Fiore Gino Tennaci was born on October 10, 1946 to Italian immigrant parents in Russellton, Pennsylvania. He went to high school in Ohio and was selected in the 1965 amateur draft in the 20th round, by the Kansas City Athletics.
After two minor league seasons he began to shower power hitting over 20 Hrs at A & AA ball. He made his debut in Oakland in May 1969 & a week later hit his first career HR off Earl Wilson of the Tigers. He only hit that one HR and batted .158 in his first season playing in only 16 games. He was sent back down to AAA where hit .319 making it back to Oakland in 1970. In 38 games he hit .305 with 7 HRs while playing as a third string catcher.
The next season he took over as Dave Duncan’s back up catcher & hit 7 HRs with 7 doubles & 25 RBIs batting .274 in 65 games as the A’s won the AL Western title. Tenace went 0-4 playing in one game in the ALCS.It was the first of five straigh AL Western titles for Oakland and they never finished worst than second place in Tenace’s time there.
Starting in 1972 the A’s would win the World Series in the next three straight seasons, and become one of baseballs most colorful teams. It wasn’t just their uniforms that were colorful They wore three sets of jerseys; bright yellow,dark green j& white specially for Sundays.
Their owner was Charlie O. Finley notoriously cheap when it came to paying out salaries but certainly good at putting a team together. He was a meddling owner who use to phone call the dugout during games telling managers what to do.
He was great at promotions & in 1972 changed the game when he encouraged his team to grow moustaches, offering each laer $200 who sported one. On Fathers Day he held Moustach Day letting any fan in free who had facial hair. Soon all the ‘s players had moustaches, long hair & were dressing in loud styles off the field.
In 1972 Tenace played 82 games and hit only 5 HRs with 32 RBIs & a .225 batting average. Dave Duncan soon found himself in the Oakland management’s dog house by the end of the season and Tenace got a chance to play in the post season. After going only 0-19 in the ALCS he drove in the winning run in the deciding Game #5 a against Detroit s the A’s went to the World Series.
In the 1972 World Series Tenace became an overnight superstar on the grand stage and would forever be remembered in baseball history.
Post Season: In Game #1 of the 1972 World Series, he became the first player to homer in his first two World Series at bats, driving in all the A's runs in their 3-2 victory over the Reds.
In the second inning he blasted a two run HR off Gary Nolan then added a solo shot in the 5th also off Nolan. It was the first time in his career that he hit two homers in a game. In the 5th inning of Game #4, Tenace blasted another HR this time off Cincinnati’s Don Gullett putting the A’s up 1-0. In the 9th inning with the game tied he singled to left field and came around to score the winning run on Angel Manguals pinch hit base hit.
The next night Tenace hit a three run HR in off Jim Mclothlin in the Oakland 5-4 loss. In Game #7, Tenace singled home the first run of the game with a 1st inning single off Jack Billingham.
In the 5th inning, with Bert Campaneris on second, Tenace struck again doubling to left scoring the second run of the game. A’s manager Dick Williams put in Allan Lewis to pinch run for Tenace, a move that angered Geno after all he had done. The A’s won the game & the Series as Tenace was named the World Series MVP. Overall he was 8-23, batting .348 with 4 HRs & 7 RBIs.
Trivia: A's pitcher Darold Knowles liked the way Tenace had swung the bat during the last couple of weeks heading into the World Series. So, at lunch with Oakland second baseman Dick Green and pitcher Dave Hamilton before the Series, Knowles predicted Tenace to be the MVP. Three innings into Game 1, Knowles looked like a genius.
Tenace's hitting got him an everyday job in Oakland. Dave Duncan was shipped out & Ray Fosse was brought in from Cleland as the main catcher.
Tenace served as the A’s first main baseman, to keep his bat in the line up every day. He also served as backup catcher to Ray Fosse & in 1973 he played in all but two of Oakland’s games.
In the next few years during Oakland’s dominance in the A.L. Tenace would be among the league leaders in many categories.
In 1973 He batted .259 with 24 HRs (9th in the AL) 24 doubles & 84 RBIs. Tenace didn’t hit for high averages but he was a patient hitter that walked a lot & posted high on base percentages. He also got hit with a lot of pitches, getting plunked in double figures five times in his career. In 1973 he drew 101 walks (4th in the AL) & posted a .387 on base percentage (5th in the league).
Tenace led the A.L. in walks in 1974 & 1977 posting on base percentages of .367 & an incredible .415 in 1977. He would be in the A.L. top ten in walks eight times in his career, and ranking 113th All Time.
In 1974 he hit 26 HRs (3rd in the A.L.) with 17 doubles 73 RBIs, the 101 league leading walks but only batted .211.
In 1975, he hit a career-high 29 HRs (5th in the A.L), 17 doubles 87 RBIs, 106 walks (4th in the A.L.), and started his only All-Star Game. Defensively he threw out 41% of would be base stealers posting a .995 fielding percentage at first base 94th in the league).
Post Seasons: In the post season he never matched his 1972 numbers but still did well. In the 1973 ALCS Tenace went 4 for 17 hitting .235 with 2 walks, playing in all five games against Baltimore. In the World Series against the Mets he set another World Series record by walking 11 times. He only had 3 hits but drove in three runs.
In Game #2 he had a basehit, three walks & an RBI in the Oakland 10-7 loss.
In 1974 he went hitless in the ALCS against Baltimore; but did draw four walks and scoring a run with one RBI.
In the 1974 World Series Tenace harshly criticized Alvin Darks managerial moves after he was removed for pinch runner Herb Washington in Game #4. Washington was picked off of first base in the 9th inning by Los Angles’ pitcher Mike Marshall. Washington the teams designated runner, represented the tying run. When he came back to the dugout Tenace slammed his helmet in disgust on national television. In that ‘74 World Series he went 2 for 9 hitting .222 drawing three walks.
He would play in two more post season Series, 1975 with Oakland & 1982 with St. Louis, going hitless with four walks.
Overall Tenace played & won four World Series titles apearing in six post seasons. In 42 post season games he hit .158 (18-146) with 4 HRs 14 RBIs 3 doubles 30 walks & 33 strike outs.
After the sucessful Worlds Series seasons & the start of free agency, the A’s dynasty was being broken up as owner Charlie Finley began selling off his players. Tenace and teammate Rollie Fingers, both signed with the San Diego Padres for the 1977 season.
Tenace signed for five years for $1.81 million, becoming the fourth-richest player in the game at that time. In four years with the Padres, his power numbers dropped off, only reaching 20 HRs once. He still posted some the leagues bests on base percentages, having three more 100 walk seasons, including a league leading 125 in 1977. In his Padre years he averaged 16 HRs with 18 doubles 65 RBIs 100 walks & a .245 average, playing both at catcher & first base.
In 1979 he led all N.L. catchers in fielding percentage, throwing out 48% on would be base stealers (2nd in the league).
In 1981 Tenace was sent to St. Louis, where he primarily played against left-handed pitchers, platooning with Darrell Porter. He was a member of the 1982 World Champion Cardinals team, hitting .258 with 7 HRs & 18 RBIs in 66 games. In the World Series he played in five games going 0-6 with one walk.
He played his final season as a pinch-hitter for the Pirates in 1983.
He finished his 15 year playing career with 201 HRs, 179 doubles, 674 RBIs and a .241 average. He had one of the best on base percentages of his era at .388 (114th all time). He drew 984 walks (116th all time) and was hit by pitches 91 times (92nd all time). He did strike out often -998 times.
Retirement: After his playing days, he became a coach with Houston (1986 -1987) & Toronto (1990 – 1997). When manager Cito Gaston was ill in 1991, Tenace served as the team's interim manager. He was part of Toronto's World Series Championship teams in 1992 and 1993, giving him six World Series wins as a player and a coach.
He became hitting instructor for the Cardinals organization in 2007 & was hired back as hitting coach of the Blue Jays again in 2008 when Cito Gaston was rehired as manager.