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Perrotto: Chuck Tanner Shouldn’t Be Forgotten



Chuck Tanner, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates celebrated the 45th anniversary of their last World Series-winning team last weekend at PNC Park.

The players from the team that beat the Baltimore Orioles in seven games in 1979 agreed on one thing. Manager Chuck Tanner was the glue that held a team of big personalities together and he is still missed 13 years after he died in 2011.

“He was the perfect manager for a bunch of degenerates,” John Candelaria said with a hearty laugh. “He knew how to handle everyone. He was a great man and I loved playing for him. I miss him. Everyone misses him.”

Tanner was famously upbeat and could seemingly find good in anything and anybody. Yet he could play the heavy when the situation called.

That balance is what made Tanner so special in the eyes of Lee Lacy.

“It’s very important for a manager not to be too high or too low,” Lacy said. “A really good manager always has his team in a happy medium because the game of baseball is always ups and downs, it’s never ever the same. When you instill a happy medium into the ballclub, it brings everyone together. A lot of people don’t realize that. We all have to pull in the same direction to win.”

Jim Leyland, who succeeded Tanner with the Pirates, often spoke about the importance of everyone on the roster needing a chance to be the hero at some point in every season. Tanner felt the same way.

“He was a guy that gave everyone an opportunity and he let us know we needed every guy on the team to do their part for us to win,” Lacy said. “If you were on the roster and Chuck Tanner was your manager, you got your opportunity to deliver in some type of capacity. That’s important. Everyone wants to feel like they are contributing to the cause.”

Dale Berra was a rookie backup infielder on the 1979 team. He became the starting shortstop in 1982 and held the job for three tumultuous seasons before being traded. Though Berra did not live up to expectations – he also had the added pressure of being the son of Hall of Famer Yogi Berra – he said Tanner’s support never wavered.

“You could make an error in the bottom of the ninth inning to lose a game and he’d see you with your head down and he’d say, ‘pick your head young man, you just made an error to lose a game, what a treat,’” Berra said with a smile. “He’d say ‘How many people get to lose a big-league game with an error? You’re lucky.’

“He just had a great way with people and knew how to make them feel good. I think that was a big key to Chuck’s success as a manager.”

Tanner, it should be noted, was the last manager to take the Pirates to a World Series. For as great as Leyland was – and he is going to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame next month – he never made it to the Fall Classic with the Pirates.

Leyland will also enter the Pirates Hall of Fame in August, a richly deserving honor for the third-winningest in franchise history.

However, if Leyland is in the Pirates Hall, then Tanner should be, too. And Leyland would be the first one to admit that.

Tanner’s tenure with the Pirates ended badly in 1985 just as the infamous Pittsburgh baseball drug trial ended. That is certainly a black mark against Tanner.

However, that was nearly four decades ago. It’s time to move past that and give Tanner his rightful recognition.

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Jesse Gonder

Why has the 1990s decade been so ignored, most notably Babe Adams and Deacon Phillippe? Those were some of the best players and teams in franchise history. Just confirms that the selection committee knows squat about team history.

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