Cumberland Times-News

Mike Burke - Sports

January 19, 2013

No. 4

There I was, sitting in my car in the parking lot of the Virginia Avenue Sheetz yesterday ... wiping away some tears.

I knew they would come, but when they did, they came from out of the blue.

A friend had just texted to me, “ESPN in the article about Weaver referred to him as the ‘Duke of Earl’.”

“Probably some fuzzy-faced intern,” I thought to myself, “who wasn’t even alive when Earl last managed.”

So, even though I knew my friend knew, I texted back, “The Earl of Baltimore,” and that’s when it hit me. Earl Weaver was gone. The manager of our team, the Baltimore Orioles, had died on an Orioles fantasy cruise ship. Hopefully, he died happy, doing something he loved doing — like taking somebody’s money at the card table.

I’ve been messaging with my friends all day about Earl. We all grew up with Earl Weaver. None of us ever met him, but we know him. None of us ever spent a moment with him, but we love him.

If I may, I would like to run a column I wrote about The Earl of Baltimore that appeared in this space on Sunday, July 1, 2012.

______

When left-hander Ross Grimsley was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 1974 season, he came from the National League with the reputation of being a spitballer. During spring training he was specifically told by Orioles brass that there would be none of that here. Orioles pitchers do not throw at opposing hitters and Orioles pitchers do not load up or cut the ball. Orioles pitchers pitch the proper way — The Oriole Way. And why not? They had produced a dozen 20-game winners in the previous six years.

Fast forward to a September game in which the Orioles were battling their way to the American League East title (it happened quite frequently in those days, kids). Grimsley, who would win 18 games his first season in Baltimore, was on the mound and he was in a jam. The Orioles needed the game (they eventually beat out the Yankees by two games) and it had clearly reached its most critical juncture.

Out from the dugout walked the Orioles’ pitching coach George Bamberger, no doubt, to remedy a certain flaw he had detected in Grimsley’s pace or delivery. This is what the Orioles’ brilliant pitching coach told Ross Grimsley: “Earl said if you know how to cheat, he wouldn’t wait one pitch longer.”

And that, friends, was the essence of Baseball Hall of Famer Earl Weaver, the greatest manager in Orioles history and one of the greatest managers in baseball history, who was immortalized yesterday with the unveiling of a seven-foot statue at Camden Yards.

Weaver is likely better known to the YouTube generation for his classic confrontations with umpires, once saying, “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.”

Over the course of his 17-year career, Earl made sure his team wasn’t hurt 97 times, including once in 1969 when he became the first manager in 34 years to be tossed from a World Series game.

In Baltimore, though, Weaver was better known for his battles with his own Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, although the two shared more of father-prodigal son relationship than either one would ever admit. The two met in 1967 after Palmer developed a sore arm and was sent to Triple A Rochester where Weaver was managing. In 1969, Palmer was back with the Orioles after Weaver had become their manager and they remained together until 1982, when Weaver retired for the first time.

In its review of Palmer’s hilarious book, “Palmer and Weaver: Together We Were Eleven Foot Nine,” Publishers Weekly reported, ”Superficially, they were vastly different: Palmer was cerebral, tall and handsome; Weaver was emotional, short and not so handsome. Yet they had their similarities: stubbornness and single-minded devotion to winning. They fought in the clubhouse, on the field, in the press, but their mutual will to win helped the Orioles be the most successful major-league team of the ’70s.”

Palmer famously said, “The only thing Earl knows about pitching is he couldn’t hit it.”

Weaver, no wallflower himself, once said, “The Chinese tell time by ‘The Year of the Horse’ or ‘The Year of the Dragon.’ I tell time by ‘The Year of the Back’ and ‘The Year of the Elbow.’ This year it's the ‘Year of the Ulnar Nerve.’

“Someone once asked me if I had any physical incapacities of my own. ‘Sure I do,’ I said. ‘One big one — Jim Palmer.’ ”

Weaver, whose autobiography was titled, “It’s What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts,” always said, “The key to winning baseball games is pitching, fundamentals, and three-run homers,” and that is how the Orioles played and won, five times winning 100 games or more, 11 times winning at least 90, six AL East titles, four pennants and the 1970 World Series. Weaver’s lifetime winning percentage of .583 ranks ninth all-time among baseball managers.

If there was a knock on Weaver it was that he lost three World Series, but that wouldn’t be a problem many managers would mind having.

After the Orioles had lost the 1979 World Series in seven games, Weaver credited the victorious Pittsburgh Pirates for his club’s inability to hold a 3-1 lead in games at home. “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock,” he said. “You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.”

Weaver announced his retirement prior to the 1982 season, and after the Orioles lost the final game of the year to the Milwaukee Brewers in what was essentially the division championship game, despite a 10-2 game having been decided early, not one fan in sold-out Memorial Stadium would leave until they could say goodbye to Earl Weaver.

Finally, Weaver came out, followed by the rest of the Orioles, to say goodbye to the fans. And for the next 45 minutes, the Earl of Baltimore waved goodbye for what we all believed to be the final time. Through a deafening and continuous roar, none other than the great Howard Cosell described on ABC Television one of the most emotional and heart-warming moments in Orioles history:

“You are bearing witness to one of the most remarkable scenes maybe that you will ever see in sports. Yes, the fans have stayed. They have stayed to cheer and to honor the retiring manager of the Birds of Baltimore. A man, who in 15 years, has become an absolute legend.

“The defeat will hurt ... there’s Harvey Kuenn over to congratulate him, and Earl Weaver is crying. And you can understand why. Very rarely has there been a scene like this, if ever.

“These people of this city, a city that has become a beautiful city under a brilliant mayor, with an inner harbor equivalent of Boston. And there’s Edward Bennett Williams, the owner, the great criminal attorney. And there they are standing and chanting, all of them, in unison.

“And the sign says it all, ‘Goodbye Earl.’ And you deserve it. You’ve been one of the greatest managers in the history of the game.”

Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at mburke@times-news.com

1
Text Only
Mike Burke - Sports
  • Terps need to move and move quickly

    The good news is Maryland will never have to play another basketball game in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Goodbye, good riddance, sayonara, smell ya, no more of you, stay classy, we won’t let the door hit us on the way out.
    Until we see you in court.

    April 13, 2014

  • Then again, he’s manager of the Yankees, and I’m not

    I went to bed confused Wednesday night, which in itself is nothing new. But having
    watched most of the Orioles-Yankees game, including the final three innings, earlier
    in the evening, then watching the late Baseball Tonight before I turned in, I was under the impression that the Yankees had won the game when I was pretty sure before watching the show that the Orioles had won.

    April 11, 2014

  • At times we all should allow for a little flex

    Other than when I was a student in the Allegany County Public Schools System, I’ve always believed the most thankless job there is — or at least one of the most thankless jobs there is — belongs to the person who ultimately hits the switch on whether or not to call off school because of the weather. You’re slammed if you do, you’re slammed if you don’t. No matter what you decide it’s no win, but, like managing a baseball team or running a bar, everybody knows they could do it.

    January 11, 2014

  • A treasured member of the family of baseball

    When a former professional football player from our past dies, he is most often remembered as being one tough son of a gun, or a wonderful runner or pass catcher, or as a brilliant quarterback.

    January 10, 2014

  • Bob Giffin believed in the goodness of us all

    The first time the Giffin family exploded onto my radar was at a Fort Hill basketball game years ago in the old Fort Hill gym. Believe it was a City game, which meant the place was packed, the walls were sweating and the smell of popcorn permeated the atmosphere. And through it all marched the family Giffin in perfect formation, tallest in the front, shortest in the back, led by father Lew, mother Donna, oldest son Bob, second son Tom, third son Donnie and fourth son Johnnie.

    December 28, 2013

  • Redskins do that voodoo that they do so well

    This time last year the Washington Redskins were in the midst of a seven-game winning streak on their way to the NFC East title. Mike Shanahan was being hailed as the perfect football presence the franchise had sorely needed for so long. Quarterback Robert Griffin III in the sprint option was being hailed as the single greatest invention since the wheel, and beleaguered Daniel Snyder, the little owner who couldn’t, was being hailed for not even trying as he allowed his two-time Super Bowl winning coach and lord of all things football to pull the strings on all things football.

    December 13, 2013

  • Fort Hill’s approach is all-inclusive

    After Fort Hill opened everybody’s eyes last season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year (*1), it was a pretty sure bet that the Sentinels, given all of their returning resources, would be making a run for the state championship this year (*2).

    December 6, 2013

  • What resource will the O’s allocate next?

    In November 1993, Dan Duquette, then the general manager of the Montreal Expos, traded second baseman Delino DeShields to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a young pitcher by the name of Pedro Martinez. According to a story in last Sunday’s New York Times, upon completing the deal, Duquette, now general manager of the Baltimore Orioles, told Neal Huntington, then a member of the Expos front office and now the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, “This trade is going to be hated in Montreal.”

    December 4, 2013

  • No month of Sundays this Friday

    With Fort Hill comfortably in control Friday night in its eventual 46-7 1A West Region semifinal victory over Manchester Valley, and with score updates from the other semifinal pouring in from nearby Washington County, Greenway Avenue Stadium was abuzz, for the unthinkable was about to take place — Fort Hill was going to play Hancock.

    November 16, 2013

  • Mike Burke Ty Johnson works hard, and makes it look easy

    Any summer day you might go to Greenway Avenue Stadium to get a little exercise you are likely to see any number of high school athletes there working out — football players, soccer players, basketball players, any kind of player you might want to think of.

    November 9, 2013 1 Photo