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Chuck Tanner, RIP

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Chuck Tanner was the soul of the Fam-a-lee (AP photo)

Chuck Tanner was the soul of the Fam-a-lee (AP photo)

More thoughts and memories in the wake of Chuck Tanner’s death yesterday:

»»» From Phil Garner: “Chuck had more leeway than most managers do today. In those days, he really was respected by ownership. Between Chuck and the GM, they ran the club. He was such a dominant personality. There’s always a player or two who you’re stuck keeping on the roster. But aside from that, Chuck made his own calls. You (as a player) knew that. You knew that if you were on the team, you were there because Chuck wanted you there. So there was a sense of, ‘I don’t want to disappoint Chuck.’ We talk about him being a great motivator, and he was because he was always positive and upbeat. But he never had to kick you in the butt to get you to do something. You wanted to do it for him.”

»»» Bill Madlock and I shared a laugh recalling how Tanner would physically pull you in during a conversation. “He had such strong hands,” Madlock said. “When he grabbed you, you couldn’t get away. When you had a face-to-face talk with him, it really was face-to-face.”

I recalled sitting with Tanner on a golf cart during spring training a couple of years ago. He put his arm around my shoulder and what I thought was going to be just a two-minute chat turned into a fantastic half hour of insight. Talking to Chuck, you didn’t want to leave. He had a half-century’s worth of stories to tell and knew just where to look around Bradenton, Fla., to spot the ghosts of Clemente, Stargell and other greats.

“Thank goodness he quit smoking those cigars, because he liked to get right close to you when he talked,” Garner said. “With that awful cigar breath, you’d keep backing up.”

Madlock said Chuck always seemed to get him after a big, Italian meal. “He’d come at you with all that garlic on his breath,” Madlock said, laughing again.

»»» Speaking of Italian food, Lee Lacy had never tried stromboli until Tanner’s wife, Babs, made it for him. “She used to bring it to the ballpark for me,” Lacy said. “She was wonderful. I loved them both dearly.” Barbara Tanner died in July 2006.

»»» Garner again: “He had a way of making you feel like you were the only guy on the planet and the best guy on the planet.”

And here’s an echo from Jim Leyland: “He made you feel you were the best manager who ever managed.”

»»» Visitation will be held from 4-9 p.m. Tuesday at Cunningham Funeral Home, 2429 Wilmington Rd., New Castle. The funeral service will be private. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, a contribution be made to the “We Are Family” Fund in care of Pirates Charities, 115 Federal St., Pittsburgh PA 15212.

»»» In Tanner’s honor, MLB Network will re-air “Baseball’s Seasons: 1979″ at 6 p.m. Saturday.

»»» One final, personal note: Thoughts and prayers to John Perrotto, a good friend and longtime Pirates reporter, who is hospitalized in Beaver County.

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