Former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver passed away early this morning of an apparent heart attack during an Orioles themed cruise in the Caribbean Sea. He was 82.
Weaver was a light hitting minor league infielder who found his niche in managing. He joined the Orioles organization as a minor league manager in 1957 and worked his way up the ranks until he made the big league club in 1968 as their first base coach. Mid-way through that season, the O's fired manager Hank Bauer and named Weaver as his successor.
All Weaver did was lead the O's to three consecutive AL pennants between 1969 and 1971 with the likes of Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Boog Powell and Mark Belanger. However, they came up short against the Miracle Mets and Roberto Clemente's Pittsburgh Pirates in '69 and '71. Weaver's only World Series triumph came in 1970 over the Cincinnati Reds.
After leading the Orioles to consecutive AL East titles in 1973 and 1974, Weaver would win his final AL pennant in 1979. Unfortunately for Weaver, a three games to one lead wasn't enough to overcome Willie Stargell and the "We-Are-Famalee" Pittsburgh Pirates.
The 1980 Orioles were arguably better than the '79 team winning 100 games. But with no wild card back then, the O's finished three games behind the Yankees. Two years later, it went down to the last game of the season but the O's fell one game short of winning the AL East as Don Sutton outduelled Jim Palmer to give the Milwaukee Brewers their first divisional crown.
Weaver would retire after the 1982 season and watched Joe Altobelli lead the O's to a World Series title the following year. The Orioles brought Weaver back for the 1985 and 1986 seasons but he could not replicate his earlier success.
Between 1969 and 1982, the O's won 90 or more games every year except 1972, 1976 and 1981 ('72 and '81 were strike shortened seasons). In all, Weaver had a 1480-1060 record as Orioles skipper.
Weaver stressed pitching, defensive fundamentals and a three run homerun. He was also amongst the first managers to utilize statistics in setting the lineup. Weaver use of the platoon system brought out the best in journeymen players like John Lowenstein, Benny Ayala, Gary Roenicke and Jim Dwyer.
But above all else, he was a nightmare to big league umpires everywhere and was ejected from more than 90 games over 17 seasons. Although Bobby Cox would eventually eclipse his record, no one was more colorful in clashing with umpires than Weaver as demonstrated with this famous argument with Bill Haller during a game against the Detroit Tigers in September 1980 after Haller called a balk against the late Orioles starter Mike Flanagan. Let's just say this conversation is NSFW.
During the argument, Weaver said he was going to the Hall of Fame. Haller scoffed but the Veterans Committee voted Weaver into Cooperstown in 1996.
Well, the Earl of Baltimore has found a Heaven full of people with whom to start arguments. Only they won't be able to eject him.