Gene Tenace: Former Italian / American Player & Three Time Oakland A's World Series Champion (1969-1983)

Fiore Gino Tennaci was born on October 10, 1946, to Italian immigrant parents in Russelton, 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 backup 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 straight AL Western titles he would win in Oakland. The club never finished worse than in second place during Tenace’s time there.

The Swinging A's: Starting in 1972 the A’s would win the World Series in the next three straight seasons and become one of baseball's most colorful teams. It wasn’t just their uniforms that were colorful They wore three sets of jerseys: bright yellow, dark green & white, especially 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 player $200 who sported one. 

On Father's Day he held Moustache 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 started as Dave Duncan's backup catcher, playing 82 games hitting just five HRs with 32 RBIs & a .225 batting average. Dave Duncan soon found himself in the Oakland management’s doghouse toward the end of the season and Tenace got the chance to play in the post season.

After going only 0-19 in the ALCS he made him self known in Game #5. In the 4th inning, he came to bat against the Tigers' Woodie Fryman in a 1-1 tie & George Hendrick on second. Tenace singled to left bringing in Hendrick in turned out to be the game winning run as Vida Blue shut down the Tigers. The A's advanced to their first of three straight World Series.

1972 World Series: In the 1972 World Series Tenace became an overnight superstar on the grand stage and would forever be remembered in baseball history.

In Game #1 of the 1972 World Series against the Reds, 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, at Riverfront Stadium he blasted a two run HR off Gary Nolan. In the 5th inning he added a solo shot off Nolan as well. It was also the first time in his career that he hit two homers in a game.

Tenace went hitless in the next two games.

Walk Off Run: 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 bottom of the 9th inning with the game tied 2-2 he singled to left field, off Clay Carroll. Tenace then came around to score the games winning run on Angel Mangual's pinch hit walk off base hit.

The next night Tenace hit a three run HR in off Jim McGlothlin 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. The move angered Tenace after all the success he had in the series. Lewis was the team's designated runner, something many players resented as a part time player. 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 from there on in. After being in owner Charlie Finley's doghouse, Dave Duncan was shipped out of Oakland & traded to Cleveland for Ray Fosse to be the main catcher.

Mike Epstein was also in Charlie Finley's doghouse & he was shipped to Texas for pitcher Horatio Pina. Gene Tenace moved over as the A’s first main baseman, mainly to keep his bat in the line up every day. He would also serve as backup catcher to Fosse.

In 1973 Tenace played in all but two of Oakland’s games. 

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.

He drew 101 walks (4th in the AL) & posted a .387 on base percentage (5th in the league).

1973 Post Season-ALCS: In the 1973 ALCS win over the Baltimore Orioles Tenace went 4 for 17 hitting in four of the five games, batting .235 with two walks, playing in all five games. 

1973 World Series:  In the World Series win against the Mets, he set another World Series record by walking eleven times. He only had three hits but drove in three runs.

In the four-hour Game #2 wild 12 inning affair, Tenace drew three walks.  In the bottom of the 9th inning, he singled driving in Sal Bando with game tying run off Tug McGraw.

The Mets would go to win the game in 12, with the help of two Oakland errors charged to second baseman Mike Andrews. Owner Charlie Finley would force Andrews to sign a statement saying he was injured in order to release him from the roster.

The incident was made public & Commissioner Bowie Kuhn intervened to reinstate Andrews. His A's teammates stood behind him & wore armbands with his uniform number on it. Manager Dick Williams told his team in confidence that he would be resigning no matter what the Series outcome would be.

In Game #3 he doubled off Tom Seaver at Shea Stadium in the 6th inning, bringing the Mets to within a run. In Game #4 he drove in another run in the Mets 6-1 win. He batted just .198 in the Series going 3-19 with three RBIs. He struck out seven times & posted the record eleven walks.

In 1974 he led the AL in walks (125) posting a .367 on base %. He batted just .211 & struck out over 100 times for the first of two straight seasons. He would strike out over 100 times four times in his career. He hit 26 HRs (3rd in the AL) with 17 doubles & 73 RBIs.

1974 Post Season- ALCS: Tenace went hitless in the ALCS against Baltimore; but did draw four walks and scoring a run with one RBI.

1974 World Series: Tenace got a hit in Game #1 off Dodgers ace Andy Messersmith in the 3-2 win. 

In Game #2, Tenace harshly criticized manager
Alvin Dark's moves after he was removed for pinch runner Herb Washington. Washington was the team's designated runner & some of the players were not happy that all he did was run. 

In the 9th inning, Washington represented the tying run, then was picked off of first base by Dodger pitcher Mike Marshall.

When he came back to the dugout Tenace slammed his helmet in disgust on national television. It was the only game the A's lost in the Series. 

He got another hit in the Game #3 Oakland 3-2 win as well. 
In that ‘74 World Series he went 2 for 9 hitting .222 drawing three walks as the A's won their third straight Championship.

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).

1975 Post Season: He would play in two more post season Series, with Oakland in the 1975 ALCS losing to the Boston Red Sox. He went hitless in the three games, drawing three walks.

Tenace led the A.L. in walks again in 1977 posting a 4.15 on base %. He would be in the A.L. top ten in walks eight times in his career and ranking 113th All Time. 

Although the A's won three straight Worlds Series, owner Finley was known for not paying his players. After the dawn of free agency, he wasn't about to start paying them & began selling or trading them off.

Tenace and reliever Rollie Fingers, both signed on with the San Diego Padres for the 1977 season.

Post A's Career: 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, he played at first base & catcher, his power numbers dropped off, only reaching 20 HRs once. 

In the NL Tenace still posted some the leagues bests on base percentages, having three more 100 walk seasons, including a league leading 125 in 1977. That year he played in 147 games, hitting 15 HRs with 61 RBIs batting.233. His number remained pretty much the same the next season as well.

In 1979 he reached the twenty HR mark, walking over 100 times for the third straight year. He drove in 67 runs & posted a .403 on base %, marking the third time he posted an base & over .400. He would do it two more times.

In 1979 he led all N.L. catchers in fielding percentage, throwing out 48% on would be base stealers (2nd in the league).

In December 1980 Tenace was sent to St. Louis along with Rollie Fingers & Bob Shirley for Terry Kennedy, John Littlefield, Mike Phillips, Steve Swisher & John Urrea.

With the Cardinals, 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. 

1982 Post Season: Tenace did not play in the NLCS win over the Atlanta Braves. In the World Series win over the Milwaukee Brewers, he played in five games. Tenace got the start over Darrel Porter in Game #1 catching starter Bob Forsch. Tenace went 0-3.

He made four pinch hit appearances, appearing in Games Thee, Four & Seven. He went going hitless with a walk in the Game #7 clincher. 

Post Season Stats: Overall, Tenace won four World Series titles, appearing in six total post seasons. In 42 post season games he hit .158 (18-146) with 4 HRs 14 RBIs 3 doubles 30 walks & 33 strike outs.

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 St. Cardinals organization in 2007 & was hired back as hitting coach of the Blue Jays again in 2008 when Cito Gaston was rehired as manager. Tenace retired after the 2009 season.

Honors: Tenace has been part of many of the Oakland A's reunions over the years celebrating its championship teams.

In 2012 he along with other former A's players donated a check for $22,000 to the widow of former A's Pitcher Catfish Hunter, paid to the Foundation in his name.

He was on hand for the 40th anniversary of the 1973 A's team in the 2013 season.


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