It was a somber day in Pittsburgh on Friday when the news broke that former Pirates manager Chuck Tanner had passed away at the age of 82 in his home in his hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania, after a long illness. Tanner is historically known around these parts as being the last Pirates manager to win a World Series in 1979, in what was the “We Are Family” year. Tanner also managed the Braves, Athletics and White Sox and had a career record of 1,352-1,381. After trailing the Baltimore Orioles 3-1 in the 79′ series, Tanner managed to get his Pirates back on track after learning of the death of his mother in a nursing home in New Castle. Little did Pirates fan know that the 1979 title would be the last one we would see in over 30 years.
I never had the privilege to watch Tanner manage a game, but I did run into him at PNC Park. I can say that all of the great things I heard about Tanner, seemed to be true based on the brief exchange that we had. Tanner was the true definition of a “player’s manager”. When Dave Parker learned of his passing, he said that Tanner knew how to manage the game. He preached the one eye-one ear policy where he sees and hears half of what you do and the rest is up to you. Parker also added that Tanner would often join them after games for beers and was just “one of the guys”. We often think of sports as having a “winning is the only positive thing” philosophy, but Tanner was able to find a positive in everything. Say the Pirates lost 8-3, Tanner wouldn’t blast his team for giving up eight runs, he would instead say what a good job they did to get those three runs.
Phil Garner, a former Major League manager and player under Tanner, said that Tanner is in the baseball heavens now slapping everyone on the rear saying what a good job they are doing and encouraging them. It was an interesting route that Tanner took to the Pirates. After his 1977 season with the Athletics, the Pirates pulled off only the second trade ever at that time for a manager. Tanner joined the Pirates as Manny Sanguillen went to the A’s. Being the players coach that he was, Tanner was able to garner the team’s respect and the way he wanted them to play. Tanner let everyone understand their role on the team, even if it wasn’t a big one. From the star pitcher to the designated pinch runner, Tanner lived by the motto that “we are in this to win and if you don’t want the same, get the hell out”. Tanner served as a scout and an assistant to Pirates general manager Neil Huntington in 2007.
Tanner’s legacy will go down as one of the best in such a storied sports town. Seven of his first eight seasons were winning seasons and for a team that hasn’t seen one of those since 1992, we see what a big deal that really is. Tanner will go down in history with “Badger” Bob Johnson (Penguins) and Chuck Noll (Steelers) as all time greats and heroes to this city. I hope this coming season, that the Pirates will honor Tanner in the right way and dedicate this year to him. Whether you had the honor to be a part of the Sister Sledge “We Are Family” years, or if you are just a fan of Pittsburgh sports or just a fan of baseball in general, you have to be an admirer.
Chuck Tanner, I tip my cap to you and thank you for all you have done for this organization and this city. May you rest in peace.
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com