PITTSBURGH - Chuck Tanner was always sunshine on a cloudy day.
If things weren't going well, he always had an unshakable belief they were about to get better.
Unlike Tommy Lasorda, a self-promoter who created a cheerleader persona for public consumption, Tanner was genuine.
As a player, manager and front office advisor, he had a 60-year career in baseball and was grateful for every day.
Tanner lived the dream he had growing up in New Castle and loved the ride, even through the bumps along the way.
He managed four major league teams, but he'll always be best remembered for his work with the Pirates from 1977-85.
Tanner belonged to the era of the garish mix-and-match uniforms, a ferocious rivalry with the Philadelphia Phillies and the last great Pirates success.
He managed the team to the 1979 World Series title with an instinctive, seat-of-the-pants style that included allowing players to be individuals.
The clubhouse was "Animal House," which truthfully wasn't always the best thing. The thumping bass of disco music rumbled into Tanner's office, and it didn't bother him a bit.
If that made the players comfortable, he was all for it. Tanner didn't have a lot of rules, and he didn't have the same rules for everybody.
Bill Madlock didn't like to take batting practice. Tanner told him he didn't have to. If another player wondered why he didn't get the same privilege, Tanner told the player they could have that discussion as soon as the player started winning batting titles like Madlock did.
Dick Allen was on Tanner's Chicago White Sox teams, the only time Allen avoided conflicts with authority.
Tanner gave Allen plenty of freedom, as long as he produced.
If anyone mistook Tanner's sunny disposition and hands-off style for weakness, they were mistaken.
He could air out the writer of a story he didn't like. He did that once, but then quietly offered to loan the same guy money when he heard times were tough.
Madlock came to the Pirates during the '79 season after he'd worn out his welcome in San Francisco. One day Madlock walked into the Giants dugout and didn't like his spot in the batting order.
He tore down the lineup card, ripped it up and scattered the pieces.
After the trade to Pittsburgh, Tanner walked up to Madlock and maneuvered him against a wall. Tanner was a strong man. Madlock found himself unable to move.
"You're not going to tear up my lineup card, are you?" Tanner asked with a smile on his face.
Madlock, still pinned against the wall, shook his head.
"OK, good," Tanner said cheerfully.
Point made, quietly and efficiently.
Ultimately, the players didn't return Tanner's loyalty. The cocaine scandal broke in the mid-1980s. John Candelaria, who was signed to a big contract at Tanner's urging, balked at pitching out of the bullpen.
Things fell apart, and a new ownership wanted a new manager. Tanner went to Atlanta.
But he still checked the Pirates' box score every day, and he came home to New Castle every off-season.
He worked for a couple of teams before the Pirates found a spot for him in their front office.
The position wound up being mostly ceremonial, but Tanner was a Pirate again.
He died a Pirate on Friday at 82.
The last few years were tough. Tanner was in a wheelchair. He visited PNC Park one time last summer and was smiling through his struggles, happy to be among baseball people in the press room.
He was at the ballpark. What could be better?
The sadness of Chuck Tanner's passing is tempered by this reality: It truly was a wonderful life.
(Mehno can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org)