Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Sports

Fiery managing legend Weaver dies

BALTIMORE — Earl Weaver penned his own epitaph.

"On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived,' " he once said.

The Orioles' irascible, chain-smoking, umpire-baiting manager who led the team to four American League pennants and the 1970 world championship in 17 years, died Friday night while on a baseball-themed cruise.

The Hall of Famer was 82.

Mr. Weaver piloted the Orioles from 1968-82 and in 1985-86, earning nicknames like "the little genius" and "the Earl of Baltimore." He finished 1,480-1,060, and his lifetime winning percentage (.583) ranks ninth all-time and fifth among managers in the modern era who managed 10 years or more. Five times, Baltimore won at least 100 games for Mr. Weaver, who stood 5 feet 7 but was a legend to his players.

"Having Earl gives us a four-game lead on everybody," pitcher Sammy Stewart once said.

Mr. Weaver's death came on the eve of the team's FanFest.

"It's a sad time, but at the same time Earl would say, 'I hope it won't mess up FanFest,' " Orioles manager Buck Showalter said at the event, where Mr. Weaver's No. 4 hung from behind the stage. "Every time I look at an Oriole now, it's going to be missing a feather without Earl."

The Orioles failed to post a winning record under Mr. Weaver only once (1986). His career was defined by an affinity for the three-run homer and a long-running feud with superstar pitcher Jim Palmer that both jokingly played to when together.

It was also defined by his temper. He was ejected 91 times, including once in both games of a doubleheader.

Former umpire Don Denkinger said he called one of Mr. Weaver's last games.

"He comes to home plate before the game and says, 'Gentlemen, I'm done.' He told us the only way he'd ever come back is if he ran out of money," Denkinger said. "I told him that if he ever ran out of money to call the umpires' association and we'd take up a collection for him. We'd do anything, just to keep him off the field and away from us."

Mr. Weaver was always a fan favorite, and the Orioles faithful got several opportunities to let him know that during the course of the club's uplifting 2012 season. He returned to Baltimore repeatedly to take part in the special series of statue unveilings in the centerfield plaza at Oriole Park, including the one that was dedicated to him on June 30.

He showed his softer side during his acceptance speech, applauding all the great Orioles who also are immortalized in bronze there and many more of the players who helped him become a managerial legend.

"What comes to mind is, 'Thank God those guys were there and thank God we won 100 games three years in a row so I could come back for a fourth,' " Mr. Weaver said. "And thank God for the fourth that won enough games for me to come back for the fifth and on to 17."

Mr. Weaver won six AL East titles in those 17 years and was known as one of the games great strategists. He was selected by the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee for induction in 1996.

Palmer said he heard of Mr. Weaver's death at 3:30 a.m. Saturday from former Orioles pitcher Scotty McGregor. McGregor was on the same Orioles-theme cruise with Mr. Weaver. "I didn't get much restful sleep after that," Palmer said.

"There weren't any gray areas with Earl," he said. "We had a love-hate relationship. Earl was going to tell you what he expected, and there wasn't a lot of room for error with him. Earl was about winning and that was what he did."

CUBS: The team announced a five-year, $300 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field.

INDIANS: Free agent outfielder Ryan Raburn, a former Durant High standout, is close to agreeing to a minor-league contract.

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