This past week I turned 22 years old.
It’s the job of the team with its skills and talents to live up to the true potential.
However, behind every great team is an even greater coach. Chuck Tanner was the epitome of that kind of great coach.
He was heralded as the ultimate “player’s manager” with not only his knowledge of the game but interpersonal relationships with the members of his team.
Those “Beyond Baseball” commercials seen on TV truly define what Tanner saw through the national past time.
In a statement, Pirates President Frank Coonelly said “Chuck was a class act who always carried himself with grace, humility and integrity. While no one had a sharper baseball mind, Chuck was loved by his players and the city of Pittsburgh because he was always positive, enthusiastic and optimistic about his Bucs and life in general.”
Even though the city of Pittsburgh is far removed from having a heartbeat for baseball the outpouring of support has been overwhelming. People who haven’t seen, or cared about, a baseball game for ages cared about Tanner and remembered a time long ago when baseball was the living and dying point of the Steel City. Tanner brought attention to the game and even though it took his death to garner the necessary support, there has been a wonderful display of emotion to Tanner, himself, his family and the Pirates.
A nationwide audience has bestowed best wishes to the club and Tanner. Being a feature on Sports Center, ESPN’s bottom line, MLB Netowork and even the nightly national news, Tanner was a perfect ambassador to baseball and was adored for generations. For a time on Twitter, his name was even trending along the likes of Justin Bieber and Egypt.
Moving forward, the centerpiece of teh “We-Are- Fam-a-lee” Bucs of 1979, Tanner’s legacy will never be duplicated. He wasn’t the winningest manager of his time or in Pittsburgh, but he still has the distinction of being the last skipper to lead the Pirates to the World Series.
He will surely be missed. His spirit has never wilted from the organization as even up to his dying days he was an advisor to the General Manager in the Pirates front office. Tanner will always be a part of the Pittsburgh Pirates, his attitude forever etched inside of all ballplayers that set foot in PNC Park. He did his job, now it would be nice for the Pirates to give back. As I’m sure will be the case, Tanner needs to be honored in the 2011 season. A patch on the jersey would be great but a memorial within the walls of PNC Park would be a great tip-of-the cap to a Western Pennsylvania native and true believer in the black and gold.
photo credits: baynews9.com, postgazette.com
Apparently the groundhog does, too.
Former Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck once said, “There are two seasons, winter and baseball.”
Snowballs, skis and trays from the dining halls have all been some of the most popular items to play with throughout this and every winter season.
Isn’t it time for some new toys?
Although it is still January, I am ready to put a glove on my hand and toss around a white leather ball with red stitching.
I’m ready for baseball.
The feeling of the ball smacking into your Rawlings mitt, the ding of an aluminum bat colliding with the ball, and the dirt accumulating in your shoes as you round the bases create memories that last a lifetime.
Sadly, my time in organized baseball has been over for nearly five years. I find it hard-pressed to get pickup games going, as many of my friends have given up their childhood recollection of their first Little League games. Some even go as far as saying baseball is a dying sport.
I’m here to defend our national pastime.
The first thing I hear from anti-baseball narcissists is that it’s a boring game. “It takes so long in between pitches, and it’s never exciting,” they moan.
OK, so there’s no hard-hitting action like in hockey or football. But it’s far from dreary.
There are nine guys out in the field ready to move on any pitch. Each player has specific game plans for each hitter and has to adjust to every pitch. There can’t be any flaw in their concentration at any time.
Furthermore, the precise skill of hitting is far from simple.
Ted Williams, a 19-time All Star and two-time MVP, said hitting a baseball was the hardest thing to do in the sport.
Based on the national television ratings, baseball has indeed taken a backseat to the National Football League. In all honesty, that makes sense.
After all, it’s kind of hard to plan a life around 162 Major League Baseball games.
ose against the sport have plenty of ammunition to put down the nearly 200-year-old sport, as no instant replay and the lack of a salary cap seems to have hindered interest in the sport.
But, unlike any other sport on earth, baseball is built on tradition. The dirt fields and humble beginnings have translated to the modern game with a blue collar ethic and desire for personal achievement. Baseball is embedded in the soil of the founding of America.
Can any sport hold a candle to that distinction?
While basketball and football may be easier to play with simple equipment, baseball has been here from the get-go.
Even today, the mentality of the sport is carried out by the die-hard players, coaches and fans.
Last Friday, West Virginia head baseball Greg Van Zant tweeted that his squad opened practice with “great effort” and a well-prepared attitude. Although, he has drawn harsh criticisms in his 15 years at WVU, Van Zant appreciates the central ethics of being a baseball player.
While we are all suffering through the harsh conditions of the winter doldrums there is something to look forward to that will rid ourselves of the freezing torment: Baseball.
Well, the fun kept coming last week as Pirates baseball remained fresh on everyone’s mind.
The Pirates took their show throughout the tri-state are of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia this past week. The region that I like to call “my home.” The Youngstown-Pittsburgh-Morgantown area is where I’ve grown up and have many memories throughout.
Neil Walker. Perhaps, the most famed Bucco currently on the roster, Walker is a hot commodity. A majority of the people at the Uniontown Mall were prepared with cards and photos of Walker while wearing his jersey. A notorious stand up guy Walker was everything and more. Complimentary to everyone who came out and honored by my congratulations to him.
While December remains the “most wonderful time of the year,” this week in January isn’t far behind.
If you were anything like me growing up there was always a few days throughout the year that we looked forward to most. Christmas, Birthdays and Opening Day go without saying, but there was always a time, usually in mid-January, when Youngstown, OH would get a little nutty. The world famous Harlem Globetrotters would pay a visit to YSU’s Beeghly for their famous act.
After being picked up by the Pirates with the No. 1 pick in 1996 he ended his career nearly 14 years later with a record of 70-75 and an ERA of 4.42. He had just one 10 win season in his injury laden career.
He left Pittsburgh in 2004 when he was traded to the Mets in exchange for Jose Bautista. Benson faltered even more with another elbow injury in New York and from 2006 on he spent time in Baltimore and Texas but never amounted to even the miniscule success he found in Pittsburgh. It was reported that Benson was toying with the idea of signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks at the end of 2010 but the 36 year old felt it was in his best interest to offcially retire from baseball.
I don’t blame him.
The dissapointing career might not totally be his fault, though. Perhaps the only mistake he made was the fact that he agreed to sign with the Pirates back in ’96. He was just another pawn in the losing chess game otherwise known as the Pirates in the MLB draft.
Let’s start back in 1992, the last winning season for Pittsburgh and look year by year at the first round picks for the Bucs.
1992: Jason Kendall
1993: Charles Peterson
1994: Mark Farris
1995: Chad Hermansen
1996: Kris Benson
1997: J.J. Davis
1998: Clint Johnson
1999: Bobby Bradley
2000: Sean Burnett
2001: John Van Benschoten
2002: Bryan Bullington
2003: Paul Maholm
2004: Neil Walker
2005: Andrew McCutchen
2006: Brad Lincoln
2007: Daniel Moskos
2008: Pedro Alvarez
2009: Tony Sanchez
2010: Jameson Tailon
Four of those players are on the current Pirates roster, four spent ever-so bried stints in Pittsburgh, three look to be major pieces in building the next wave of successful baseball in the Steel City, one had a fruitful major league career, one currently is sweeping the bullpens in Washington and the rest probably haven’t been heard from since draft day.
Even though the Pirates, as well as Benson, have been losers for nearly two decades there is something Kris has that very few others do.
A lingerie model.
photo credits: foxsports.com, si.com
Last spring the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown welcomed me with open arms for a glorious day.