Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver dies at 82

Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles watches from Earl Weaver of the Baltimore Orioles watches from the dugout during an Orioles game in the 1986 season. Photo Credit: Getty/Allsport USA

advertisement | advertise on newsday

The tirades will live forever.

They may have been delivered long ago in an analog age, but they will be preserved for all eternity in digital form. Plenty of fans found their way to those epic videos Saturday when the Baltimore Orioles announced the death of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver at 82.

The clips are evidence of Weaver's reputation as one of the game's most foul-mouthed and fiery tacticians, a man who once said, "On my tombstone, just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.' ''

But his notorious temper and legendary disdain for umpires are only an entertaining footnote in a career that should be remembered for much more.

Weaver stood out as a pioneering force within the game, embracing countless strategies ahead of his time while challenging long-held beliefs about managing. He differed mostly in his views about the best way to score runs, eschewing small ball in favor of waiting for homers.

Weaver saw most sacrifice bunts as wasted outs and once dismissed the hit-and-run as "the worst play in baseball.'' When he wrote a book about managing, he called the second chapter "The Offense: Praised Be the Three-Run Homer!''

"He liked guys who could walk, run deep counts and hit home runs,'' said Yankees broadcaster Ken Singleton, who starred for Weaver's Orioles. "I appreciate him more now than I did then. He brought the best out in all of us.''

Victories validated Weaver's spirit of innovation. "Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization,'' Orioles owner Peter Angelos said in a statement. "And one of the greatest in the history of baseball.''

Weaver's marketing agent said Weaver's wife told him that while on a Caribbean cruise, Weaver went back to his cabin after dinner and began choking between 10:30 and 11 Friday night. A cause of death has not been determined, the agent said.

Weaver was born on Aug. 14, 1930, in St. Louis, where his love of the Cardinals helped lead him to the game. He was undersized at 5-7 and he played for 14 seasons in the minors before the Orioles gave him his big break.

He managed from 1968-82 and 1985-86, winning six division titles, four pennants and the 1970 World Series. His .583 winning percentage (1,480-1,060) ranks ninth in history and fifth among managers who served at least 10 years in the 20th century.

Under Weaver, Baltimore won at least 100 games five times, posting an average record of 106-55 and winning three pennants from 1969-71. He had a .596 winning percentage in his first 15 years and finished with a losing record only once, in his final season, a stretch of excellence created under principles that came to be known as "The Orioles Way.''

Weaver coveted hard data. He appreciated the power of information. He understood the advantages that could be gained by embracing statistics.

When radar guns first came on the scene and the Orioles balked at buying one of the newfangled devices, Weaver was said to have dipped into his own pocket to procure one. When his rivals relied strictly on feel, he referred to index cards packed with statistics that he used to determine in-game matchups.

When his managerial days were finished and baseball historians combed through the record to gauge his accomplishments, they reached a telling conclusion: Few managers had ever been more successful at squeezing out extra wins for his team.

That phenomenon was reflected in Weaver's work from 1977 to 1982. According to a report published by the Society for American Baseball Research, the Orioles consistently outperformed their expected winning percentage based on run differential. Under Weaver, the Orioles averaged nearly six extra wins per season in that span.

"I can sum up managing in one sentence,'' he told The Washington Post in 1982. "Everybody knows all the strategies. Nothing's changed in a hundred years. A manager's job is to select the best players for what he wants done.''

Said Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, who had a volatile relationship with Weaver: "Earl was a black-and-white manager. He kind of told you what your job description was going to be and kind of basically told you if you wanted to play on the Orioles, this was what you needed to do. And if you couldn't do it, I'll get someone else. I know that's kind of tough love, but I don't think anyone other than Marianna, his wife, would describe Earl as a warm and fuzzy guy."

Yet it was the players whom Weaver looked to protect when he stormed the field for each of his 94 career ejections -- the most in the history of the American League. "When people ask me what was it like to play for the Orioles in those days, I say I was fortunate to play with a lot of players who didn't like to lose,'' Singleton said. "And with a manager who hated it worse than we did.''With AP

You also may be interested in: