Earl Weaver, Hall of Famer and Orioles manager for 17 years, passed away early this morning from an apparent heart attack while on an Orioles-themed cruise. He was 82.
Baltimore contributing writer Mike Unger was covering Orioles FanFest today and got a chance to ask Jim Palmer, never a man of few words, about his unique relationship with the Earl of Baltimore:
[Earl] went to every statue dedication. It was almost like a victory tour for him because, you know, we got to see him again. I only get to see him at the Hall of Fame. But I would call him every Christmas, wish him a Happy New Year . . . It's a sad day for anyone that knew Earl, but it's also a sad day for anyone that was involved with Oriole baseball. We were lucky to have him here because he did end up in the Hall of Fame. He had some marvelous teams. And now we all share the pain of him being gone.
Obviously, personally and professionally, Earl was about winning. I first saw him when I was 18 years old in Thomasville, Georgia. I was down there, the first year I played professional baseball. He managed Elmira. I ended up playing for Cal Ripken Sr. in Aberdeen. We won 14 straight games in spring training. I saw this little pudgy guy with a crew cut running around; he didn't have grey hair at the time. And I said, "Who's that?" and [Ripken Sr.] said, "That's Earl Weaver. If you go to AA next year, he'll be your manager. If you go to AAA, he might move to Rochester."
But I didn't see Earl again until, other than spring training, I came here after having a torn rotator cuff trying to make the ball club in 1969 . . . Earl was a black-and-white manager and he kind of told you what your job description was going to be. He basically told you, "If you want to play on the Orioles, and you want to be a part of a successful formula, this is what you need to do and, if you didn't want to do it, I'll go find somebody else." And I know that's kind of tough love, but I don't think anybody, other than his wife Marianna, would describe him as a warm and fuzzy guy. But my relationship was, he gave me the ball before the game, we won, I won a lot of games and played on some very good teams, and we both ended up in the Hall of Fame. So did we have a love-hate relationship? Yeah. Did he shake my hand when I won? No. Because he didn't want to be my best friend. At the time, you'd maybe resent that. But, we got along.
It's a sad day. But I think it's appropriate that they are celebrating baseball here at the FanFest in Baltimore. And the other thing, if he was up on stage today, managing the ball club, he'd be telling us that the 93 games we won last season are gone. You can never be complacent with Earl Weaver. He won 109 games and the whip came out real early. It wasn't a stretch to the Preakness. The whip was out as a jockey when we went to early spring training in Mexico and lost a game. He said, "Let's get it in gear." Earl was all about winning. He didn't sugar coat it. And we had some marvelous games under his leadership.
The one thing about Earl Weaver, he did not want to be your friend . . . he thought it would detract from his ability to be a manager. The one thing he did want to do is let you know that he was loyal—whether it was Don Buford, Al Bumbry, Brooks Robinson, myself—by putting your name on the lineup.
[Image: courtesy of Baltimore Orioles]