“No one managed a ballclub or pitching staff better than Earl,” Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson, who played under Mr. Weaver in Baltimore and in the minor leagues, said in a statement. “He was decades ahead of his time. Not a game goes by that I don’t draw on something Earl did or said.”
‘His teams always won’
Earl Sidney Weaver was born in St. Louis on Aug. 14, 1930. His father ran a dry-cleaning shop and cleaned the uniforms of the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns, the team that in 1954 moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles.
Mr. Weaver was good enough as a second baseman to attract professional scouts, and he played minor league ball in the Cardinals’ and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ systems. Realizing that he had limited talent, he began managing in the Orioles’ system in 1956.
He led teams in Georgia, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Upstate New York before arriving in Baltimore as a first-base coach for the Orioles in 1968. That season, he replaced Hank Bauer as manager.
In 1969, Mr. Weaver led the Orioles to 109 wins — the most in team history — but lost the World Series to New York’s “Miracle Mets.”
The next year, the Orioles won 108 games and then beat the Cincinnati Reds in five games for Mr. Weaver’s one World Series title. (The Orioles’ 217 victories in two consecutive seasons are a major league record.) Twice more, in 1971 and in 1979, Mr. Weaver took the Orioles to the World Series, only to lose both times to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Before computers and statistical analysis became part of the game, Mr. Weaver relied on handwritten note cards, detailing the tendencies and records of every player his team would face. He understood the importance of on-base percentage and other statistical measures long before many other managers and often used a pinch hitter or changed pitchers to gain a more favorable matchup.
He disliked sacrifice bunts, which he considered “giving away an out,” and he especially hated it when his pitchers walked opposing hitters. His favorite “strategy” was the three-run homer.
“You win pennants in the offseason when you build your team with trades or free agents,” he told Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell in 1982. “The three-run homers you trade for in the winter will always beat brains.
“The guy who says, ‘I love the challenge of managing,’ is one step from being out of a job.”
Mr. Weaver understood each of his player’s strengths and weaknesses, and he seemed to have a gift for knowing which ones to play and which ones to bench at any moment.
“The man’s a genius for finding situations where an average player — like me — can look like a star,” John Lowenstein, an Orioles outfielder in the 1970s and 1980s, told The Post in 1982. “He has a passion for finding the perfect players for the perfect spot.”