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Monday, January 21, 2013

Earl Weaver, RIP

Farewell, Earl. I don't have anything really original to say here. Maybe #3 will. So let me just say that I grew up idolizing the guy, who, for me, has always defined what it meant to be a "manager" in the big leagues.

I was born in Charm City to a couple of Oriole fans who took to me to games out at old Memorial Stadium when I was an infant. My dad and I went back for games on a few occasions when I was old enough to appreciate the experience, but long after we had moved to South Carolina, where there weren't a lot of Birds fans. Weaver took over the O's two weeks after I was born and managed them, save his two-year, early-80s hiatus, until I started my freshman year in college. During that time, he had one losing season, his last, in 1986. Oh, and six division titles, five hundred-plus-win seasons, four AL pennants, and one World Series championship, all in a small market town. He seemed so old, but he managed only from age 37 to 56, much younger at retirement than Bobby Cox, Jim Leyland, or Tony LaRussa. Thinking back, it's amazing how much I took for granted rooting for a winning team that was also, bizarrely, the perennial David battling the hated Gotham Goliath.

Many of Weaver's ways resonated with me from early on--the pugnacious little guy, the brainy battler who sometimes had more self-righteous confidence than common sense. He was "Moneyball" before Moneyball, Nate Silver before Nate Silver, using stats to challenge the orthodoxies of old school baseball: the bunt, the hit-and-run, the conventional batting order. In junior high, I got obsessed with baseball stats and developed my own set of metrics, in part, I think, because that's how Earl and the O's outsmarted the big guys year after year. Loved that guy. The Orioles never seemed quite the same after he left--at least not until Buck showed up. With all the smoking and yelling, hard to believe he avoided a heart attack until he was 82. I suspect that that heart attack showed up thirty years ago, but Earl flipped his hat backward, kicked dirt on it, tore it a new one, and sent it cowering to the showers until the coast was clear.

May he rage in peace.


At 5:50 PM, Blogger Number Three said...

Weaver was a great manager, no doubt. It's funny to think that he managed until 1986, the year before the long ball came into fashion. B/c he was a believer in the long ball.

But he was also blessed with some GREAT players, both pitchers and position players (Eddie Murray has always been under-rated). And he was blessed with managing in an era when the Yankees were mostly mediocre (WS teams aside), and the BoSox were awful (aside from 1978?). So his main rival was . . . the Tigers? (No, they were awful for most of his years at the helm, too.)

Oh, to have back the old two-divisions-per-league days. And the days when the Royals were one of the teams that mattered. And the Pirates.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Actually, the Red Sox never had a losing record during Weaver's years with the O's--they just managed to win the division only once during that time, in 1975, when they went to the WS. Meanwhile the Yankees went to four WS during Weaver's tenure, and were pretty good almost every year, just with lots of turmoil.


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