We posted a good piece yesterday by my columnist colleague Cal Thomas on gentlemanly Stan Musial, a great player who died at age 92 on Saturday and deserves fond remembrances. Another Baseball Hall of Fame member who died on the same day at age 82, Earl Weaver, isn’t receiving as much ink, but his colorful career deserves pondering.
When Weaver was a manager in the Baltimore Orioles minor league system in 1961, Orioles executive Harry Dalton told The Baltimore Sun that Weaver was “colorful and aggressive. Once he charged an opponent’s dugout with a flying tackle, hit a post, and wound up in the hospital with a shoulder separation. But he has mellowed some lately, and that is good.”
Mellowed? Weaver started managing the Orioles in 1968, and umpires over his 17 seasons at the helm ejected him from games at least 91 times during the regular season (some say 98). Sportswriters loved his tirades when an umpire’s call didn’t go his way, and quoted some of his wit under pressure: When he screamed at one umpire, “I’m going to check the rule book on that,” the ump replied, “Here, use mine,” and Weaver retorted, “That’s no good—I can’t read Braille.”
The superb New Yorker writer Roger Angell called Weaver “the best naked talker I ever heard. Deadline-aware writers, seeking him out in his office shortly after another last out, would often find him behind his desk gnawing on a chicken wing, sans uniform and undies: a 5-foot-7, birthday-suited unsentimentalist.” The naked manager produced a book, Weaver on Strategy, that included baseball theories well applicable to life: “If you play for one run, that’s all you’ll get. Don’t play for one run unless that one run will win a ballgame.”
Angell noted that Weaver in his arguments with umpires “was an intellectual at heart, having discovered that tipping the bill of his cap to one side would allow him to get an inch or two closer to the arbiter’s jaw, without incurring the automatic ejection of the tiniest physical contact.” Weaver kicked dirt on umpires and several times pulled up bases from the dirt and heaved them. Reporters generally saw Weaver’s red-faced screaming as hilarious: The Baltimore Sun stated, “Caricatured by the media, Weaver seemed not to care,” as he roared at umpires in a voice that resembled “a Cuisinart set on puree.”
But maybe Weaver did care, particularly as he looked back at his life. ESPN reported that in 2010 Weaver spoke about the onset of instant replay in baseball and lamented its unavailability when he was managing: “That would have saved me a lot of embarrassment … because each and every time I got thrown out of a ballgame, I had lost my temper and I was embarrassed when I got home.”
The Baltimore Sun reported that Weaver penned his own epitaph: “On my tombstone just write, ‘The sorest loser that ever lived.’”