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Kent Tekulve: What Chuck Tanner meant to me

February 11, 2011 - Cory Giger
Kent Tekulve won the World Series with Chuck Tanner and the Pirates in 1979 and is now a broadcaster covering the Bucs for Fox Sports Pittsburgh. Tekulve shared his memories with me about Tanner on Friday night.

What stands out most for me is that when you played for Chuck Tanner and you had a good team, he trusted you to do what you needed to get done.

There was never a time where he walked out to the mound and said, 'OK, it's a one-run game, there's a man on second, so and so's up, pitch him this way, do this, do that.' He just gave me the ball and said, 'Get 'em out.'

He trusted you. And with that trust came the responsibility, for me at least, I always felt, to not let him down, not let the coaching staff down, not let my teammates down. It wasn't just me, it was all of us. He trusted us to play the game. He prepared us, gave us what information he thought we needed, but when it came time to play, we played the game.

He didn't care if he ever got the glory or everybody talking about what a great manager he was. All he cared about was that his Pittsburgh Pirates won and played well.

My favorite story -- and we used to chuckle at it because he'd say it every spring -- but we had a meeting in spring training that was hilarious, especially after you've heard it six or seven times, you know what's coming and when he was going to say it. But one of his favorite things to say was, 'When the season starts, you guys take credit for all the wins, and I'll take the blame for all the losses.'

It sounded like a little, 'Wow, that's really cute Chuck line,' but that's the way it turned out to be. He didn't care about getting the credit when we won, and he was willing to take the bullet when we lost or when we weren't playing well to deflect the attention from us so that we could stay focused on what we needed to do to be successful.

A lot of players' managers just let you do whatever you wanted to. He didn't do that. He expected us to do what we needed to do during the game, and he trusted us as men enough to allow us to be ourselves on and off the field.

On a personal note, he made my whole career. There was not another manager in baseball -- major league or minor league -- that would take a guy that's 6-foot-4, 155 pounds and let him go out there and pitch 90 times a year and 135 or 140 innings. But because he allowed me to do that, I was able to become as good as I could be because that was something that I needed, and most managers would not have had that for fear that they would hurt me.

There's a lot of times and there are people that impact your lives, particularly when you're younger and in the middle of your career, where all you're thinking about is you and how this affects you. And it's not until years later when you get to reflect that, hey, there were a whole lot of other people pulling for me. He was obviously one of the big ones with myself.

The other side of Chuck Tanner is what he meant to the Pittsburgh Pirates and what he meant to the people of western Pennsylvania. He was a man who, obviously when he came to manage the Pirates, it was a local boy coming home, and western Pennsylvania meant a lot to him.

The Pittsburgh Pirates, even though he managed other teams, that was always his team. ... He always was a Pirate. You'd see him anywhere, he always had a hat on with a Pirate P on it. He was born and bred to be a Pirate. He was born and bred to be part of the Pirate organization, and he was a western Pennsylvanian and very, very proud of it. And it rubbed off on all of us.

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