senior advisor to Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.

Playing career

A left-handed batter and thrower, Tanner signed his first professional baseball contract with the Boston Braves. He played for eight seasons (1955–1962) for four 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.[3] He is the only Braves player to hit a home run in his first at-bat in Milwaukee.

Managerial career

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.[4]

Minor leagues

Tanner spent 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, and spent the next seven seasons climbing the Angels' organizational ladder. In 1970 he led the AAA Hawaii Islanders to 98 wins in 146 games and a berth in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) championship series.

Chicago White Sox

Both Tanner and Roland Hemond joined the Chicago White Sox from the Angels on September 4, 1970 when general manager Stu Holcomb hired them as manager and director of player personnel respectively. Tanner, who signed a two-year contract, replaced Don Gutteridge who had been dismissed two days prior. Due to the Islanders qualifying for the PCL championship series,[5] he was unable to make his White Sox managerial debut until September 15, requiring Bill Adair to serve in the interim.[6] Tanner did not retain Adair for his staff after the season, but he named Al Monchak and Joe Lonnett as his first- and third-base coaches respectively on October 2, 1970.[7] All three went on to serve in similar capacities together with the White Sox (197175), Oakland Athletics (1976) and Pittsburgh Pirates (197784), with Monchak continuing as Tanner's first-base coach with the Atlanta Braves from 1986 to 1988.[8]

With the White Sox, Tanner managed such star players as Wilbur Wood, Carlos May, Bill Melton, and the temperamental Dick Allen, who like Tanner was a native of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania by way of Wampum. 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. According to Tommy John, "Tanner never liked to use a knuckleballer in relief, because of the way the knuckler danced and moved all over. He solved that by making Wood a starter."[9] Tanner was voted that year's The Sporting News Manager of the Year Award.[2] He also converted Rich "Goose" Gossage from a starting pitcher to a reliever, a role that led Gossage to the Hall of Fame.[2] He finished his White Sox career with a record of 401 wins and 414 losses.[4] Tanner was replaced by Paul Richards on December 17, 1975. Bill Veeck, who had repurchased the White Sox, invited Tanner to remain in the organization in a different capacity, but the offer was declined. Tanner still had to be paid $60,000 in each of three remaining years of his White Sox contract.[10]

John said that "Chuck Tanner once told me he never forgot the fact that he was a player. When he became a manager, he remembered how he wanted his manager to treat him."[11]

Oakland Athletics

One day later on December 18, 1975, Tanner was hired to succeed Alvin Dark as manager of the Oakland Athletics.[10] 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.[2] 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).[1] 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+12 games behind the Kansas City Royals. He finished his Athletics career with a record of 87 wins and 74 losses.[4]

A's owner Charlie Finley had hoped to secure a manager at a cut rate for at least three years, but ended up in a dispute with Veeck and the American League (AL) over how much each team owed Tanner. AL president Lee MacPhail ruled that the White Sox had to pay most of the $60,000 owed to Tanner for the 1976 season but was released from any contractual obligation for 1977 and 1978.[12]

Pittsburgh Pirates

Tanner returned to his Western Pennsylvania roots when he was traded by the A's to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Manny Sanguillén and $100,000 on November 5, 1976. He succeeded the recently retired Danny Murtaugh as Pirates manager.[12] 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). Sanguillén was traded back to the Pirates 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."[2] 1979 was Tanner's only divisional winner as a manager.

Tanner's next few seasons could 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, whose cocaine habit 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; his cocaine habit ultimately forced him out of baseball in 1988 and cost him his life in 1992. 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 fired following a 104-loss season in 1985.[4] He finished his Pirates career with a record of 711 wins and 685 losses.[4]

Atlanta Braves

Tanner was hired by the Atlanta Braves prior to the 1986 season, but his teams continued 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. He finished his Braves career with a record of 153 wins and 208 losses.[4]

Managerial record

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Games Won Lost Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CWS 1970 16 3 13 .188 6th in AL West
CWS 1971 162 79 83 .488 3rd in AL West
CWS 1972 154 87 67 .565 2nd in AL West
CWS 1973 162 77 85 .475 5th in AL West
CWS 1974 160 80 80 .500 4th in AL West
CWS 1975 161 75 86 .466 5th in AL West
CWS total 815 401 414 .492 0 0
OAK 1976 161 87 74 .540 2nd in AL West
OAK total 161 87 74 .540 0 0
PIT 1977 162 96 66 .593 2nd in NL East
PIT 1978 161 88 73 .547 2nd in NL East
PIT 1979 162 98 64 .605 1st in NL East 7 3 .700 Won World Series (BAL)
PIT 1980 162 83 79 .512 3rd in NL East
PIT 1981 48 25 23 .521 4th in NL East
54 21 33 .389 6th in NL East
PIT 1982 162 84 78 .519 4th in NL East
PIT 1983 162 84 78 .519 2nd in NL East
PIT 1984 162 75 87 .463 6th in NL East
PIT 1985 161 57 104 .354 6th in NL East
PIT total 1396 711 685 .509 7 3 .700
ATL 1986 161 72 89 .447 6th in NL West
ATL 1987 161 69 92 .429 5th in NL West
ATL 1988 39 12 27 .308 6th in NL West
ATL total 361 153 208 .424 0 0
Total[4] 2733 1352 1381 .495 7 3 .700

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.

Other honors

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".

Personal life

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, which has since been sold but remains under the name, "Chuck Tanner's Restaurant".[1] Tanner died at age 82 on February 11, 2011, in New Castle after a long illness.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Cook, Ron (May 28, 2011). "Tanner has a lot of life left". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  2. ^ a b c d e Weber, Bruce (February 12, 2011). "Chuck Tanner, Who Managed Pirates to '79 Title, Dies". The New York Times. p. D8.
  3. ^ "Cincinnati Redlegs at Milwaukee Braves Box Score, April 12, 1955". Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Chuck Tanner". Baseball Reference. Sports Reference. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  5. ^ "Tanner Is Appointed White Sox Manager," The Associated Press (AP), Friday, September 4, 1970. Retrieved December 10, 2021
  6. ^ "White Sox Rally Beats Twins, 8–7," The Associated Press (AP), Sunday, September 13, 1970. Retrieved December 10, 2021
  7. ^ "White Sox Name 2 Coaches," The Associated Press (AP), Friday, October 2, 1970. Retrieved December 10, 2021
  8. ^ "Atlanta Braves hire new coaches," The Associated Press (AP), Tuesday, October 15, 1985. Retrieved December 10, 2021
  9. ^ John and Valenti, p. 119
  10. ^ a b "Tanner selected Oakland skipper". Spartanburg Herald. Associated Press. December 19, 1975. p. C2. Retrieved June 3, 2010.
  11. ^ John and Valenti, p. 10
  12. ^ a b Brown, Craig. "Retracing Chuck Tanner's path to Pirates,", Sunday, February 13, 2011. Retrieved August 29, 2018
  13. ^ "Chuck Tanner dies at 82". Associated Press. February 11, 2011.