The Rotary Club of Pittsburgh proudly associates itself with the Chuck Tanner family and specifically wanted to designate their Awards Banquet in his memory.
Good Will Ambassador of Pittsburgh
Chuck Tanner was the unofficial “good will ambassador” of Pittsburgh baseball. Never at a loss for words,Chuck always expressed his good feelings about the game, to which he devoted his life, and the Pirates. His professional baseball career spanned 60 years in various roles, including 8 years as a major league player and 19 as a major league manager.
He was born and raised in New Castle, where, in high school, he starred in several sports. Chuck had college scholarship offers but turned them down to play professional baseball with the then Milwaukee Braves. At that time, the major leagues consisted of only 16 teams and many young players languished in the minors. It took about eight years, but he made it to Milwaukee as an outfielder in 1955. Chuck had several good playing years, mainly as a platoon regular, a reserve, and pinch hitter. He made the record books in his first major league at-bat by hitting a home run on the first pitch. Very early he planned for the day he would become a major league manager. He retired early as a player to accept a minor league managing opportunity.
After eight years of learning his managerial lessons in the minor leagues, the Chicago White Sox gave him his first major league chance. What an opportunity! Just before Chuck’s first full season, the Sox finished with a record of 56 wins – 106 losses. In his second full season, his team contended for a division title and finished second to the Oakland A’s.
His next managerial stop was Oakland, a team with great talent but in disarray. Again he managed a second place finish. After the 1976 season, the Pirates decided to pay the price to bring him home to Pittsburgh. The cost to buy his contract from Oakland: $100,000 and the team’s first-string catcher; Manny Sanguillen. For the first and only time in his managerial career, Chuck joined an organization with the playing talent and resources to be immediate contenders.
In his third season with the Bucs, he guided the team to a league pennant and the World Series championship. Pittsburgh hasn’t been in the Series since. It wasn’t easy, but the mission was accomplished.
Tanner was named a senior advisor to new Pittsburgh Pirates GM Neal Huntington in the autumn of 2007. Chuck Tanner’s managerial tactics now can be easily summarized. He wrote his own book of managerial decision-making regardless of what others might think or do. Behind his affable exterior was the brain of a bold strategist. He was not afraid to trust very young players or to utilize veterans who seemed to be fading.
Rest in peace Chuck. You left this world a better place than it was when you came into it.