Archive for February 12th, 2011

Chuck Tanner’s place in baseball history will forever be as the patriarch of the 1979 “We Are Family” Pittsburgh Pirates, who overcame a 3-1 deficit in the World Series to upset Earl Weaver’s Baltimore Orioles. However, it doesn’t seem fair to boil down an over 50-year baseball career to just one moment.

Tanner’s baseball journey began as a 16-year old prospect when he was signed by the Boston Braves in 1946. After nine long seasons in the minors, he finally made his major league debut in 1955 for the now Milwaukee Braves. Apparently, not wanting to make a return trip to the bushes, Tanner didn’t waste any time in his first at bat, a pinch hit appearance for the great Warren Spahn in the eighth inning of the Braves’ opener on April 12. With his team trailing 2-1, Tanner swung at the first pitch from the Reds’ Gerry Staley and sent it sailing into the grandstand for a game tying homerun. The Braves tacked on two more runs in the eighth and then held on to the win, but the story after the game was Tanner’s dramatic blast, which at the time made him only the seventh player to hit a round tripper on the first pitch faced in the majors.

Players Who Homered on the First Pitch of Their First At Bat

Name Date Team Position Career HR
J.P. Arencibia 8/7/2010 Toronto C 2
Daniel Nava 6/12/2010 Boston OF 1
Mark Saccomanno 9/8/2008 Houston PH 1
Kevin Kouzmanoff 9/2/2006 Cleveland DH 78
Adam Wainwright 5/24/2006 St. Louis P 5
Andy Phillips 9/26/2004 New York PH-3B 14
Kaz Matsui 4/6/2004 New York SS 32
Marcus Thames 6/10/2002 New York OF 113
Gene Stechschulte 4/17/2001 St. Louis P 1
Chris Richard 7/17/2000 St. Louis 1B 34
Esteban Yan 6/4/2000 Tampa Bay P 1
Jay Gainer 5/14/1993 Colorado 1B 3
Jim Bullinger 6/8/1992 Chicago P 4
Junior Felix 5/4/1989 Toronto OF 55
Jay Bell 9/29/1986 Cleveland 2B 195
Al Woods 4/7/1977 Toronto OF 35
Don Rose 5/24/1972 California P 1
Brant Alyea 9/12/1965 Washington 1B 38
Bert Campaneris 7/23/1964 Kansas City SS 79
Chuck Tanner 4/12/1955 Milwaukee OF 21
George Vico 4/20/1948 Detroit 1B 12
Clyde Vollmer 5/31/1942 Cincinnati OF 69
Bill LeFebvre 6/10/1938 Boston P 1
Eddie Morgan 4/14/1936 St. Louis OF 1
Clise Dudley 4/27/1929 Brooklyn P 3
Walter Mueller 5/7/1922 Pittsburgh OF 2

Source: Baseball-almanac.com

There’ll never be a thrill to beat this one. That includes the World Series, anything else that’s happened or still to come. This it.” – Chuck Tanner, quoted in The Milwaukee Sentinel, April 13, 1955

Tanner was right, at least with regard to his playing career. Although the newspapers had fun portraying the blast as a “rags to riches” story, the journeyman minor leaguer would really never make much more of an impact as a player. Over the next eight seasons, the outfielder bounced around the league as well as back and forth between the minors and the majors before finally retiring in 1962 as a member of the Los Angeles Angels.

Although he didn’t really make much of an impression as a player, Tanner did build a reputation as a smart baseball man. So, when his playing days were over, the Angels hired him to manage their Quad Cities affiliate in the Midwest League. After spending parts of 14 seasons in the minors as a player, Tanner embarked on another long journey in the minors as he gradually managed his way up through the Angels’ farm system.  Following a stint in Quad Cities, Tanner moved on to the El Paso Sun Kings (Texas League), the Seattle Angels (Pacific Coast League), back to El Paso, and then finally to the Hawaii Islanders (PCL).


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