Monday, January 21, 2013

You're Outta Here!

As baseball fans everywhere undoubtedly know by now, baseball lost two of its heroes on January 19, 2012 - Cards slugger Stan "The Man" Musial, and longtime manager and hothead, Earl Weaver.

1974 Topps Earl Weaver, #308

Because most news stories and blogs will focus on the hard-hitting Musial, I have decided to dedicate the balance of this post to Earl Weaver. Those of us who grew up watching baseball in the 70s and 80s remember a red-faced Weaver standing nose-to-nose with an umpire - any umpire - arguing calls. In fact, I've mused that while a good pitcher can work the dirt on the mound with his feet to make his pitch do his bidding, Weaver could expertly work (read: kick) the dirt around the umpire's shoes to insult his enemy. 

But Weaver wasn't just a hot-headed manager. He was a baseball purist who believed in simplicity when it came to coaching. He preached solid pitching, good defense and dingers that left the park. He eschewed base stealing, bunting and other tactics he considered gimmicky in favor for old-fashioned pitching and hitting.

Weaver managed the Baltimore Orioles from 1968-1982 and again 1985-1986. In 17 years of managing the Orioles, he endured only one losing season - his last with the club before retiring in 1986.

1969 Topps Earl Weaver, #516
Weaver was thrown out of a stunning 91 games during his coaching career for berating umpires over what he thought were questionable calls. Perhaps even more notable is that he was ejected from both games of doubleheader matchups on three separate occasions.

In addition to his knowledge of the game and his rabid dog approach to conflict resolution, Weaver was known for his biting sense of humor - with his players, the media and especially the umpires. After one ejection, Weaver reportedly shouted to the umpire that he was going to check the rule book. The umpire offered his rule book to Weaver, but Weaver declined, saying, "I can't read Braille."

Weaver was also known for spinning his cap around backward so that we could get as close to an umpire's face as possible without actually touching him and earning an instant ejection.

He earned three American League pennants (1969, 1971 and 1979) and one World Series in 1970. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996. His #4 jersey has been retired by the Orioles, never to be worn again.

Weaver died while on an Orioles fan Caribbean Cruise with his wife of nearly 50 years. Weaver liked spending time with Orioles fans and often joined fans and other Orioles players and coaches on the cruises.

Cruise organizer Ken Nigro said Weaver displayed his trademark bulldog behavior just days before his death, arguing over the scores of a Jeopardy game he was playing with other guests.

"It’s not 4-3, you lost that point," Nigro recalled Weaver saying. "It’s still 3-3."

Said Nigro: "He just started complaining. It was the old Earl Weaver all over again. He had that competitiveness until the end.”

Weaver was 82.