Goodbye, Chuck

Associated Press photo of Tanner in 1979 lifted without permission

The 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates are the team that truly made me realize and appreciate that there was baseball outside of the Boston Red Sox.  I always credit the 1979 World Series and especially the Pirates for giving me an appreciation of the rest of Major League Baseball that I didn’t have before and keep with me to this day.

I was 10 years old in October of ’79.  A sixth-grade girl who had just written an essay on the person I most admired:  Fred Lynn.  (True story.  According to my father, I was the only one in the class who didn’t choose a parent or other relative.)  I was serious about my baseball.  Coming off the Bucky Dent home run in 1978, the Red Sox finished that season in third behind both the Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers.  But I wasn’t deterred, I still wanted more baseball.

Somehow, I talked my parents into letting me stay up to watch the World Series that year.  I don’t remember watching any of the seven games with either of them, although I’m sure I probably did.  I only remember going to school after each game and getting harassed by the boys who were all rooting for Baltimore because I had made it clear in class that I was rooting for Willie Stargell and the Pirates.

As an aside, I fell in love with Willie Stargell that fall.  Just fell hard.  He gave Fred Lynn a run for his money in 1979.

I’m remembering all this because the first thought I had when I heard about Chuck Tanner dying was that I had written “Tanner’s Terrors” across most of my books in school and kept them that way throughout the school year, long after the World Series was over.  Chuck Tanner was the first manager, aside from any who managed the Red Sox, who I actually paid attention to.

I thought Chuck Tanner was the best, most personable manager ever.  I liked him better than Earl Weaver.  Heck, I liked him a whole lot more than Don Zimmer!  I wanted him to manage the Red Sox in 1980 because I was convinced that if he did the Red Sox would win the World Series.  And that was all before the 1979 Series had even finished.

At nine your world view is based on what is going on in the moment.  For those seven games, Willie Stargell and Chuck Tanner were, in my eyes, the best.  And as man things from our youth do, the feelings about them stuck with me my entire life, even if I wasn’t always consciously aware of them.

So hearing about Tanner’s death brought immediate tears to my eyes as if someone I knew had passed on.  This April it will be 10 years that Willie Stargell has been dead.  While there are plenty of other players from that team still alive, he and Tanner were the links my brain made to that era…and now they’re both gone.

That makes me sad.  It also makes me want to appreciate how much joy this game has given me, especially the people involved in the game.

I own both boxed sets of the Red Sox World Series wins from 2004 and 2007.  The only other World Series boxed set I own is that of the 1979 World Series.  Thanks to that, I’ll always have an opportunity to remember that October.

Sad is no way to begin the new season.  So let’s dance!


“We are Family” was the rally song of the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. To this day that’s the only reason I like the song!

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