Earl Weaver: His Game Mattered

I was drawn to Earl Weaver as a kid because he always seemed to be arguing with the umpire. He was the quintessential skipper of his day, rivaled only by Billy Martin, in that same fashion. An eccentric professional, nonetheless, Weaver fielded some solid teams, perhaps some of the greatest lineups in baseball history, during his 17 years with the Baltimore Orioles (1968-82; 85-86).

Weaver’s style of managing was summed up in the quote: “pitching, defense, and the three-run homer.” He did not believe in playing “small ball.” Scientific tactics such as hit and run plays, stolen bases, or sacrifice bunts were rarely employed, but rather, Weaver relied on stout defense and big innings.

He also played Moneyball before Moneyball! More on that later…

More known for his wild antics and less for his actual winning, which came in abundance (1,480–1,060 / .583), Weaver was ejected from at least 91 games during his illustrious career (98, according to some sources) and several times during the postseason. He was ejected from a doubleheader three times and twice from games before they even started.

Humor often followed.

During one particular tirade with an umpire, Weaver headed to the dugout screaming, “I’m going to check the rule-book on that” to which the umpire replied, “Here, use mine.” Weaver shot back, “That’s no good — I can’t read Braille.”

He once told an umpire he could appear on the gameshow What’s My Line? wearing all his umpire gear (mask, chest protector, uniform) and still nobody would guess he’s an umpire.

In 1969, Earl Weaver became the first manager to be ejected from a World Series game since Charlie Grimm of the Chicago Cubs in 1935.

Like a peacock’s strut, Weaver had a penchant for kicking dirt on umpires and turning his hat backwards. One of his most infamous blowups came on September 17, 1980, in a game against the Detroit Tigers. First base ump Bill Haller, who was wearing a concealed microphone for a documentary about the daily life of an umpire, called a balk on Oriole pitcher Mike Flanagan. Weaver charged out of the dugout and went into one of his curse-fueled speeches, all of which was caught on tape. They accused each other of being liars after Weaver said the ump poked him in the chest. The video has since become historically hysterical.

You can look it up on YouTube… and WARNING. It’s full of dare I say colorful language.

Weaver is also responsible for the only forfeited game in Orioles history.

On September 15, 1977, in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Weaver asked umpire Marty Springstead to have a tarpaulin covering the Blue Jays’ bullpen removed; the tarp was weighed down by bricks and Weaver argued his outfielder could get injured if he needed to pursue a ball to the area. Springstead refused and Weaver, in turn, ordered his team off the field.

The game was immediately called.

The Moneyballer

Despite his old school approach to the game, Weaver was among the first managers to employ advance statistics as a way to give his batters additional advantages at the plate and his pitchers leverage against opposing lineups; not just during key moments in a game like other managers but throughout the entirety of play! He had various notebooks and computer sheets with all sorts of splits and head-to-head numbers for his batters and pitchers, and he would assemble the best lineups accordingly.

For example, he had no issues taking slugger Boog Powell, the 1970 AL MVP, out of the lineup in favor of Chico Salmon when the numbers dictated a better matchup.

The players’ slash lines against, say, Mickey Lolich:

  • Boog Powell .178/.211/.278
  • Chico Salmon .300/.349/.400

TV broadcasters would vehemently question a move like this. That is, until Salmon would get on base followed by a Don Buford single and eventually a Frank Robinson three-run bomb! Moves like this along with exhilarating finishes were all too common for the Orioles during Weaver’s tenure at the helm.

In 1984, Weaver was credited by then CNN sportscaster Craig Sager with being the first major league manager to have used computerized statistical analysis in an MLB team’s decision-making process.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996 by the Veterans’ Committee.

Weaver’s game mattered.

Earl Weaver Famous Quotes

“We’re so bad right now that for us back-to-back home runs means one today and another one tomorrow.”

“Bad ballplayers make good managers, not the other way around. All I can do is help them be as good as they are.”

“I never got many questions about my managing. I tried to get twenty-five guys who didn’t ask questions.”

“No one’s gonna give a damn in July if you lost a game in March.”

“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.”

“This ain’t a football game, we do this every day.”

“A manager’s job is simple. For one hundred sixty-two games you try not to screw up all that smart stuff your organization did last December.”

“Don’t worry, the fans don’t start booing until July.”

Earl Sidney Weaver (August 14, 1930 – January 19, 2013)

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