Growing up as a fan of the Baltimore Orioles as I did there were several faces of the franchise that helped shape one’s opinion of the O’s. The names and faces that one most identified with was determined mainly on when one first started following the team. For me the names most associated with the Orioles were Cal Ripken, Jr., Jim Palmer, Rick Dempsey, Eddie Murray, and of course the leader of the bunch Manager Earl Weaver.
Earl Weaver recently passed away at the age of 82 while on a Fantasy Cruise for Orioles fans. To think that the man so associated with the Orioles would spend his final moments in the presence of Orioles fans, despite having last managed the team over two decades ago, is a testament to the lasting impact that Earl Weaver had on baseball as well as the Orioles who were the only Major League Team that he ever managed. The Earl of Baltimore, as he was known, led the Orioles to the World Series four times over 17 seasons and won the title in 1970. His .583 winning percentage ranks fifth among managers who served 10 or more seasons in the 20th century. Earl Weaver finished with a 1,480-1,060 record and won Manager of the Year honors three times. Earl Weaver was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.
I was fortunate enough to meet Earl at Tinker Field in Orlando on December 17, 1989. He had recently retired from the Orioles for a second time and like many retirees before him had found his way to Florida. On this particular day Earl was managing the Gold Coast Suns of the Senior Professional Baseball Association against the Orlando Juice. For me, he could have been managing a team of preschoolers in Tee Ball; it didn’t matter. What mattered was I was able to walk onto the field before the game and meet one of my early heroes. We talked, he signed an autograph and it became the first of many brushes that I would have with sports figures, and other public officials through my career as a reporter and a fan. Despite the ensuing years and other high profile meetings I still consider standing on the third base line of Tinker Field talking baseball with Earl Weaver one of my favorite baseball memories. To this day I have the framed autographed baseball card hanging in a place of honor in my office. Other autographs lose their luster or stay hidden away but not Earl’s. It sort of reminds me of the man himself who was a personality that could not hide and who had many ideas and techniques that were ahead of their time 20 years ago and have now become common place.
Earl was able to see his beloved Orioles reach the playoffs last year after a long drought. I like to think that put a smile on the old school manager’s face. Maybe he even went out in the backyard and kicked some dirt around just to feel like he was back on the field and part of the action. I highly recommended searching for Earl Weaver vs. Umpires videos. There were some classics that make some of the theatrics of the WWE seem pale by comparison. But what else would one expect from an original like that? Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go find some dirt to kick Earl Weaver style.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson