Born Fiore Gino Tennaci, the catcher anglicized his name at an early age and played baseball under the handle of Gene Tenace. A fine power-hitting receiver, Gene was a member of the Oakland Athletics dynasty that would win three straight World Series from 1972 to 1974. The slugging catcher won the World Series MVP Award in ’72 when he clubbed four homeruns and drove in nine men. Although Tenace never hit for a lofty batting average, he possessed an exceptional batting eye which gave him astounding on-base percentages. His batting average usually hovered around .240-.245 but his on-base percentage was often above that of the typical .300 hitter.
Tenace was drafted by the A’s while they were still stationed in Kansas City. While he was working his way through the minors the club relocated to Oakland. He was summoned to California for a brief trial in 1969 and 1970. When he hit .305 with seven homers in 38 games during the 1970 season, Oakland knew they had to work Tenace into the lineup more often. Predominately a catcher at this time, Oakland would get Gene at-bats by occasionally putting him in the outfield or at first base. When they captured the AL flag in 1972, Gene was still a part-time player. But he would shake that reserve label with an amazing World Series. En route to winning the World Series MVP Award, Tenace drove in nine runs and slugged at an unearthly .913 clip.
Given his exceptional work in the Fall Classic, Oakland made Gene an everyday player in 1973. With Ray Fosse behind the dish Oakland used Gene as their regular first baseman. In his first season as a regular he blasted 24 homeruns and drew 101 walks. Although he hit for a modest .259 batting average his on-base percentage was a solid .387 thanks to his remarkable batting eye. The A’s were World Series champs again in 1973 as Gene, who had an exceptional slugging average in the ’72 Fall Classic showed an extraordinary on-base percentage in the ’73 Series. Due to his eleven walks, Gene boasted a .467 OBP.
The eagle-eyed Athletic paced the AL with 110 walks in 1974. Defensively, he began to work more and more behind the plate as he flip-flopped between first base and catcher. Gene swatted 26 homeruns that year en route to another World Series championship. The following year, 1975, he set a career high with 29 dingers and was named to the AL All-Star Team. With 22 homeruns in ’76, Tenace had a string of four seasons with at least 20 long balls. But in ’76 the A’s failed to make the postseason for the first time in five years and the club began to shake things up. They let Gene walk via free agency and he signed on with the Padres. He took his eagle-eye routine to the National League and set a career high with 125 walks–which led the league–his first year in San Diego.
Gene only hit .233 is first year with the Padres but boasted an exceptional on-base percentage of .415 courtesy his ample amount of walks. He drew 101 walks the following year as he split time between first and catcher. In 1979 he reached 20 homeruns again, posted his sixth season with 100 or more walks and gunned down a terrific 48% of would-be basestealers. But in 1980, when he failed to drive in 60 runs for the first time since he was named an everyday player, the Padres traded him away. Sent to St. Louis with Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers for Terry Kennedy and a bevy of lesser players, Gene spent two seasons as a part-time player with the Cardinals. He was able to win his fourth and final World Series ring in 1982. He played one final year with the Pirates in ’83 before hanging them up.
G 1,555/R 653/H 1,060/2B 179/3B 20/HR 201/RBI 674/SB 36/BB 984/SO 998/BA .241/OBP .388.SA .429