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Monday, October 22, 2012

A Little Less Conversation by Gene Tenace

We end up winning Game 2 and I’m still in this extremely relaxed state. The guys are lightly celebrating the victory. I get in the clubhouse and Dick Williams pulls me away from all these writers who are interviewing me. We go into his office and there’s these two guys in dark blue suits.
“What’s going on,” I ask.
“Geno, somebody wants to shoot you,” Dick said, matter-of-factly as he closed the door.

djordan Posted: October 22, 2012 at 10:16 AM | 50 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, awards, gene tenace, world series

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   1. Rants Mulliniks Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:27 AM (#4278904)
What an awesome article. You all should read it.
   2. dr. scott Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4278907)
Seconded. That was fantastic.

Has he written much before? I know he says this is he first time he's saying some of this stuff, but the writing seems to come from a natural storyteller, so I'd love to read more.
   3. Magnum RA Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:51 AM (#4278930)
That was a great read.
   4. Famous Original Joe C Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:55 AM (#4278932)
Yeah, that was great. Well worth the read.
   5. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:09 PM (#4278940)
That may be the best player account of a World Series I've ever read, and it's not just because this was one of the top 4 or 5 World Series ever. To me this was the best passage:

So now we’re in the fourth inning – I’m playing first, Joe Morgan gets on. What a duel. Morgan, a top base-stealer and Blue Moon, our Game seven starter, had a terrific pick-off move, but I just wasn’t used to this. Odom keeps trying to pick-off Morgan, who keeps sliding back. My catching instincts took over, I start blocking Joe Morgan off the bag. Morgan’s screaming at the umpire, “He can’t do this, he’s not allowed to do this! This isn’t baseball!” That’s me, I’m a catcher, if that ball’s going down in the dirt, I’m going down with it. Blue Moon threw about four balls over to me, and I’m beating the crap outta Joe Morgan, falling all over him, tripping him. The Umpire Jim Honochick, steps over and is like, “Gene, you really can’t do that.” I’m like, “C’mon on, cut me some slack, this isn’t my position.” Morgan’s furious, all shaking his head, “I gotta get away from you, you’re gonna end up breakin’ my legs.” Everyone in the ballpark knew he was running, too. Morgan takes off and Dave Duncan threw a bullet to second, nailing him by a mile. Morgan was really mad. That’s why Dick Williams put me at first. Maybe that was the turning point of the series. The Reds knew the running game wouldn’t be the same for them in Game Seven as it had in the other six.


I highlighted that one sentence because I remember that sequence like it was yesterday. The closeup camera kept focusing on Odom's darting eyes going back and forth between home plate and Morgan, and then a violent turn with each pickoff attempt. I also remember being astonished by just how much Duncan's throw had beaten Morgan, and thinking to myself right at that point that the A's were going to win. But what I hadn't realized was the crucial part that Tenace's bodyblocking moves had played in wearing Morgan down. Again, what a great ####### read.
   6. Non-Youkilidian Geometry Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:17 PM (#4278948)
What every one else said. Stop what you're doing and read it. You won't regret it.

This inspired me to go look up Tenace on BR. I'd forgotten how good he was.
   7. Obo Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:26 PM (#4278957)
That was the best description of being locked in that I've ever read.

Gary Nolan throws the first pitch, I swear to God I thought he hurt his arm, it was coming in so slow...
   8. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:39 PM (#4278977)
What a great piece.
   9. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM (#4278984)
agreed

and the hilton netherland is still there in cincy and still a great hotel
   10. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:04 PM (#4278989)
I didn’t have much interaction with the Reds organization – growing up, our TV only had one channel. We’d see the Saturday Game of the Week and it was always the doggone Yankees.


FOX carried MLB in the 60's?
   11. salvomania Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:06 PM (#4278992)
Now THAT was a series: Six one-run games, including five by a score of 3-2 or lower...
   12. djordan Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:07 PM (#4278993)
I thought that was funny when I heard it, too. CBS had the rights in the early '60s. Growing up in the '70's, it seemed to me they were always showing the Reds.
   13. The District Attorney Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:07 PM (#4278994)
“Geno, somebody wants to shoot you,” Dick said, matter-of-factly as he closed the door.
Damn smallball advocates.
   14. Mark Armour Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:08 PM (#4278996)
Great story. Tenace's performance in that series was amazing. Although he was a fine hitter going forward, there was little indication that he was a fine hitter up until that point. He was 25 years old and not really a prospect. Also interesting that he hit very poorly in every other post-season series he was in.

In subsequent years, Charlie Finley was always trying to get Dick Williams (and later Alvin Dark) to play Tenace at catcher, and Rudi at first base, so that he could play a better hitter (like Claudell Washington) in the outfield. Williams liked catching Fosse, with Rudi in the OF, because it made his defense better. After Williams left and Dark came aboard, Finley basically just made out the lineup and Tenace moved back to catcher.

Finley loved Claudell Washington so much that he even selected him for the 1975 All-Star game (of course Finley selected the team) and ordered Dark get him into the game early.
   15. Steve Treder Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:19 PM (#4279004)
Terrific read.

Although he was a fine hitter going forward, there was little indication that he was a fine hitter up until that point. He was 25 years old and not really a prospect.

Mmm, I'm afraid I'm going to have to, uh, disagree with you there.

Everybody knew Tenace could hit. He'd hit very well in the minors, and torn it up in limited action with the A's in 1970 and 1971. His batting average had taken a dip in '72, but everybody knew Tenace could hit.

The issue was with his defense, as he'd only been converted to catcher at age 22, and had very limited experience behind the plate.
   16. Mark Armour Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:27 PM (#4279013)
Yes, I retract my aside.
   17. Perry Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:32 PM (#4279019)
I thought that was funny when I heard it, too. CBS had the rights in the early '60s. Growing up in the '70's, it seemed to me they were always showing the Reds.


Tenace was born in 1946. I have no doubt that when he was forming sports allegiances in the late 50s, his early teens (when most people do it) that the Yanks were on TV all the time.
   18. djordan Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:47 PM (#4279035)
@ Perry, agreed. Here's some interesting background regarding MLB TV in the '50/'60s. Forget the date exactly when CBS bought the Yankees.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_League_Baseball_on_CBS#1955.E2.80.931958
   19. Mark Armour Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:53 PM (#4279042)
CBS bought the Yankees in late 1964--it became official right after the season. For TV deals, CBS negotiated with individual teams, not with MLB, so they cut a TV deal with the Yankees directly and showed the Yankees virtually every week. The Yankee TV deal predated the sale, and was one of the reasons many objected to it.
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:00 PM (#4279052)
Great story. Tenace's performance in that series was amazing. Although he was a fine hitter going forward, there was little indication that he was a fine hitter up until that point. He was 25 years old and not really a prospect. Also interesting that he hit very poorly in every other post-season series he was in.

Steve corrected most of that, but it might be noted that until he got the game winning hit in game 5 of the ALCS, Tenace had gone 0 for 15 in that series.

-----------------------------------

CBS bought the Yankees in late 1964--it became official right after the season. For TV deals, CBS negotiated with individual teams, not with MLB, so they cut a TV deal with the Yankees directly and showed the Yankees virtually every week. The Yankee TV deal predated the sale, and was one of the reasons many objected to it.

It was a bit like the deal that NBC has had lately with Notre Dame, only not quite as exclusive.
   21. djordan Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:08 PM (#4279062)
@ Steve, thanks for the kind words. More important, Tenace did have solid '70/'71 campaigns in limited duty. He just had a tough '72, until he got to the playoffs.
   22. Mark Armour Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:16 PM (#4279074)
Tenace was a guy whose reputation soared once the analytical movement took root in the 1980s. Most people who lived through the period knew that Tenace was a good ballplayer--a first baseman who could hit 25 home runs was a valuable guy in the 1970s.

It was a surprise to most people, I would guess, when Bill James began to suggest that Gene Tenace was a great offensive player, one of the very best over a period of several years. He played in very difficult home parks, and he walked more than any player of the period--two facts that most people did not pay attention to.

About 5 years ago a neighbor of mine introduced me to his brother, visiting from Phoenix, because we were both big baseball fans. My friend told his brother that I was in SABR, and the guy quickly said, "Are you one of those guys who thinks Gene Tenace was a great hitter?" So, he still resonates.
   23. Steve Treder Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4279077)
About 5 years ago a neighbor of mine introduced me to his brother, visiting from Phoenix, because we were both big baseball fans. My friend told his brother that I was in SABR, and the guy quickly said, "Are you one of those guys who thinks Gene Tenace was a great hitter?" So, he still resonates.

That's classic.
   24. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:23 PM (#4279084)
catchers are constantly coping with nagging injuries, especially their fingers, hands, thumbs, etc which can impact their ability to hold a bat much less swing effectively. but they stay in the lineup.

that more than anything explains catchers offense swinging up and down.
   25. salvomania Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:58 PM (#4279119)
Plus he saw action at 2b in three straight seasons---how many catchers can say that?
   26. vortex of dissipation Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:03 PM (#4279128)
The other thing I remember about Tenace during that postseason, is that after pinch hitting for Dick Green, Williams would put Duncan at catcher and move Tenace to second base. He did that twice against the Tigers, but not against the Reds. First base I can understand for a catcher, but second?

Edit: Got pipped by salvomania as I was typing!
   27. djordan Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:04 PM (#4279129)
To Harvey's point, perhaps the position switching messed up his batting mindset.
   28. Ron J2 Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:21 PM (#4279150)
#25 Gino Petralli and Jamie Quirk came to mind immediately.
   29. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:33 PM (#4279163)
Craig Biggio truly was a freak.
   30. Tim D Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:36 PM (#4279165)
That was Billy Martin vs. Dick Williams in the ALCS; where Campaneris was suspended for throwing his bat at Lerrin LaGrow. The Tigers evened the series on a come from behind extra innings classic. The A's had been in the ALCS the year before but had not won any pennants yet. The Tigers had barely outlasted Boston down the stretch. Fryman was picked up on waivers and went 9-2 or something like that and saved their season. Reggie stole home for the A's first run but got hurt and I thought that might give the Tigers an opening. But Odom was good and then Vida Blue came in and taught me what it is like to have an old team get flat out gassed by an elite flamethrower. Tigers lost 2-1. And they were not only done for the year but done until Sparky came over from Cincy. I kept wondering in the series where the heck did Tenace come from? He was just another guy on Oakland. They were huge underdogs to the Reds. Great article by a guy who became a favorite player after that WS performance.
   31. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:37 PM (#4279167)
I’m beating the crap outta Joe Morgan, falling all over him, tripping him


My new favorite all time player.
   32. salvomania Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:40 PM (#4279170)
yeah, biggio, but he was a catcher who became a second baseman. His first-ever start at 2b was in the last week of the 1991 season, and he played three games there, then after 1991 never played a game at catcher again.... until his second-to-last game with Houston, 16 years later---which must be some MLB record for longest time between starts at catcher.
   33. Steve Treder Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:51 PM (#4279184)
To Harvey's point, perhaps the position switching messed up his batting mindset.

I doubt it. Tenace was always being switched around between multiple positions, in the minors and the majors. He was never a specialist focusing on any single position.
   34. asinwreck Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4279185)
Terrific piece. I think my favorite line in context is "I'm not gonna lie, it was kind of cool."
   35. djordan Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:57 PM (#4279188)
@ Steve, I thought that as well, but after you reminded me, I checked his stats for '70 & '71. He only caught in '70 & '71 he caught 45 games and only played one in Left.
   36. AndrewJ Posted: October 22, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4279196)
Fantastic first-person account.

“Geno, somebody wants to shoot you,” Dick said, matter-of-factly as he closed the door.


Keep in mind that this would have been a month after the terrorism at the Munich Olympics. The FBI was taking no chances in the fall of 1972.
   37. X-Roid User Posted: October 22, 2012 at 04:02 PM (#4279198)
TENACE THE MENACE

Anyone else remember that card?
   38. Steve Treder Posted: October 22, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4279199)
He only caught in '70 & '71 he caught 45 games and only played one in Left.

In the majors. In the minors, he played 13 games in the outfield in 1970 as well as 81 games at catcher. And in prior years in the minors he'd played the outfield, third base, and second base as well as catcher.
   39. rlc Posted: October 22, 2012 at 04:04 PM (#4279201)
That was a great piece. I LOL'ed at learning to play 1B in the visitor's lockerroom on the morning of Game 7...
   40. djordan Posted: October 22, 2012 at 04:09 PM (#4279207)
@ Steve, you're right about that. Outside of Epstein & Rudi, most of the team had a off-season with the bat in '72. Reggie, Bando. The team hit .240 collectively, but as Tenace said, the ballclub was amazing at not beating themselves and executing when they had to.
   41. dr. scott Posted: October 22, 2012 at 04:12 PM (#4279212)
So Wash, how hard it is to learn to play first base after several out of body experiences and a death threat?
   42. salvomania Posted: October 22, 2012 at 05:10 PM (#4279263)
Anyone else remember that card?


Yes---the '73 Topps postseason highlights---but not until you brought it up.

I loved those cards---the '71s featured weirdly colored duotones, and the "Pirates Celebrate!" from '72 was probably my favorite card of the series as a kid.
   43. Bruce Markusen Posted: October 22, 2012 at 06:30 PM (#4279340)
Not surprised that Tenace can write. He is one of the brighter minds in baseball, and really should be a hitting coach somewhere, assuming he does not prefer being completely retired from the game.
   44. Jay Z Posted: October 22, 2012 at 08:47 PM (#4279530)
Tenace's post season stats:

1972 WS 8-23, 5 R, 1 DB, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 2 BB

All others: 10-123, 5 R, 2 DB, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 28 BB

5 runs out of 38 times on base isn't very good. I like Tenace, but his walks need to be discounted for his below average baserunning and place in the order.
   45. RJ in TO Posted: October 22, 2012 at 09:06 PM (#4279608)
Not surprised that Tenace can write. He is one of the brighter minds in baseball, and really should be a hitting coach somewhere, assuming he does not prefer being completely retired from the game.

I think he prefers being retired. From what I remember, he had the option to stay with the Jays in 2010, but instead elected to head home.
   46. Tulo's Fishy Mullet (mrams) Posted: October 22, 2012 at 09:48 PM (#4279775)
not much else to add, except with 3rd the Hilton Netherland. I stayed there this summer during a weekend series, and it definitely is a time capsule art deco, in a good way. Pretty unique place. I can't imagine going to bed, on the road, the night before a WS, with my kids jumping up and down on the bed running around the room.
   47. Walt Davis Posted: October 23, 2012 at 12:19 AM (#4280317)
And in case you kids are wondering ... no, in 1972, you couldn't just unplug the phone.

OK, I don't remember exactly when modern jacks started to be used but they certainly weren't universal by 72 and I don't imagine an old hotel would have had them.
   48. GIANTlhbASS Posted: October 23, 2012 at 02:34 AM (#4280364)
This thread is a perfect example of why I've been visiting this site for a decade. Thanks, all.
   49. steagles Posted: October 23, 2012 at 05:56 AM (#4280372)
The other thing I remember about Tenace during that postseason, is that after pinch hitting for Dick Green, Williams would put Duncan at catcher and move Tenace to second base. He did that twice against the Tigers, but not against the Reds. First base I can understand for a catcher, but second?
ftfa:
I think it was either senior or junior year in high school; our coach took us down to watch the Reds play at old Crosley Field. They put on a clinic before the game for my team and a few other schools from around the state- all these major league players with us for an hour – the whole roster out there with the kids. The outfielders by the warning track, the catchers at home plate, the pitchers on the mound. The infielders sat in the dugout before walking over to second base. I played shortstop back then. So Pete Rose and Tommy Helms were leading our group, showing us how to make the double play properly among other tips.
   50. Leroy Kincaid Posted: October 23, 2012 at 09:44 PM (#4281151)
#37 & 42: I dig those post-season cards from the 70's - early 80's.

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