Weaver in 2011
August 14, 1930|
St. Louis, Missouri
|Died: January 19, 2013
Aboard Celebrity Silhouette, Caribbean
|July 7, 1968, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Last MLB appearance|
|October 5, 1986, for the Baltimore Orioles|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Member of the National|
|Baseball Hall of Fame|
Earl Sidney Weaver (August 14, 1930 - January 19, 2013) was an American professional baseball player, Hall of Fame Major League manager, author, and television broadcaster. After playing in minor league baseball, he retired without playing in Major League Baseball (MLB). He became a minor league manager, and then managed in MLB for 17 years with the Baltimore Orioles (1968-82; 1985-86). Weaver's style of managing was summed up in the quote: "pitching, defense, and the three-run homer." He did not believe in placing emphasis on "small ball" tactics such as stolen bases, hit and run plays, or sacrifice bunts. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.
He was the son of Earl Milton Weaver, a dry cleaner who cleaned the uniforms of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns, and Ethel Genieve Wakefield. After playing for Beaumont High School in his hometown, St. Louis, Missouri, the 17-year-old Weaver was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948 as a second baseman. A slick fielder but never much of a hitter, he worked his way up to the Texas League Houston Buffaloes (two steps below the majors) in 1951, but never made the Major League club. Weaver was later traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, then moved on to the Orioles, where he began his managing career.
Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, who battled with his manager on a regular basis, once noted: "The only thing that Earl knows about a curve ball is he couldn't hit it." After Palmer's skills began to decline and he was no longer a regular starter, Weaver defended his actions by claiming he'd given Palmer "more chances than my ex-wife." He has also directed such a remark at Mike Cuellar, ace of the 1969 staff, and several other players.
Weaver started his minor league managerial career in 1956 with the unaffiliated Knoxville Smokies in the South Atlantic League. He joined the Orioles in 1957 as skipper of their Fitzgerald, Georgia, club in the Georgia-Florida League. The Orioles moved him to their Dublin, Georgia, franchise in 1958, and to their Aberdeen, South Dakota, club in 1959. In 1960, he managed the Fox Cities Foxes in Wisconsin in the Class-B Three-I League. He moved up to with the AA Elmira Pioneers in 1962 and to the AAA Rochester Red Wings in 1966.
As a minor league manager, he compiled a record of 841 wins and 697 defeats (.547) with three championships in 11½ seasons. Weaver earned a promotion when he was appointed to replace Gene Woodling as the Orioles' first-base coach on October 3, 1967, and spent the first half of the 1968 season in that capacity before succeeding Hank Bauer as manager on July 11.
During his tenure as big-league manager, the Orioles won the American League pennant in 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1979. In 1969 the Orioles were defeated in the World Series in five games by the New York Mets team known as the Miracle Mets. In 1970 the Orioles won the World Series by defeating the Cincinnati Reds (The "Big Red Machine") in five games. In 1971 the Orioles lost the World Series in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pirates pitcher Steve Blass pitched a complete game and gave up four hits in the deciding seventh game, allowing the Orioles to score one run.
In 1979 the Orioles again lost the World Series in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pitchers Jim Bibby, Don Robinson, Grant Jackson, and Kent Tekulve held the Orioles to four hits and one run in the deciding seventh game. In 1982, Weaver announced he would retire at the end of the season, one which saw the Orioles wallow at the back of the pack for the first half of the year before climbing in the standings to just three games behind going into a season-ending four-game series against the division-leading Brewers at Memorial Stadium. The Orioles beat them handily in the first three games to pull into a first-place tie. The final game of the series, and the season, on October 3, would decide the AL East title. Televised nationally on ABC, the Orioles suffered a crushing 10-2 loss. After the game, the crowd called for Weaver to come out. This tribute to the retiring Weaver provided intense emotion against the backdrop of the season-ending defeat, as Weaver, in tears, stood on the field and applauded back to the fans, and shared words and an embrace with Brewers manager Harvey Kuenn.
Owner Edward Bennett Williams coaxed Weaver out of retirement in 1985, but a losing season in 1986 prompted his permanent Major League retirement. Weaver's managerial record is 1,480-1,060 (.583), including 100+ win seasons in 1969 (109), 1970 (108), 1971 (101), 1979 (102), and 1980 (100). He only had one losing season in his managerial career, with the 1986 Orioles. Weaver also boasts a record high 94.3 wins per season.
In 1989, Weaver managed the Gold Coast Suns in the new Senior Professional Baseball Association. Less than a week into the season, Weaver was ejected from his first game. He later commented, "These umpires are high school rejects. The league went for the cheapest umpiring association. There should be no league if this continues." The Suns failed to make the playoffs in the 1989-90 season and folded after one season.
Weaver was ejected from games at least 91 times during the regular season (98, according to one source) and several more times during post-season play. He was ejected from both games in a doubleheader three times. He was twice ejected from games before they even started, both times by Ron Luciano. Luciano alone ejected him from all four games of a minor-league series and eight games in the majors.
He also received four multiple-game suspensions. He was well known for the humor that often accompanied his ejections. During one particular tirade with an umpire, Weaver headed to the dugout screaming, "I'm going to check the rule-book on that" to which the umpire replied, "Here, use mine." Weaver shot back, "That's no good--I can't read Braille." He once told an umpire that he could appear on What's My Line? wearing his mask, chest protector and ball/strike indicator and still nobody would guess he was an umpire.
Weaver had a penchant for kicking dirt on umpires, and for turning his cap backwards whenever he sparred with umpires in order to get as close to them as possible without actually touching them. His rivalry with Luciano was legendary, to the point where the AL rearranged umpiring schedules for an entire year so that Luciano would not work Orioles games. A year later on August 26, 1979, in the third inning of the opener of an Orioles-White Sox doubleheader at Comiskey Park, he ejected Weaver who then publicly questioned Luciano's "integrity" and received a three-game suspension. Still, Weaver had respect for Luciano, calling him "one of the few umpires that people have paid their way into the park to see."
Marty Springstead was one of Weaver's least favorite umpires. On September 15, 1977, in Toronto, Weaver asked Springstead to have a tarpaulin covering the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen area removed; the tarp was weighed down by bricks and Earl argued that his left fielder could be injured if he ran into the bricks while chasing a foul ball. When the umpire refused to order the Blue Jays to move the tarp, Weaver pulled the Orioles off the field. The umpire declared a forfeit, the only forfeit in Orioles history. On another infamous occasion, in Cleveland, Springstead watched as Weaver tore up the rule book and tossed it into the air.
One of Weaver's most infamous tirades came on September 17, 1980 in a game against the Detroit Tigers. First base umpire Bill Haller, who was wearing a microphone for a documentary on the daily life of an MLB umpire, called a balk on Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan. Weaver charged out of the dugout and began screaming at Haller, who was already angry at Weaver for publicly questioning his integrity by suggesting he be prohibited from working Tigers games in 1972 because his brother was the Tigers' backup catcher at the time. After Weaver was ejected, he launched into a profanity-filled argument with Haller that was duly recorded. During the tirade, Earl accused Haller of blatantly calling the game out of the Orioles' favor. He also accused Haller of poking him in the chest; after Haller denied doing so, they called each other liars. Weaver's contempt for umpires was often mutual. One night in 1973 Weaver threw his cap to the ground and began a vehement argument with Luciano. Luciano's crew-mate Don Denkinger walked over to Weaver's cap, stepped on it with the sharp cleats of both shoes, and slowly twisted back and forth.
Weaver's oft-quoted managerial philosophy was "pitching, defense, and the three-run homer." Weaver expanded on his philosophy in three books he authored: Winning! (1972); It's What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts (1983); and Weaver on Strategy (1984), which was republished as Weaver on Strategy: The Classic Work on the Art of Managing a Baseball Team (2002, with co-author Terry Pluto). Weaver eschewed the use of so-called "inside baseball" or "small ball" tactics such as the stolen base, the hit and run, or the sacrifice bunt, preferring a patient approach ("waiting for the home run"), saying "If you play for one run, that's all you'll get" and "On offense, your most precious possessions are your 27 outs". Weaver claims to have never had a sign for the hit and run, citing that the play makes both the baserunner and the hitter vulnerable, as the baserunner is susceptible to being caught stealing and the hitter is required to swing at any pitch thrown no matter how far outside the strike zone or how unhittable the pitch is.
Weaver strongly believed in finishing as high in the standings as possible, even if a championship was not involved: In 1977, the Orioles entered the final weekend of the season tied for second place in the AL East with the Red Sox, three games behind the division-leading Yankees, to play a scheduled three-game series against the Red Sox in Boston, while the Yankees played three at home against Detroit. The Red Sox won the first game of the series, 11-10, on September 30, eliminating the Orioles from division title contention; however, after the game Weaver insisted, in an interview with a reporter, that "we're still trying to finish second." The following day, the Orioles won, 8-7, eliminating the Red Sox (the Yankees having lost on both days) and leaving the teams tied for second place headed into the series' and the season's final game, which was rained out, resulting in the Red Sox and Orioles finishing in a tie for second place. Weaver also insisted that his players maintain a professional appearance at all times. He allowed mustaches, but not beards, and, as a rule, players had to wear a suit or jacket and tie on board an airplane for a road trip.
Weaver made extensive use of statistics to create matchups that were favorable either for his batter or his pitcher. He had various notebooks with all sorts of splits and head-to-head numbers for his batters and against his pitchers and would assemble his lineups according to the matchups he had. For example, despite the fact that Gold Glove shortstop Mark Belanger was a weak hitter, in 19 plate appearances he hit .625 with a .684 on-base percentage and .625 slugging percentage against Jim Kern and would be slotted high in the lineup when facing him. Similarly, Boog Powell, the 1970 American League MVP, hit a meager .178/.211/.278 against Mickey Lolich over 96 plate appearances and would be substituted, possibly with a hitter like Chico Salmon, who hit a much more acceptable .300/.349/.400 against the same pitcher.
In 1984 Weaver was credited by sportscaster Craig Sager, then of CNN, with being the first major league skipper to have used computerized statistical records as part of his decision-making process.
Weaver made use of the bench. In the Oriole teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Weaver made frequent use of platoons, with the most obvious example being the use of Gary Roenicke and John Lowenstein in left field, without affordable full-time solutions. Weaver also exploited a loophole in the designated hitter rule by listing as the DH one of his starting pitchers who would not be appearing in that day's game. This gave him another opportunity to exploit pitcher-batter matchups, in the case the opposing starting pitcher left the game early because of injury or ineffectiveness before it was the DH's turn in the batting order. A rule was created to stop the use of this tactic, allegedly (by Weaver) because it was distorting pinch-hitting statistics.
Weaver used radar guns to track the speed of pitched balls during the 1975 spring training season.
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Between his stints as manager Weaver served as a color commentator for ABC television, calling the 1983 World Series (which the Orioles won) along with Al Michaels and Howard Cosell. Weaver was the #1 ABC analyst in 1983 (replacing Don Drysdale, who moved over to secondary play-by-play for ABC), but was also employed by the Baltimore Orioles as a consultant. At the time, ABC had a policy preventing an announcer who was employed by a team from working games involving that team. So whenever the Orioles were on the primary ABC game, Weaver worked the backup game. This policy forced Weaver to resign from the Orioles consulting position in October in order to be able to work the World Series for ABC. Weaver later called the 1984 National League Championship Series (between the San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs) for ABC alongside fellow hall of famers Reggie Jackson, who played for Weaver in 1976, and Don Drysdale.
While managing the Orioles, Weaver hosted a radio show called Manager's Corner with Baltimore Oriole play by play announcer Tom Marr in which he would give his views on baseball and answer questions from fans. Weaver and Marr once recorded a prank version of the program, giving hilarious off-color answers to queries ranging from Terry Crowley, "team speed" and even growing tomatoes (one of Weaver's hobbies was gardening). The tape, which was not broadcast at the time, has since become legendary in Baltimore sports circles and has even been aired (in heavily edited fashion) on local sports radio.
Weaver died about 2 a.m. on January 19, 2013 of an apparent heart attack while on an Orioles' fantasy cruise aboard the Celebrity Silhouette in the Caribbean Sea. According to the Silhouettes itinerary, the ship had left Labadee, Haiti on January 18 and was expected to dock at Fort Lauderdale, Florida on January 20, 2013. Weaver's wife of 49 years, Marianna, was at his side when he died. He was 82 years old. By coincidence, another Baseball Hall of Fame member, the St. Louis Cardinals' Stan Musial, died later that day.
Upon his death, Bud Selig, commissioner of Major League Baseball, released the following statement: "Earl Weaver was a brilliant baseball man, a true tactician in the dugout and one of the key figures in the rich history of the Baltimore Orioles, the club he led to four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series championship ... Having known Earl throughout my entire career in the game, I have many fond memories of the Orioles and the Brewers squaring off as American League East rivals. Earl's managerial style proved visionary, as many people in the game adopted his strategy and techniques years later. Earl was well known for being one of the game's most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to his wife, Marianna, their family and all Orioles fans."
Orioles managing partner Peter Angelos added: "Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball ... This is a sad day for everyone who knew him and for all Orioles fans. Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. On behalf of the Orioles, I extend my condolences to his wife, Marianna, and to his family."
His remains were cremated.