Major League Baseball lost a legend Saturday morning with the news that former Baltimore Orioles manager and Hall of Famer Earl Weaver died at age 82. MLB.com reported that Weaver apparently suffered a heart attack while attending an Orioles fantasy cruise. How sad. It wasn't too long ago that The Stew was celebrating his birthday.
According to The Associated Press, Weaver's wife reported that Weaver went back to his cabin after dinner and began choking between 10:30 and 11 on Friday night. A cause of death has not been determined.
Weaver was a rarity in baseball; a non-player who was worth the price of admission to the ballpark, and always worth turning on the TV when the O's played. He was cantankerous like Billy Martin (without many of the personal demons), and always a threat to get into an animated discussion with an umpire. And watching Weaver get thrown out — especially when he "knew" he was in the right — had to be better than Eddie Murray hitting a home run or Jim Palmer striking out the side.
At least twice one time — Weaver even got thrown out of both ends of a doubleheader. Ine one of the occasions, the second ejection reportedly happened before Game 2 even started. Weaver still holds the AL record for ejections — 94.
Weaver was more than a skilled arguer, of course.
His tactics and strategies, while not universally embraced even today, definitely influenced the game. He helped to make Sabermetrics more than theory. He inspired an awesome video game and fantasy leagues. What was Weaver's strategic gist? Let's just say it included good pitching and defense, along with (almost) no bunting, (almost) no stealing and more three-run home runs. Baseball like it should be played.
Weaver was fairly short — generously listed at 5-foot-7 — and was blessed with prematurely white hair. He also had a scratchy voice, no doubt influenced by his cigarette smoking. Those aesthetics only made his arguments more entertaining. And, as Orioles outfielder Adam Jones says:
Os and @mlb family lost a great leader yesterday. Earl Weaver wasn't blessed wit height but if u measured his HEART he was a 7 footer.
— Adam Jones (@SimplyAJ10) January 19, 2013
And there was more to Weaver's life than baseball. He was an accomplished farmer, and even gardened old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, growing his famous tomato plants in foul territory — the same tomato plants he references in the best gag pregame show in managerial history. Poor Alice Sweet.
Much of the baseball-related internet is paying tribute to Weaver today. Mr. Irrelevant is a good place to stop for photos, stories, tweets and videos — which include this (which is not safe for work or children). It's both classic and typical Earl.
[More MLB news: Pablo Sandoval hospitalized in Venezuela with colitis]
And here's a relatively recent interview with Weaver, conducted by WNST in Baltimore, with Earl talking about O's manager Buck Showalter, and why Weaver was auctioning some of his O's memorabilia in recent times. He was still sharp.
Weaver and the Orioles won the 1970 World Series and won three more AL pennants, and he finished with a 1,480-1,060 won-loss record from 1968-1982 and 1985-86. The Orioles also won the World Series in 1983, during his first retirement. I can't help but think they would have won with him, too.
He was inducted into Cooperstown in 1996. Via USA Today, Weaver once made this suggestion for after he died:
"On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.' "
Hopefully there are tomato plants for Earl to garden in baseball heaven. At least some dirt to kick on umpires.
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