Remembering Chuck Tanner
Our very own Rotarian, Sam Reich, a noted baseball enthusiast and historian will be talking with us about Chuck Tanner – the person. Sam’s knowledge of baseball and his acquaintance with Chuck Tanner will allow us to explore aspects of the beloved Pirate’s manager on a regular basis throughout the year.
So please visit us often and join us as we begin publishing these weekly stories. Help us continue to celebrate Chuck Tanner, the man and his outstanding baseball career.
For more information on Sam Reich, visit his website, Waiting for Cooperstown.
From the beginning: How the Awards Banquet Started…..
The conversation we had with Sam Reich on how Chuck Tanner became part of the annual Awards Banquet was an interesting one.
Although Sam did not know Chuck Tanner while he was an active major league manager, his acquaintance began in 1997 when Tanner was working as a scout and sat in the same row at Three Rivers Stadium, along with Sam and his wife Diane. Sam and Chuck started striking up conversations while attending Pirate games – often reminiscing about baseball from the past.
“Chuck was an easy person to talk to and loved to talk about all aspects of the game,” recalled Sam. “He was particularly knowledgeable about past players and we often talked about the ‘evaluation lists’ I had put together for the top 100 players in baseball,” Sam recalled. “Conversations with Tanner were very easy to get started and were very entertaining. He genuinely seemed to enjoy discussing the great game of baseball and the great players he and known and watched play,” said Sam.
When broached on the subject as to how the specific idea came about to have Tanner be part of the banquet project, Sam was able to point out just how it happened.
“In 2006 the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh was looking for a primary fund-raising tool to assist its charities,” commented Reich. “And I thought that perhaps an awards banquet – strictly one devoted to baseball – could serve our purpose well”, Sam said. “One that might have national appeal. But the big question was what type of award and what ‘big name’ could we secure to make it successful on an annual basis,” Sam wondered.
It did not take Sam long to figure out that a Pittsburgh Rotary MLB manager of the year award would be a good start,and what better Pittsburgh baseball great, with national recognition and respect, than Chuck Tanner. So after bouncing the idea of his fellow Rotarian’s, who where equally enthusiastic about the potential for such a project – Sam was instructed to approach Chuck Tanner and ask for his permission and support.
“I still vividly recall my conversation with Chuck about this,” offered Sam. “I knew he was the type person who would want to be helpful – but didn’t know if he would necessarily want to be part of a such a project. But to my delight – once Chuck knew the types of charities he would be helping – Tanner graciously gave his approval,” said Reich.
“Chuck Tanner gave me only two requirements – in using his name”, commented Sam. “He said he wanted the award to be ‘serious’ and he wanted it to be ‘respectable’. Knowing what he meant, I immediately assured him that the selection committee would be of blue-ribbon caliber – made up of knowledgeable baseball people – including media and professionals in their field. With that assurance he agreed” and with the help of many in Rotary, we were on our way”, concluded Sam.
The Tanner Banquet Committee, as it became to be known – has honored Chuck’s request. The top level selection committee has often selected the same manager of the year recipients as the national media – and in most cases prior to the announcement of the national selections. Since 2007 – the first year of the award – the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh has raised more than a quarter million dollars for charity and has since grown the banquet and awards to include not on a manager of the year in MLB – but awards honoring Pirate players ,past and present, baseball executives, college programs and most recently “women in baseball.”
Check back soon for another installment of Tanner Tales with Sam Reich.