OK, today concludes the Manager Card section of the Card of the Day. I realized that I, for no intentional reason put two Brewers managers in the bunch. Maybeit was a lack of organization on my part.
But it was always my intention to finish with Earl Weaver. Why? Because he might have been the greatest manager of all time and I wanted to end with a bang.
He never played in the majors. That’s true. The whole “Did you ever do it?” mentality for managers was irrelevant for the best one ever. He played in 1,431 minor league games in the Cardinals, Pirates and Orioles organizations
He played between 1948 to 1960 for teams like Houston, Omaha, Winston Salem, West Frankfort, New Orleans, Denver and Louisville. But only for 4 games did he reach as high as Triple A. He couldn’t hit but he had a head for the game.
Earl was a player manager in the minors before retiring from playing and piloting 3 minor league championships teams. In 1968, he was named part of the Orioles staff and that year replaced Hank Bauer as manager.
They were just 2 years removed from the first ever World Championship in the history of the franchise, dating back to their days as the St. Louis Browns. And that in many ways is the greatest legacy of the Earl Weaver Baltimore days.
YES, he inherited a terrific team anchored by Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson, all Hall of Famers. But lots of managers inherit terrific teams. And Palmer was no Hall of Famer until Weaver got his hooks into him.
And by the time they were in the 1979 World Series, the team, save for Palmer, was basically a brand new squad.
A franchise forever associated with losing had a stretch of brilliance and contention usually reserved for franchises like the Yankees, Dodgers or Cardinals.
Between 1968 and 1982, the Orioles had 11 seasons where they won at least 90 games. Five of those years, they cracked 100 wins. They went to the World Series 4 times, winning the 1970 title. They also won the 1973 and 1974 AL East titles and lost the Division on the last day of the 1982 season.
Weaver retired at the end of 1982 and the 1983 squad, inherited by Joe Altobelli, went on to win the World Series. (Weaver came back to manage in 1985 and 1986, spoiling his great curtain call.)
He developed the likes of Hall of Famers Cal Ripken and Eddie Murray, Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan and a pipeline of solid players like Scott McGregor, Doug Decinces, Bobby Grich and Don Baylor.
He won 1480 games as a manager and looked the part. He was short, gray haired, short tempered and looked MUCH older than he really was. In his famous tirade against Bill Haller he was only 49. He could swear, get ejected and be the colorful character we love.
And yet time has been extraordinarily kind to him. Even though he was a Hall of Fame manager in his day, Earl Weaver might have been either underrated or ahead of his time.
As old school as he looked, he understood the importance of on base percentage and analytics. He looked at match ups and computerized stats before anyone knew what those even were. In his prank audio with Tom Marr where he gave a pretend F bomb laced interview, he talked about his disdain for “team speed.” His reasoning was not wanting players picked off and not scoring.
He was doing Moneyball before Moneyball was a thing.
He also was an expert in bringing up pitchers, not blowing their arms out but breaking them in as relievers and stretching them out to long term careers. There was an “Oriole Way”and it came from a man who on the surface was a screaming cartoon figure but in reality was a long term forward thinking baseball genius.
The Orioles haven’t won a pennant since 1983 and went through long stretches without an October. From 1983 to 2012, they only saw October twice.
Weaver died in 2013 as part of a celebrity cruise in the Caribbean. Was the greatest ever? He belongs in the conversation and I can’t imagine him not getting either a Gold, Silver or Bronze in the discussion.
Either way, let’s enjoy Earl in action.