Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pirate Finds a Home among Prosecutors

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pirate Finds a Home among Prosecutors

Article excerpt


There is an important room within the State Attorney's office that prosecutors use to prepare for murder cases. Depositions are conducted there, evidence deciphered, strategies devised, and it is all done under the watchful eye of the all-knowing Chuck Tanner statue, a 6-inch slab of molded metal that is part baseball, part Buddha.

What began as something of a lark about 10 years ago has endured as a quirky homage to Tanner, the last manager to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a World Series championship and who was also known for his kind demeanor and eternal optimism.

In 2004, state prosecutors Dawn Buff, Garrett Franzen and Brian Iten attended a Pirates spring training game at McKechnie Field on a day they were handing out Chuck Tanner statues to fans. After the game Franzen put the statue in the conference room, and that's where it stayed.

"It just started off as kind of a joke," Buff says. "But once we had him I figured I should learn more about him."

Tanner was a manager in the major leagues for 19 years, though his career winning percentage is below .500. After managing in Oakland for one season he was actually traded by owner Charlie Finley to Pittsburgh for catcher Manny Sanguillen. Tanner managed the Pirates for nine seasons, none better than 1979, with superstars like Dave Parker and Willie Stargell.

Pittsburgh was trailing Baltimore in the World Series 3-1, and right before Game 5 Tanner's mother passed away, but he continued to manage.

He told his players that his mother was a Pittsburgh fan and that "she knows we're in trouble so she went upstairs to get some help."

Help arrived as Pittsburgh won the next three games and Tanner's name was forever cemented in Pirates lore. Not that Tanner ever doubted.

Joe Garagiola once said of Tanner: "If he were captain of the Titanic, he would have said, 'Don't worry folks, we're just stopping to pick up a little ice and we'll be on our way again.'"

That quote is on napkin holders in the McKechnie Field press dining room. …

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