1986 Cincinnati Reds: Tom Runnells

Illya Harrell@illya_1971Analyst IIAugust 23, 2009

This is the second in a series of 34 player profiles of each member of the Cincinnati Reds' 1986 season.  Details of the project were described in this article

The Reds finished the year in second place, 10 games behind the NL West champion Houston Astros.

Thomas William Runnells reached the Majors in 1985 as a 30-year-old rookie. 

Runnells spent nine years toiling with San Francisco minor league affiliates.  Upon his 1983 release from the Giants farm system, the Cincinnati Reds signed him as a free agent.

On August 10, 1985, the utility man made his major league debut, pinch hitting for Reds' starting pitcher, Jay Tibbs with two outs in the visiting half of the seventh inning against Dodger starter Fernando Valenzuela.

He popped up to future Red Mariano Duncan at short to end the inning. 

In his rookie year he collected only 35 at bats, and ended the season with an even .200 batting average.

The 1986 season would be Runnells last as a player in the Major Leagues.  He started zero games, and was used primarily as a late inning defensive replacement, pinch hitter, and pinch runner. 

Spending less than a month with the Reds in his last season, he had only one hit in 11 at bats.

That one hit came after he replaced Ron Oester at second base in the seventh inning and led off the top of the ninth with a double off Pittsburgh relief pitcher, Pat Clements. 

Reds' starter Bill Gullickson then bunted him to third base.  He was left stranded after ground outs by Eddie Milner and Pete Rose.

His only run scored of the 1986 season came in the ninth inning of a game versus Philadelphia.  Pitcher Don Carman had replaced starter Charles Hudson in the seventh inning. 

With Carman still on the mound, the Reds trailed 5-3 in the top of the ninth.  Davey Concepcion led off the inning with a single to center.  Buddy Bell followed with a single to left, advancing Davey to second.

Bell, being the tying run and slow of foot, prompted manager Pete Rose to replace Bell at first with Runnells as a pinch runner. 

Phillies' closer, Steve Bedrosian relieved Carman and retired pinch hitter Max Venable on a fly ball to right that advanced Concepcion to third. 

The next batter, Oester deposited a Bedrosian pitch over the Veterans Stadium fence for a three run homer, giving the Reds a 6-5 lead that they would hold onto for the win.

Even though Oester trotted the bases behind him, Runnells will be forever credited with the game tying run on May 15, 1986.

Runnells was sent back to the minors after June 6, 1986.  At age 31, he retired as a player following the season, finishing the year with the Reds' minor league club, the Denver Zephyrs.

With his playing days behind him, Runnells went into coaching and managing.

In 1991, he replaced Montreal Expos skipper, Buck Rogers and took over as their manager.

His tenure as a manager in the big leagues would be short lived.  He began the 1992 campaign still in charge of the Expos. 

According to Wikipedia, in a move that can only be described as odd, "He made an entrance at spring training in 1992 dressed in marine fatigues, apparently trying to channel the spirit of General Norman Schwartzkopf. Everyone who witnessed the performance found it eerily distressing."

Runnells was fired 37 games into the 1992 season.  His replacement, Felipe Alou, went on to post a 70-55 record leading Montreal to a second place finish in the NL East.

After a couple of years away from managing, Runnells took it up again with the Colorado Rockies organization.

In the 2009 season, after the Colorado Rockies fired manager, Clint Hurdle and replaced him with Jim Tracy, Runnells was once again in a big league dugout.

He is currently a bench coach with the Rockies.


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