Before then, I don’t know how much it had registered that managers were usually former players. Sure, Yogi Berra was famous enough that I knew that he’d been a star with the Yankees… But guys like Chuck Tanner and Bill Virdon? They’d always been old guys who managed teams, right?
As a 13-year-old, seeing photos of then-current managers as young men was pretty mind-blowing… Like seeing the English teacher you have a crush on out in a supermarket with her family.
“She has a life outside of school? She has a husband? She has a baby?”
“…So maybe I don’t have a shot with her when I get older…?”
So anyway, Chuck Tanner is probably best known for managing the “We Are Family” 1979 Pirates to a World Championship. He’d also managed the White Sox, A’s and Braves, but never saw the success with those teams that he had with the ’79 Pirates.
He’s second-most-famous for having been traded as a manager – after one season managing the A’s to a second-place finish, he was traded to the Pirates for catcher Manny Sanguillén.
But Chuck Tanner was also a player from 1949 to 1962, spending a good amount of time in the Boston Braves system before making his MLB debut.
As a Major League rookie in 1955, he hit a home run on the first major league pitch he saw. In 1957, while with the Cubs, he and Ernie Banks both hit inside-the-park homers in the same game against the Pirates. After playing for the Cubs, he put in some time with the Indians and expansion Angels. Most of his Major League playing career was as a 4th outfielder and pinch hitter.
One thing I found interesting about his minor league career was how many cities he’d played in which were future MLB cities… he played in A ball with the Denver Bears, in AA with the Atlanta Crackers and in AAA with the Milwaukee Brewers, Minneapolis Millers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Dallas/Ft. Worth Rangers. That’s largely a result of spending a lot of time playing in the upper minors in the days before widespread relocation and expansion, but it’s just something that caught my attention.