Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Tanner recounts baseball tales
The New Castle resident worked for the Cleveland Indians scouting staff.
By GREG GULAS
BOARDMAN For the past five seasons, Chuck Tanner served as a scout with the Cleveland Indians, responsible for evaluating the National League and its overall talent pool.
Speaking Monday at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center during the Curbstone Coaches' weekly meeting, it was Tanner who hailed Tribe general manager Mark Shapiro as the best in the business.
And Tanner called this year's American League Cy Young selection of C.C. Sabathia no surprise to those in the know.
Tanner smiled most, however, when telling the story regarding management and how they followed the suggestion in one of his reports. He alluded to the fact that they should consider extending the contract of manager Eric Wedge, only if they expected to be a title contender.
Tanner felt it crucial to keep Wedge as the team's manager for fear he would get away if he wasn't tied to a long-term contract.
"[Eric] Wedge is a winner; it's as simple as that," Tanner said. "I saw the Indians play a three-game series once, losing the first two games in extra innings and then coming out for the final game as fresh and competitive as if it were the first game. That told me a lot about his leadership."
Tanner, one of 97 players and the 29th overall to hit a home run in his first at bat in the major leagues, will return next season to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He signed a contract last week to become the team's senior adviser, a role that he looks forward to while happy to return to the team that he managed for nine seasons (1977-85) and led to the 1979 World Series crown.
"We'll evaluate the team and make suggestions, working closely with both new manager John Russell and the farm director and staff," Tanner said. "We'll specifically evaluate both the minor and major leaguers in camp. Spring training can't get here soon enough."
For Tanner, the 2008 season will mark his 61st consecutive spring training; a time that he has come to appreciate with each passing season.
His advice to today's players is plain and simple.
"Go the extra mile. It's never crowded there because no one ever wants to go that extra mile," Tanner said.
Tanner was in the outfield when Ted Williams, who he called the best hitter he ever saw, hit his 500th home run off of the Indians' Wynn Hawkins. He was also in the outfield when pitcher Moe Drabowsky gave up Stan Musial's 3,000th hit.
"Musial hit .331 both at home and on the road, his career batting average. Talk about consistency," Tanner said.
When asked to comment on Barry Bonds and the steroid cloud currently hovering over baseball, he said, "I couldn't tell you if he took steroids, but if he was found to have used steroids then his records should be wiped off the books. If not, then he absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame. No question about it."
At the Rivers Club in downtown Pittsburgh last Saturday, the Yankees' Joe Torre was named as the recipient of the first "Chuck Tanner Major League Manager of the Year Award."
Torre was selected from a panel consisting of: Hal Bodley, USA Today baseball writer; Pirates broadcaster Lanny Fratarre; Tal Smith, president of baseball operations of the Houston Astros; and Joe Morgan, Hall of Fame second baseman and ESPN baseball analyst.
The award "honors the baseball manager that best exemplifies Chuck Tanner's managing and leadership qualities."
"I was truly humbled, to say the least, when I found out that the award was named in my honor," Tanner said.
Youngstown mayor Jay Williams will be the guest speaker at the next Curbstone meeting on Dec. 3.