Baltimore Orioles Team Picture 1980 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 30, 2017

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Earl Weaver only won one World Series as a manager. Isn’t that amazing? That stat almost makes me do a double take. He was such a dominant and influential manager and the Orioles had so many wonderful teams and so many trips to the post season.

And yet he is tied with Bob Brenly for World Series victories.

That isn’t a swipe at Earl Weaver. Many great managers only have won it all once. Leo Durocher has one to his name. Bobby Cox, while a rancid and disgusting human being, was a great manager and just had one title to his name.

Hell, Al Lopez is in the Hall of Fame as a manager and he never won the World Series. So it isn’t like winning multiple titles is a prerequisite for being considered to be an All Time great.

It just seems like Earl won more. The Orioles have won 3 World Series titles in their history. Each one had a different manager. Hank Bauer won in 1966. Mr. Weaver won in 1970. Joe Altobelli won in 1983.

OK, now hold on. Joe Altobelli is a fine baseball man. He had a long and distinguished career and his managing the 1983 Orioles to the World Series title over the Philadelphia Phillies was a fabulous capper.

BUT COME ON! That was a team developed and formed by Earl Weaver! Can’t Earl be given credit for 1/2 a World Series title for it? Earl was in the booth with Al Michaels and Howard Cosell when the Orioles won that title. He was gracious towards Joe Altobelli, not taking any of the credit away from him.

But you know deep down, he knew he should have had that title. Earl Weaver came back after his retirement to manage a few other seasons in the 1980’s but didn’t come close to another title.

This picture shows the team from 1979, who participated in the first World Series I remembered watching. They lost to the Pirates despite having the best record in the regular season and running up a 3-1 lead in the series.

Weaver’s Orioles lost to some classic teams, like the 1971 Clemente Pirates and the We Are Family Bucs of 1979. They also fell to the Charlie Finley A’s in 1973 and 1974. They also beat the Big Red Machine in 1970 and arguably the best A’s team of the 1970’s, the 1971 squad.

Earl Weaver was considered to be one of the best managers of his day and would even be MORE respected today. The sabermetric crowd would love how he hated bunts and sacrificing. Teams should study how he broke in young pitchers, like Jim Palmer, through the bullpen and built up their strength.

He kept winning with a .583 lifetime winning percentage and some of the best arguments in baseball history.

He won a lot. It seemed like he even won more. Earl Weaver was one of the best ever and he didn’t need multiple titles to prove that.

Now let’s enjoy his greatest argument ever.

’77 Record Breaker – Brooks Robinson 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 9, 2017

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Ever have a conversation with someone who was really interesting and engaging, but you REALLY had to go?

Ever feel badly that you had to break off the chat, because they looked like they were really enjoying talking to you, and you awkwardly waited for the pause in the story to say “I really have to go”?

I am sure you have.

I had that experience with Brooks Robinson, one of the greatest third basemen in baseball history.

I never saw him play. This 1977 Record Breaker card issued in 1978 tells of how he spent 23 years, all with Baltimore. That was a record of most consecutive seasons for one club. Carl Yastrzemski would later match those 23 years but as of this writing, nobody has topped it.

Oh there have been players who played MORE than 23 seasons, but they all played for multiple teams.

Robinson arrived in Baltimore in 1955, their second season after moving from St. Louis. He was 18 years old and only got in 6 games. That was when my parents were kids. He kept playing until I was collecting baseball cards.

He was the starting third baseman in 1958 at age 21 and by 1960, he was an All Star, a Gold Glove winner and finished third in the MVP vote.

Like Ripken, he would play every day. There is something about those Baltimore infielders. In 1964, he led the league with 118 RBI, batted .317 in a pitchers era and won the MVP.

By 1966, the Orioles were in the World Series. Now to understand the significance of that, their franchise used to be the St. Louis Browns. They were the worst franchise in baseball year in and year out. Only once did the Browns make the World Series. That was in 1944 when most of the good players were fighting in World War II.

They were a joke and never had won a title. The pennant won in Baltimore in 1966 was the franchise’s second since the first World Series in 1903.

Brooks was matched up with another Robinson, Frank. As far as I know, they are not related. As Frank won the Triple Crown and the MVP, Brooks hit 23 homers and continued to play sparkling defense.

The two Robinson’s teamed up in the first inning of Game 1 of the 1966 World Series. Facing Don Drysdale and the heavily favored Dodgers, Frank Robinson homered to give the Orioles and early 2-0 lead. Brooksie was up next and homered to put the Dodgers down 3-0 before they even came up to bat.

The Orioles pitching was superhuman in the World Series. The Dodgers did not score a single run in Games 2, 3 or 4 and the Orioles swept.

Suddenly the team that could never win couldn’t lose. Robinson and the Orioles played in the 1969, 1970 and 1971 World Series as well as the 1973 and 1974 ALCS.

Brooks Robinson turned the 1970 World Series into a personal highlight reel. He stole extra base hit after extra base hit with his dazzling defense at third. He earned the nickname “The Human Vacuum Cleaner.”

Not to be outdone by himself, he batted .429 with a slugging percentage of .810 and a 1.238 OPS with 2 homers and 6 RBI. Robinson was named World Series MVP as Baltimore won the second title in franchise history in 5 games over Cincinnati.

In 5 ALCS, he batted a combined .348 with and OPS of .883. In all Brooks was named to 18 All Star Games, won 16 Gold Gloves and in 1983, he was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

In 2002, my friend Steve Rosenthal invited me to join him at an event at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The Baseball Hall of Fame was doing a traveling show of some of their exhibits. Steve was writing a story about it for AOL Sports and he had me take a few photographs for him.

Basically it was an excuse for me to meet a bunch of Hall of Famers, knowing I would really appreciate it.

I met Ozzie Smith, Phil Niekro, Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Tony Perez and Juan Marichal. The crowds around Hank Aaron and Dave Winfield were too big and I left them alone. Sparky Anderson was quite funny as I asked him about his cameo on WKRP in Cincinnati.

They had a station where there were hot dogs from the different stadiums. I went over there. Brooks Robinson was there as well. I was munching on a Dodger Dog. Brooksie was enjoying a corn dog. I struck up a conversation with him and a few other people joined in.

He was loud, positive and an extrovert. He was talking about memories playing, tough pitchers he faced and, to my delight, he was talking about current players. At least in 2002, Brooks Robinson was following the game and knew the players and had respect for them.

That year, the Braves planned to move Chipper Jones to the outfield and insert Vinny Castilla at third. Robinson hated that. He felt a kinship with Chipper, also an MVP third baseman, and he thought someday he might join all the Hall of Famers if he stayed at third.

He talked about Chavez of the A’s and his picks for the 2002 season.

Eventually the other people left the conversation and it was just me and the MVP of the 1970 World Series chatting. I was shoving a bratwurst from Milwaukee down my throat while Brooksie had another corn dog.

He just kept talking. Brooks Robinson was a never ending reservoir of anecdotes and memories.

Steve beckoned me. I needed to help him and take a few pictures. But 29 year old Sully was talking with Brooks Robinson.

I did the whole mouth open, finger up, inhale “I need to go” gesture.

Brooks kept on going.

“You know Ken Singleton…”

“Uh… Mr. Robinson.”

“Could never hit that knuckleball…”

“Um…”

“Man those A’s teams were tough!”

“Excuse me. Mr. Robinson.”

“Those fans in Baltimore were something.”

“I really… um… have to go.”

Eventually I was able to interrupt him long enough to excuse myself. I’d probably still be standing there.

It isn’t often that I am having a conversation with a Hall of Famer. It is even less frequent that I basically have to ditch them.

Great third baseman. Better story teller.

Enjoy this pic of the two of us… we were younger then. (I was 29).

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Earl Weaver 1978 Topps – Sully Baseball Card of the Day for November 2, 2017

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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.