- July 3, 1953
- 6' 2"
- 180 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-09-1973 with CAL
Frank Tanana made the transition from a classic flamethrower with California to a crafty, curveballing veteran with Texas and Detroit. The Detroit native was TSN AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year in 1974, notched the first of three straight 200-strikeout seasons in 1975. June 21, 1975 was a memorable day in Tanana's career – he struck out 17 batters in one game. He led the AL in ERA and shutouts in 1977
By age 25, however, his arm was thrown out, and a sore shoulder sidelined him for much of 1979. Tanana was second to Nolan Ryan among California 's all-time leaders in wins, starts, complete games, strikeouts, innings and shutouts when he was traded to Boston, where he spent one forgettable season. Learning to compensate for his lost fastball, he was Texas Pitcher of the Year in 1984. Traded to the Tigers in June 1985, Tanana became a mainstay of the Detroit staff. His victory on the final day of the 1987 season against Toronto put Detroit in the playoffs.
Frank appeared in three consecutive All-Star Games from 1976 to 1978, and led the league in strikeouts in 1975 as well as in ERA and shutouts in 1977. Throughout his career, he accumulated 34 shutouts, 4000 innings pitched, and nearly 3000 strikeouts.
He was given the nickname "Frank Tanana Daiquiri" by broadcaster Chris Berman of ESPN. As he became a successful junk-baller for the Tigers in the 1980s, Tiger broadcasting legend Ernie Harwell would often refer to him as "TAN-talizing Tanana".
Tanana is one of two pitchers (along with Rick Reuschel) to have given up a home run to both Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds.
Tanana taught Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn how to slide properly. Zorn, as a coach after his playing career was over, recruited John Olerud to teach Matt Hasselbeck to slide in similar fashion
Major league career
Along with Nolan Ryan, Tanana anchored the pitching staff of the California Angels from 1973 - 1979. This led to the saying, "Tanana and Ryan and two days of cryin'," an indication of just how much the two meant to the rotation. The Angels' offense did not always measure up to its top twosome; in 1976, Tanana and New York's Catfish Hunter each pitched 13 scoreless innings in a game where both men received a no-decision. Tanana had had another 13-inning shutout no-decision in 1975 against the White Sox, and is the only pitcher with two such outings. Tanana missed two months of the 1979 season with a shoulder injury, but was able to pitch in September and during the post-season. On 1981-01-23, the Angels traded him to the Boston Red Sox along with Jim Dorsey and Joe Rudi for Steve Renko and Fred Lynn (whom the Red Sox worried they would lose to free agency due to paperwork errors).
17 Strikeout Game
In June, 1975, Frank Tanana still had long hair, a free-spirit, and a 100-MPH fastball. On June 21, in the first game of a twi-nite doubleheader against the Rangers in Anaheim, Tanana enjoyed one of his most dominating performances. With his fastball working well, Tanana recorded the first seven outs of the game via the K, except for a caught baserunner. Tanana had 11 strikeouts through six innings, nursing a 4-2 Angels' lead. He fanned the side in the seventh and eight innings, while allowing two harmless singles. But perhaps due to pitch count, Tanana was pulled to start the ninth, finishing with 17 strikeouts and failing to get the chance to tie the ML record of 19 in a game. He would have faced Lenny Randle, Leo Cardenas and Roy SMalley, who he had whiffed five times already. Regardless, Tanana racked up 17 strikeouts in his 4-2 win over Texas.
Boston Red Sox
Tanana pitched for the Red Sox for a single season, earning only 4 victories against 10 losses before being granted free agency on 1981-11-13.
Tanana signed as a free agent with Texas Rangers on 1981-01-06. In 1984, he was named the pitcher of the year for the team as he went 15-15 with a 3.25 ERA. This was a great accomplishment for Tanana since an arm injury earlier in his career had forced him to stop being a power pitcher and rely on basic pitches. He was traded by the Rangers to the Detroit Tigers for minor-league pitcher Duane James on 1985-06-20.
Tanana returned home to Detroit due to the trade, then signed free agent contracts with the team in 1988 and 1989 to stay with the team until 1992. On the final day of the 1987 season, Tanana pitched a 1-0 complete game shutout over the 2nd place Toronto Blue Jays to clinch the American League East title for the Tigers. He was referred to as "the great tantalizer" because of his wide array of slow offspeed pitches. These he managed to mix very effectively, frustrating opposing batters and making an 88 mph fastball surprising and effective when slipped in after a steady diet of breaking balls. It was during this time that ESPN's Baseball Tonight would refer to him as "the guy who threw 90 in the 70s and 70 in the 90s."
Tanana signed as a free agent with the Mets for the 1993 season, winning 7 games for the last place team before being traded to the New York Yankees for Kenny Greer in an attempt to capture the pennant with the 1993-09-17 trade. He lost 2 of his three starts for the Yankees and they did not reach the post-season.
Life outside baseball
Tanana attended Detroit Catholic Central High School and California State University, Fullerton before embarking on his baseball career. He converted to Protestantism midway through his career and became a leader in the Christian community within professional baseball.
Tanana has been married to Cathy Mull since 1978. They have four children and four sons-in-law and now reside in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Both serve on the Pro Athletes Outreach Board of Directors, and are involved in the Home Plate and Career Impact ministries. In 2006, Tanana was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.
- Frank Tanana