Sometimes it seems like the truth is the best disguise.
Tell everybody everything that's on your mind and thus remain a mystery.
Earl Weaver's mastered the trick.
He tells the world exactly what he thinks. So, the world says, "Crafty devil. Wonder what he really means."
The baseball fraternity is in a bit of a tizzy these days trying to guess whether Weaver will manage next year or remain in the ABC-TV booth.
This is a matter of some interest because, in this period of parity, Weaver could probably take the reins of any of a dozen teams and have it in the playoffs in a couple of years.
Ask Weaver if he'll manage next year and he says he doesn't know.
That's because he doesn't know.
When he says he's content and not looking for any change, he means it.
"I'm completely happy with my life. Hey, does it look like I'm having enough fun?" Weaver said here Monday as he horsed around with old cronies like Cubs Manager Jim Frey. "When you saw me out at Pine Ridge (golf course in Baltimore) last month when I was pickin' up my wife after her round, did I look like I wanted to be in a hotel room in Cleveland waiting for a night game?"
When Weaver also says he wants to wait to see if ABC renews his six-figure contract for 1985 after judging his work in the playoffs this week, he means that, too.
"We'll see what ABC does," says Weaver, acutely concerned about his future since the network has put him on the "B" playoff game here while placing Jim Palmer on the prime-time "A" telecasts.
"I've always had baseball in my life and this (TV job) lets me see old friends. It's something to look forward to . . ."
"What have I done (as a broadcaster), 50 games? There's a ways to go. I can't answer the questions about how good I'm doin' or not. If you'd asked me in '57 in Fitzgerald, Ga., after my first year as a manager, I'd have said, 'I can do better.' You go home and think of your mistakes. Same in TV. The 35 years (experience) makes a difference."
When Weaver says he'd be glad for the Boston Red Sox or any other team without a manager to put his name on its list of candidates, he means it.
"I don't expect anybody to wait on me (for a decision). It might come as late as the winter meetings," says Weaver, who wants to fan the embers of interest in him for the next few weeks -- until ABC decides. "If I came back, I guess there'd be some cities you'd prefer more than others. Where the club is in the standings isn't as important. Contenders are made. Look at the Cubs and the Padres. Things change fast."
The worst thing an ex-manager can do is create the impression that he will never manage again. That would even cut his appeal to ABC as a glamor name.
When Weaver teases about coming back as the Baltimore Orioles' manager, that's definitely not a joke. He is a loyal man and he might have been stung by how the club won a world title as soon as he retired. Now that the Orioles might need him again, appreciate him again, he might like the idea of returning.
It's an open secret in Baltimore that owner Edward Bennett Williams is a charter member of the Weaver fan club. Williams is lukewarm, at best, toward incumbent Joe Altobelli, the strong, silent manager whose true supporter is General Manager Hank Peters.
"I have a handshake agreement with Mr. Williams that I'll never take another managing job without talking to him first," says Weaver, grinning as mischievously as a Bowery Boy. "I've dropped my Oriole affiliation. I was a consultant for them in '83 but not this year. When I was a consultant, they did real well. I musta did a helluva job."
Weaver is even a tad serious when he says that he might neither manage nor do television next year but simply get another job as a "consultant" for some team.
"Without this 'extracurricular' activity," says Weaver of his TV work, "I might say, 'I'm gonna miss the game. How can I get into a major league park? You know, we ex-managers are frugal. Paying your way in is a last resort."
It's a lot more than a last resort. One of the firmest unwritten rules in baseball is that, once you've been part of the game as a player, coach, manager or even front office person, it's supposedly a humiliation ever to have to come back to the park as a "civilian."
These days, Weaver is no civilian. Cubs coach Don Zimmer asks him if he'd like to know the Chicago signs. Padres players hail him through the crowds.
Weaver sneaks up behind a Padres coach and says in a disguised gravelly rasp, "Hey, Harry Dunlop, come here." As the coach comes over, laughing, Weaver says, "Okay, here's your assignment," and gives Dunlop a list of a half-dozen players ABC needs to interview.
Weaver wanders into Frey's domain and says, through the sea of notebooks, "You taking all the credit?"
"He's just afraid ABC's going to let him go," retorted Frey, "and he'll have to go back to giving the bunt sign."
That's called truth in jest and Weaver wouldn't even bother to deny it.
"My words are the same as always," says Weaver.
" 'It all depends.' "
And, as usual, that's the truth.