Earl Weaver does few things without hurling his entire 5-foot-8 existence into them, and fewer still without a good reason. This may help explain his radio show.
Weaver's "Manager's Corner" is only 3 minutes 45 seconds long, a taped pregame monologue that opens most broadcasts on the 60-station Orioles radio network (including WTOP-AM-1500). For 162 shows, he is paid about $16,000 and gets free use of a Toyota station wagon. Not exactly major league broadcasting, but Weaver has been through the bush leagues before. And escaped with infinitely more than his skin.
He works at it--like he works at his dearly detailed pitching rotation. Weaver writes out each show longhand, every morning, on two sheets of yellow legal paper, and talks it into a tape machine later in the day. In it, he summarizes the game just played, explains strategy to come, drops statistics as frequently obscure as they are relevant, grouses about writers who misquote and/or misunderstand him, justifies his infamous blow-ups at umpires (or admits he erred, though he never seems to get around to apologizing), boosts and cajoles and personalizes his players, or dips into the bottomless anecdote barrel available to major league managers with the kind of winning, 35-year careers Weaver has had.
"I came as close to being ejected last night as I've been all year," Weaver said on a show from New York, before, of course, he was ejected twice in six days. "The argument came on a close play at the plate and Rich Dauer was called out by Rocky Roe, the home plate umpire. Everybody charged Roe at the same time and I was sure I was gonna lose a player or two. There was a lotta hollering and a lotta screaming and I strained my voice again. Usually by this time of the year it's almost gone and you can barely hear me . . . "
From Minnesota: "After a nine-game losing streak you can't expect things to straighten themselves out overnight. We're on our way and I've been satisfied no matter what silly things you might be reading about in the papers. Most of the people who've been reporting to you are new at what they're doing. It's just like all inexperienced people--they'll get better as they gain more knowledge."
You'd think he enjoys it.
Weaver grins up at you sideways in his Memorial Stadium office, bent over to tie his cleats. "It's just another way of making money," he says, straightening up. "What do they call it? Rewards for services rendered . . . "
C'mon, Earl. You like it. Used to take you three hours to write a show when you started it in 1980, after Orioles announcer Tom Marr and station WFBR-AM suggested the project. Your first show had eight edits in it, and you sounded like you were reading the Bible. Now you write it--in a conversational style that almost sounds like real life--in less than an hour and a half, and you tape it nowadays in one take, almost always ending within two seconds of perfect. No other major league manager has forsaken the traditional Q-and-A format to write and perform his own show. You've even been known to give the sportswriters a pregame statistical nugget and then, when they start scribbling, to say: "But I scooped ya--that's already on my radio show."
Ask Weaver if this broadcasting business might have any connection with his retirement from baseball, which he vows will come after this season, and you begin to get somewhere. Although slowly.
"I'm gaining experience," he says, "but it all depends on what the dollars would be. I hate to be mercenary but it's a fact . . . "
Weaver goes on at length about the work ethic. Eventually he gets around to specifically what service he'd like to perform for the proper reward: A baseball highlights show, he says. Network radio.
"A regular sports show," Weaver says. "You know there'd be interesting experiences. I could relate whatever's happened to me in my career to, say, a man getting fined or suspended in Milwaukee or Detroit or wherever."
Weaver says he'd model his after similar shows once done by Dizzy Dean, Casey Stengel and one other famous sports figure: Ronald Reagan.
"After he was governor of California he had one of the greatest radio shows I ever heard. Five to seven minutes, when he ripped bureaucracy, said how he was going to cut through the red tape and how he could bring the rate of inflation down. He had a great show, I listened to it every day. It happened to be on when I had to leave my house at 8 o'clock in Miami and sit on Route 95 for 45 minutes in a traffic jam."
Weaver figures aloud, "Now that I know how to do it, and if I could do three shows a week that would go into 50 markets, say, 60 markets--even $5 a market, I betcha that's $250 a show, $750 a week. Certainly I'd want to do it. Especially if I could do it in two hours a day--go over and pull the clips and write, you know, five, 10 minutes a show."
The other thing Weaver says he might like to do, should he be asked (and he will be), is game commentary for television. If the dollars are right, of course.
"A lot of guys would just get up and say I'm money hungry. And I'm not, 'cause I'm giving up a helluva position here just to be with my family and everything--and yes, these things are attractive because they're a way of supplementing income, without being away from home three-quarters of a year.
"I don't want to leave home," Weaver says. "Now, the radio show, with a lot of markets, is very attractive, because I get up 5, 6 o'clock every morning in Miami, and I'd have a radio show done every morning by 8. The television job'd be no more than once a week, maybe twice a week certain weeks, that I'd have to leave home.
"I don't know what retirement's going to be like. I don't know if I'm going to have enough things to do . . . If boredom sets in I'll be looking for something to do, and broadcasting would be something that would keep me away from home less than if I put on my uniform, and still supplement my income."
"He puts a lot into it," says Marr. "The guy's got to be a winner in everything he does. We had to do promotional spots yesterday, and I did mine in one take--so he had to get his on the first take or his whole day would've been ruined."
Weaver's day was not ruined, of course. He did it in one take.