Upon doing my casual Saturday sports and news reading, I was saddened to learn about the death of long-time Baltimore manager Earl Weaver early this morning while on an Orioles-themed Caribbean cruise.
He was 82.
The fiery but delightful Missourian managed the Orioles for 15 seasons from 1968-1982 (and another two from 1985-1986 once the club had fallen from grace), tabulating a .583 overall winning percentage, good for top 10 all-time in Major League Baseball history.
Weaver’s only losing season was 1986, and his teams posted three straight 100-win seasons from 1969-71.
A 1996 Hall of Fame inductee, Weaver was among the game’s winningest skippers, amassing nearly 1,500 triumphs in 2,500 contests, including the 1970 World Series over the first Big Red Machine. The prior season, The Earl of Baltimore’s crew posted 109 wins, best in team history, before falling to New York’s “Miracle Mets” in the ’69 Fall Classic.
The Birds won more than 100 games five times during Weaver’s his tenure, including three AL pennants and six division crowns. (Those were the glory days of baseball in Baltimore, which were finally rekindled in 2012.)
Blessed with a psychologist’s motivational skills, and the author of three books, the imperious yet insightful Weaver was revered by those who knew him best — from former players like Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and current Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson to Orioles Majority Owner Peter Angelos and Maryland-based journalist Tim Kurkjian — the latter musing today he’s, “never learned more from anyone in uniform than Weaver; not just pitching, defense, and three-run homers but the way he looked at the game.”
After a brief minor league playing career, Weaver was coaching by age 25 with the Knoxville Smokies of the South Atlantic League. The 5-foot-7 former infielder was eventually ejected nearly 100 times in the big leagues, including in both games of a doubleheader, and twice before a game began.
A three-time MLB Manager of the Year, the greatest skipper in Orioles history, and the man credited with making Ripken a shortstop in 1982, Weaver had a statue unveiled in his honor at Camden Yards just last summer.
Many believe the ‘Duke of Earl’ used Sabermetrics tactics before “Moneyball” was fashionable — or at least when Billy Beane was still in grade school. Perhaps this quote from his 1984 book, Weaver on Strategy, backs up that theory:
“The way to win is with pitching and three-run homers…The home run makes managing simple. Nothing can go wrong. The power of the home run is so elementary that I fail to comprehend why people try to outsmart the game in other ways. . . Forget about the bunt, unless there is no other choice. There are only three outs per inning. Give one away and you are making everything harder for yourself.”