Earl Weaver, the fiery manager who led the Baltimore Orioles to four World Series appearances, died on the team’s fantasy Caribbean cruise at the age of 82.
Weaver suffered an apparent heart attack yesterday, according to the Major League Baseball team’s website.
Weaver’s 17-season career with the Orioles was punctuated by dirt-kicking arguments with umpires that resulted in ejections and public feuds with his star pitcher Jim Palmer. At 5-foot-6 he mostly looked up when yelling, and he never backed down.
“The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won’t hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game,” Weaver once said, according to the Baseball Almanac.
Weaver returned to Oriole Park several times during the past season as he and other notable players, such as Cal Ripken Jr. and Palmer, were honored with bronze statues at the ballpark.
“Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball,” Orioles owner Peter Angelos said in a statement. “Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field.”
With a philosophy built on pitching, defense and the three-run home run, Weaver had a 1,408-1,060 record over 17 seasons in two stints as Orioles manager.
“He was terrific,” said Dan Duquette, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations. “And his simplicity and clarity of his leadership and his passion for baseball -- he’s unmatched.”
He won 100 or more games five times, captured six American League Eastern Division titles and guided Baltimore to four World Series appearances, winning his only title in 1970. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.
“Earl’s managerial style proved visionary, as many people in the game adopted his strategy and techniques years later,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “Earl was well known for being one of the game’s most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal.”
Weaver’s feisty demeanor led to many confrontations with umpires. He’d often turn his hat backward and yell right into the umpire’s face as he argued calls and would sometimes kick dirt on the umpire’s shoes or home plate after being ejected.
“On my tombstone just write, ‘The sorest loser that ever lived,’” Weaver told the Washington Post on Oct. 6, 1986.
Weaver also was known for butting heads with his star pitcher Jim Palmer, who said he received a call at about 3:30 a.m. from former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor who was on the cruise with Weaver.
“After he retired, we became more like friends, a relationship you couldn’t have when you were playing,” Palmer said on masnsports.com. “Earl didn’t want to be the players’ friend. But he let you know he was loyal to you.”
Ripken began his record-breaking consecutive game streak of 2,632 games while playing for Weaver, who moved him to shortstop from third base at the end of 1981. The streak began on May 30, 1982.
“Earl was such a big part of Orioles baseball and personally he was a very important part of my life and career and a great friend to our family,” Ripken said. “His passion for the game and the fire with which he managed will always be remembered by baseball fans everywhere and certainly by all of us who had the great opportunity to play for him.”
Weaver, speaking about Ripken to MLB.com in 2007, said, “There was nothing to keep him from being a star in the Major Leagues. That was inevitable.”
Weaver replaced Hank Bauer as manager during the 1968 season and led the Orioles to a second-place finish in the American League. Baltimore won the AL pennant the next three seasons, beating Cincinnati in the 1970 World Series.
The Orioles again won the AL Eastern Division in 1973, 1974 and 1979, when they were beaten by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series. Weaver retired after the 1982 season, but returned to the dugout three years later.
Baltimore went 53-52 after he took over in 1985 and finished last in the AL East in 1986 with a 73-89 mark. It was the only losing season of Weaver’s career and he retired again after that.
Born Aug. 14, 1930, in St. Louis, Weaver attended Beaumont High School where he played second base, according to Terry Pluto’s “Weaver on Strategy.” After playing eight years in the minor leagues, Weaver realized he would never move up to the majors so he turned to managing. In 1957, he was hired to manage the Orioles’ Class D club in Fitzgerald, Georgia.
“When I started managing in the minors, I never thought about getting to the big leagues,” he said in the book. “I was happy to have a job in baseball and I did it as well as I could.”
Weaver’s 14-year marriage to his first wife, Jane Johnston, ended in divorce, the Washington Post said. Survivors include his wife since 1964, the former Marianna Osgood; three children from his first marriage; and a stepdaughter from his second marriage.
Weaver died on the day the Orioles were celebrating their annual Fanfest at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Manager Buck Showalter, in an address to season-ticket holders yesterday, said, “Every time I look at an Oriole, it’s going to be missing a feather now without Earl.”