On occasion, Big League Stew honors a birthday boy by reminiscing about his career. Please join us in lighting the candles.
As a manager, Earl Weaver believed in three things. Good pitching, the three-run home run and being able to kick dirt on an umpire because video replay review wasn't yet available. On Tuesday, the man behind this Hall of Fame philosophy turned 82 years old.
Weaver won 1,480 games over 17 seasons in two stints as Orioles manager, from 1968-1982 and 1985-86. His O's won the 197o World Series, along with four AL pennants and six division titles. From '69-'71, the Orioles won an astonishing 318 games utilizing a powerful offense and some of the best starting pitching the league has ever seen. Weaver managed Hall of Famers such as Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal Ripken.
Weaver also was a prematurely white-haired spitfire, notorious for animated arguments with umps that, if necessary, included aggressive pointing, chest-bumping and dirt-kicking. He was the kind of manager who was worth the price of admission all by himself. A little over a week ago, The Stew posted about a fan who made a $3 purchase at a thrift store and came away with a vintage, game-worn Earl Weaver jersey. How did the buyer know it was authentic garb? Because a pocket was sewn in for Weaver's cigarettes. He sometimes blamed his chain-smoking on Don Stanhouse, an Orioles closer who liked to live dangerously and was appropriately nicknamed "Fullpack." But Weaver was also an intellectual — a sabermetric forefather — as blogger Jack Moore of Disciples of Uecker points out:
Weaver is something of a hero to sabermetricians; he was one of the first inside baseball men to openly eschew "small ball" tactics like the hit-and-run and the sacrifice bunt. He was famous for at least two quotations that are key to sabermetric thought today: "If you play for one run, that's all you'll get," and "On offense, your most precious possessions are your 27 outs."
He also gave the world perhaps the best mostly joking (NSFW) sound clip in major-league managerial history.
"Team speed?!" Unless you're Terry Crowley, how could you not love this man? For some background on the audio, here's a Rick Maese column from 2008.
Best Year: 1970: 108-54 regular-season record, 7-1 in playoffs, World Series championship
Worst Year: 1986: 73-89, 7th place, AL East
Off the Field: As the audio indicates, Weaver also was a semi-professional farmer. Inside of Memorial Stadium at Baltimore, Weaver planted tomatoes. In part, to compete with O's groundskeeper Pat Santarone.
They just don't make managers like this anymore. Happy birthday, Earl. Here's to ya'.