American League President Lee MacPhail announced today that he has suspended Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver for one week and fined him $2,000 for striking umpire Terry Cooney in the face Saturday night during an argument in Memorial Stadium.
"Cooney reported that he was struck in the face twice by Weaver. Weaver acknowledges (the) contact but (says) that any contact was definitely unintentional," MacPhail wrote in issuing his sternest penalty in eight years as league president.
"A close review of the films shows that there was contact by Weaver's right hand or fist to Cooney's face, at least once . . . I am accepting Mr. Weaver's solemn assurance that it was not (intentional) . . . I am convinced that there was no real malicious intent to hurt Cooney.
"Nevertheless, we have a situation where an umpire has been hit in the face," continued MacPhail. "Any one who argues with an umpire in this fashion must bear the consequences . . ."
Weaver reacted with the blend of impertinence and humor that he has polished in previous suspension episodes with MacPhail in 1976, 1979, 1980 and 1981. In a counter press release of his own devising, Weaver wrote, "Hi, newspeople. This is Earl Weaver just outside manager's corner!
"Lee MacPhail has again been kind enough to grant me seven days vacation during the regular season. The only thing unfair about this is that he gives his umpires two weeks during the year."
Weaver continued to thank MacPhail for his "kindness" in allowing him to earn "five to 10 times" the amount of his $2,000 fine in "personal appearances."
Weaver described MacPhail in his release as "harmless . . . like a little boy. If you lead him in the right direction and watch him closely enough, everything will turn out all right."
In conclusion, Weaver wrote that he was "contemplating renting an apartment close enough" to use a walkie-talkie to continue to manage the Orioles from the hiding place. "I just hope I don't electrocute myself."
Richie Phillips, executive director of the Major League Umpires Association, said the penalty was too light. "The association feels it was most severe conduct to be dealt with in a most severe penalty," Phillips said.
Phillips said Weaver deserved to be suspended for the rest of the season. "But I can see where he (MacPhail) did not want to hurt the players, teams and fans and in light of that I think $10,000 and a 15-day suspension would have been appropriate."
Cooney, working tonight's Orioles-Angels game here, said of Saturday's incident, "Weaver punched me in the chin with his balled-up fist, really popped my head back, just like you see in a fight. Then, he hit me with the back of his fist as he brought his arm back." Cooney was bumped so hard last season by Oakland Manager Billy Martin that Martin was suspended for a week and fined $1,000.
"I think we were both dumbfounded by what he did," said Cooney. "I said, 'I don't believe you just did what you did.' And I don't think he believed it, either. All the color drained out of his face. (Umpire) Vic Voltaggio said, 'Earl, you better calm down. You could have a heart attack.' Earl said, 'I might. It isn't worth it.' Then, he walked off."
Weaver further shocked Cooney by calling him the next morning at his Baltimore hotel and suggesting a meeting in the manager's office. Cooney shocked Weaver in return by accepting. That meeting has so pacified the two that, tonight, they were glowing in their praise of each other, Cooney calling Weaver "a great competitor who just gets carried away" and Weaver calling Cooney "an outstanding individual for sitting down and talking with no animosity or hateful, revengeful feelings."
In Weaver's absence, Coach Cal Ripken Sr. will manage the Orioles. However, Ken Singleton said, "We're all going to put our names in a hat and draw out a manager of the night. It should be Richie Dauer first 'cause he does the best Earl imitation. He's really got that laugh down pat."
"If we can just win the next six games (in seven days)," said Dauer, "then there's no way Earl would come back into the dugout until we lost. He's much too superstitious to change anything if we were winning."
As Weaver entered his crowded office for a pregame press conference, he saw that microphones had been placed all over his desk, covering his statistics and lineup card. In an instant of temper, he grabbed two microphones and threw them onto the floor.
Seconds later, he was muttering contritely, "I'm sorry that happened. Now you can see how I keep getting suspended."
When TV reporter Brooks Robinson asked why Weaver's suspensions of a decade ago were more serious business, Weaver responded, "Ten years ago, this wouldn't have been fun. I've learned to enjoy it. I used to be in awe of the ballplayers. I thought they really cared if I was on the bench. If we're gonna win it, they (the players) are gonna win it, not me . . . I guess you can have some fun, too."
Weaver then recalled his first ejection, in 1968, 83 thumbs before Cooney got him. "(Umpire) Larry Napp put his big, plated shoe on my foot and started grinding. He cussed me in the face with things I'd never heard. All I could say was, 'Old man, this game's passed you by. It's a young man's game now.'
"After the game, my foot and my feelings were hurt, so I told the press what Napp had done. They said, 'That's funny. That's exactly what Larry said you did to him.'
"Then," said Weaver, "Napp was about the age I am now. And I was about 37 then, the age Cooney is.
"Now, I'm the one possibly getting too old for the game."