Fiery Orioles manager Earl Weaver dead at 82
Baltimore went 53-52 over the last half of the 1985 season, but finished seventh in 1986 with a 73-89 record. It was Weaver's only losing season as a major-league manager, and he retired for good after that.
"If I hadn't come back," Weaver said after his final game, "I would be home thinking what it would have been like to manage again. I found out it's work."
Former umpire Don Denkinger said he called one of Weaver's last games in the majors.
"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 told The Associated Press by phone from Arizona. "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."
Weaver finished with a 1,480-1,060 record. He won Manager of the Year three times.
"I had a successful career, not necessarily a Hall of Fame career, but a successful one," he said.
Weaver came to the Orioles as a first base coach in 1968, took over as manager on July 11 and went on to become the winningest manager in the history of the franchise.
"Earl was such a big part of Orioles baseball and personally he was a very important part of my life and career and a great friend to our family," Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken said. "His passion for the game and the fire with which he managed will always be remembered by baseball fans everywhere and certainly by all of us who had the great opportunity to play for him. Earl will be missed but he can't and won't be forgotten."
He knew almost everything about the game. He was also a great judge of human character, and that's one of the main reasons why he was loved by a vast majority of his players even though he often rode them mercilessly from spring training into October.
"Did we have a love-hate relationship? Yes," Palmer said at Saturday's event. "Did he shake my hand after I would win? No. Because he didn't want to be my best friend. At the time maybe I resented that. But I've gotten over it."
Pat Dobson, who died in 2006, pitched two seasons under Weaver.
"Certainly, the years I played for him were the two most enjoyable years I've had," he said.
During games Weaver smoked cigarettes in the tunnel leading to the dugout and he never kicked the habit. He suffered a mild heart attack in August 1998, and the Orioles' manager at the time, Ray Miller, wondered aloud how his mentor was holding up.
"I wouldn't want to talk to him if he hasn't had a cigarette in 10 days," Miller joked. "They've probably got him tied to a chair."
Umpires found out just how demonstrative Weaver could be. Denkinger remembered a game in which the manager disputed a call with Larry McCoy at the plate.
"Earl tells us, 'Now I'm gonna show you how stupid you all are.' Earl goes down to first base and ejects the first base umpire. Then he goes to second base and ejects the second base umpire. I'm working third base and now he comes down and ejects me," Denkinger said.
Much later, after they were retired, the umpire asked Weaver to sign a photo of that episode.
"He said absolutely. I sent it to him, he signed it and said some really nice things. It's framed and hanging up in my office back home in Iowa," Denkinger said.
Weaver was a brilliant manager, but he never made it to the majors as a player. He finally quit after spending 13 years as a second baseman in the St. Louis organization.
"He talked about how he could drive in 100 runs a year, score 100 runs and never make an error," said Davey Johnson, who played under Weaver in the minor leagues and with the Orioles from 1965-72. "He said he never got to the big leagues because the Cardinals had too many good players in front of him."
He still made his mark on the big leagues.
"No one managed a ballclub or pitching staff better than Earl," said Johnson, who manages the Washington Nationals, and ran the Orioles from 1996-97. "He was decades ahead of his time. Not a game goes by that I don't draw on something Earl did or said. I will miss him every day."
AP Baseball Writer Ben Walker contributed to this report.
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