At 82, Earl Weaver has left the building. The Hall of Fame manager from the Baltimore Orioles passed away today of an apparent heart-attack and the baseball world is less for it. He was a brilliant manager, and colorful in ways that might make Yogi Berra blush.
His managerial record tells the story: His 1,480-1,060 record ranks 22 all-time, sandwiched in-between Clark Griffith and Bruce Bochey. His .583 win percentage is the best by any manager who started after 1960. He won four American League pennants—three in a row from 1969-1971-- and the World Series in 1970. The only time that he finished below .500 was 1986 (73-89, .451) his final season managing. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee as Manager in 1996.
"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,” said Orioles managing partner, Peter Angelos. “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."
Said Commissioner Selig of his passing, “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, Marianne, their family and all Orioles fans.”
He was a man that loathed bunting and a strategy of station-to-station leaning on what Bill James would later make a cornerstone of many sabermatricians: don’t squander outs. He was often quoted as saying, “pitching, defense, and the three-run homer" win games. "The only thing that matters is what happens on the little hump out in the middle of the field,” he said. Before the use of computers had made their way into the front offices of clubs in the league, Weaver had a legendary card system of notes that he had collected over his managerial career. He used the notes to his advantage and was keen on knowing particular pitcher-hitter match-ups in which hitters that might be weaker over the course of a season might have a particularly strong pitcher’s number. He knew his players well enough to know that some were weak or strong coming out of Spring Training, and adjusted for it. He knew his players, but rarely engaged with them. "A manager should stay as far away as possible from his players. I don't know if I said ten words to Frank Robinson while he played for me," Weaver once said. And his players often said the same of Weaver. Jim Palmer said, "The only thing Earl knows about a curveball is that he couldn't hit it," a reference to Weavers playing days. But, his system worked. The book, "Weaver on Strategy" is still a valuable read.
His rants with umpires were legendary, even if his physical stature wasn't intimidating (he was all of 5’ 7”). Weaver saw his position of “getting into it” with the umpires as part of his job, not his players. "The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won't hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game," Weaver said.
Finally, one wonders if this Weaver quote will become a reality. "On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.'” I can see Weaver arguing with God now... "Whadda ya mean, I'm in heaven?!? Can't you see I haven't cross the line?!?! Get some $%&#@ glasses!!!"
Goodbye, Earl. Thanks for the memories (CAUTION: ADULT LANGUAGE):