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Setting the Bar

Written by Posted On Friday, 18 June 2021 00:00

Even before the National Football League established the Rooney Rule, the Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB) was hiring players from diverse backgrounds. In 1969 the Pirates employed a player from Panama named Renaldo Antonio Stennett Porte. His teammates called him Rennie.  He was born in Colon, Panama, played second base, stood about 5-foot-11 at 160 pounds.

The NFL’s Rooney Rule was created from the influence of Dan Rooney, owner of the Steelers and chairman of NFL’s diversity committee. It was also the result of the firings of Tony Dungy, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings. The Rooney Rule’s purpose was to ensure that minority coaches, especially African Americans, would be considered for high-level coaching positions. It has been expanded to apply to jobs for all NFL senior football operations. Incidentally, both Dungy and Green worked for Steelers head coach Chuck Noll. Further, despite what some may think, Eugene Chung, New England’s 1st round draft choice in 1992, qualifies under the Rooney Rule.

That’s not to say that Stennett’s employment was ensured by the Rooney Rule (or such equivalent MLB rule). The “barrier” for African Americans had been broken on April 15, 1947 when Jackie Robinson was put on the field by Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers. But what made Stennett so special was that he was the leadoff hitter in MLBs first all-Black and Latino starting lineup. That day came on  September 1, 1971, 24 years after Robinson’s debut.

You probably heard of a couple of others in that lineup that Stennett led off -– Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell, both in the MLB Hall of Fame.  On September 15, 1975, Stennett went 7 for 7 at the plate in nine innings. No player has matched that since. In 1977 Stennett’s batting average of .336 helped the Pirates win the World Series. And he followed that in 1979 helping the Pirates win another World Series.

All three have passed away with Stennett dying just last month at the age of 72. Pirates President, Travis Williams, eulogized Stennett saying “Rennie symbolized what it meant to be a Pittsburgh Pirate.”

While the present Rooney Rule does not quantify characteristics of integrity and work ethic, it would be prudent to use Stennett as a good example of both.

Will you choose wisely in hiring others to shape and grow your organization?

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Dr. Jim Tunney

Jim Tunney had an exemplary career in sports. A former high school coach, teacher, principal and district superintendent, he had a 40-year career in officiating football and basketball.

Thirty-one of those years he was an NFL Referee working a record twenty-nine post-season games including four Super Bowls, ten NFC/AFC Championship games, six Pro Bowls and twenty-five Monday Night Games.

He officiated some of the most memorable games in NFL history. His book Impartial Judgment: “The Dean of NFL Referees” Calls Pro Football As He Sees It, chronicles his NFL career.

As a Professional Speaker, he is Past President of The National Speakers Association and a Charter Member of its most prestigious group – The CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame. Jim holds every professional designation of the NSA, including the Oscar of Professional Speaking – The Cavett. NSA named him Philanthropist of the Year in 2007.

Dr. Tunney (a doctorate in Education from the University of Southern California) continues to serve his community as  Trustee Emeritus of both Monterey Peninsula College and York School; where he once served as Headmaster. In 1993, he founded the Jim Tunney Youth Foundation to support local community programs that develop leadership, work skills, wellness and self-esteem in youth. He and his wife Linda live in Pebble Beach, California. They have six children and sixteen grandchildren.

As an author he has written and/or co-authored thirteen books: Impartial Judgment, Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul, Speaking Secrets of the Masters, You Can Do It!, Super Bowl Sunday, Insights into Excellence, Lessons in Leadership, Build a Better You and his most recent book, It’s the Will, Not the Skill.

If you are looking for a keynote speaker who educates, motivates and entertains with a lifetime of stories about leadership, team building and sports 831-595-3258.

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