As Earl Weaver always reminds folks, his autobiography is entitled, "It's What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts."
In Weaver's case, his advice may apply best to himself.
In the last fortnight, Weaver has shown he still has much to learn.
Perhaps it's lucky for the Oriole manager that he's retiring. If he weren't, he might get a public roasting for his recent antics.
In the midst of an off-form season as manager, Weaver has put his most immature, unappealing side on view this month by being ejected from three games in a week and slap-punching an umpire in the face.
Then, after the good luck of getting off with a one-week suspension and $2,000 fine, Weaver acted like a juvenile thumbing his nose at the principal. In a written statement, Weaver mocked President Lee MacPhail of the American League, calling him "harmless . . . like a little boy," and thanked him for a week's "vacation" in which he, Weaver, the great celebrity, would earn "five to 10 times" the amount of the fine in personal appearances. Weaver even flaunted the idea that he'll find a hiding place and continue to manage by walkie-talkie.
For a man who's earned fame by exercising baseball judgment, Weaver often has a stunning lack of common sense.
Slap-punching an umpire in the face is intolerable. As one Oriole put it, "If it had been a player, he'd have been suspended for the season." At the risk of agreeing with Richie Phillips, the executive director of the Major League Umpires Association, a 15-day suspension and $10,000 fine would have been in line, maybe even mild.
Instead of admitting what every replay shows--that he lost his cool and swatted Terry Cooney--Weaver is playing it cute and coy. Even his strongest apology--"If there was physical contact, and the films seem to indicate there was, I am truthfully sorry"--doesn't go far enough.
In Weaver's defense, and it's a weak one, this Cooney-Weaver bout, while unsanctioned, was not unprovoked. For a week, Weaver was convinced his club was getting jobbed by umpires as interested in proving their toughness as their competence. Six Oriole ejections, all brought about by incorrect calls, had Weaver in a paranoid boil; when Cooney, who'd ejected him the night before, missed a vital call at first base by many feet, Weaver snapped.
As the umpires' union has grown stonger, gaining overdue benefits, a noxious side effect has developed: Some umpires think they're due deference as well as dollars and have become too belligerent. Ken Kaiser, Joe Brinkman and Steve Palermo are on any All-Rabbit-Ear team. General Manager Hank Peters of the Orioles remembers that the late supervisor of umpires, Nestor Chylak, once said: "These new breed umps don't know how to step away from trouble. They just make it worse."
These circumstances may mitigate, but they don't excuse.
The person Weaver is hurting most is himself. He's damaging a public image--as a smart, studious, intuitive, humorous and hot-tempered tactician--an image that he cultivates, relishes and deserves. The last thing Weaver needs is to leave the game remembered as a hothead who smacks an umpire, then insults the league president.
Weaver is sometimes wise, often charming, but an example to youth he ain't.
Baseball is full of difficult judgment calls; Weaver is one of them.
"Earl has tried to make light of what is a very serious thing," Peters said. "But all of us, including Earl, recognize that it is serious. As to Earl's 'statement' . . . well, Earl's Earl. No one's going to change him, or attempt to. You take the bad with the good, and in Earl's case, the good is far greater."
If Weaver's escapades now get him second-guessed in public, then that's no more than the second-guessing that's pervaded his own clubhouse this year. What follows is a four-month compendium of recurrent Oriole grumblings.
In April, Weaver preached curve balls to his pitchers, who got crushed; only a return-to-fast-balls insurrection got the staff back on course. Weaver nagged Cal Ripken Jr. to pull the ball for homers until he slumped so badly that Coach Cal Ripken Sr. told his son just to hit like he always had--to all fields. Young Ripken has hit over .300 since.
Catcher Rick Dempsey, always intimidated by Weaver's second-guessing, is in a pitch-calling coma; much of the staff prefers Joe Nolan. The most perplexed Oriole is reliever Tippy Martinez, who has been asked to warm up 165 times this season. In 1980, Dick Howser, then managing the Yankees, warmed up Goose Gossage only nine times in games he didn't enter.
While proven Orioles Terry Crowley and Benny Ayala rust on the bench (125 at-bats combined), and Ken Singleton is not allowed to play the outfield, Weaver continues to use exasperating, fundamentally atrocious Dan Ford (288 at bats) as though he were Al Kaline, not a four-star specialist in rally-killing. Aging Al Bumbry, given the "go" sign all season, has tried only nine steals. Why not platoon him and, finally, give Gary Roenicke, the team's best outfielder, a shot as a full-time player?
Weaver has stubbornly continued to leave Jim Palmer in games to be beaten in the late innings, even though Palmer wants relief. Yet, Weaver often hooks his other starters too early.
Perhaps worst, Weaver has made a habit of using mop-up men Ross Grimsley and (until cut) Don Stanhouse in the middle innings of close games. That's partly why the team has a 49-29 record entering the sixth inning (with 10 games tied), but is only 47-41 overall. Weaver might study how Ralph Houk uses his four-man bullpen in Boston.
After all, even the best manager of his era should know that it's what you learn after you know it all that counts.