Pirates name Tanner senior advisor
Former skipper led "Family" to World Series title in 1979
PITTSBURGH -- Speaking over the phone on Friday, Chuck Tanner had an excitement and passion in his voice that was impossible to miss. Having just been named a senior advisor to general manager Neal Huntington, Tanner returns to an organization that he managed to its last World Series win, and one which he still holds very close to his heart.
And it's safe to say that he has been eagerly awaiting a chance to come back.
"I'm eager and excited about it," Tanner said. "I want to help make the Pirates successful like they were in the past. I want to help this team win. I'm excited about coming back."
After spending the past five years as a scout in the Indians organization, Tanner returns to the Pirates, a team that he managed from 1977-1985, and a team that he led to the 1979 World Series title.
"We feel very fortunate to be able to bring Chuck Tanner back to the Pirates family," Huntington said on Friday. "He has a very strong passion for the Pirates organization, the city of Pittsburgh and the game of baseball."
Though he hasn't officially been associated with the Pirates since leaving after the 1985 season, Tanner has as much familiarity with the current club as anyone Huntington could have brought in. Serving as a scout for Cleveland, Tanner scouted nearly every Pirates home game over the past five years, gathering information for the Indians and evaluating the talent in Pittsburgh.
His new role will consist of similar duties. With his expertise on National League players, Tanner will be asked for player evaluations and recommendations, and his opinion will be considered in trade talks down the road. Tanner said he also expects to travel to the Pirates' various Minor League facilities while the Major League team is on the road in order to evaluate the talent in the Pirates' farm system.
"I'll give them my input, and then they'll make the decisions. They can decide whether or not to listen to what I have to say," said Tanner, who compiled a 711-685 record as Pirates manager. "It's a nice challenge. I was in Cleveland for five years and we have become very successful. And I am planning on putting the same input into the Pittsburgh ballclub."
Tanner also plans on sharing a fundamental manual that he has developed, hopeful that recently named farm director Kyle Stark can use parts of it. Tanner's manual consists of an approximately 30-page compilation of different drills, fundamental skills and teaching techniques that can be adopted across every Minor League level.
Having observed the Pirates so closely in recent years, it was the lack of these fundamentals, Tanner believes, that has cost the team's players the ability to live up to their potential.
"They lost a lot of games because they didn't do a lot of the fundamentals right," Tanner said. "You beat yourself more than the opposition beats you. They need to do the ordinary things extraordinary."
Prior to his association with Cleveland, Tanner served as a special assistant to the GM in Milwaukee. His time with the Brewers followed a 19-year tenure as a Major League manager for four different teams. Tanner's days in professional baseball, however, date all the way back to 1946, when he first broke into the Milwaukee Braves farm system as an outfielder.
The 79-year-old Tanner continues to make his home in New Castle, Pa., a place that he says he never expects to leave. He also said that he hopes to make Pittsburgh the final stop on his distinguished career and lifelong journey in baseball.
It may be his final stop, but it's a stop that, despite his age, Tanner expects to remain at for many years to come.
"Here's my thought," Tanner started, before laughing. "I'm going to stay in this game as long as Joe Paterno stays coaching. And we all know that Paterno is never going to retire.
"You get older, and I think you get wiser. I have a 40-,45-year-old brain. The only thing I really can't do as well anymore is run."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.