From where Earl Weaver is sitting -- in the screened-in terrace of his house, facing the fairway of the seventh hole of the west course at the Country Club of Miami -- the view is just fine, thank you.
He has about an hour before he tees off this morning; he doesn't think he's missed more than one morning since the first of the year. He's a 10-handicap now, down from 14 in Baltimore. "But you don't want your handicap to go too low, because then you'll lose your pocketbook," he says. He doesn't just golf for the fun of it, you see; he's not that kind of guy. If there's no angle to play, no edge to gain, why bother? "I like the competition, playing for the money," he says. Today's game will be for the usual stakes, about $100 worth of side bets. After the golf, maybe he'll play some gin. Then, back home, he and his wife Marianna will grill some ham steaks. "Seems hectic to me, seems like there's not enough hours in the day," Earl says, lighting a cigarette and glancing up at his Golfer's Thermometer, the one where all the degrees are marked with the same number: 75.
He says he'll get to 10 or 15 baseball games this season, with his children and grandchildren in Baltimore, St. Louis, Atlanta and Houston. But he'll watch maybe 75 more on cable, mostly Yankees or Orioles. He enjoys the games on TV, but says he never did in the dugout, even if it looked like nothing could be finer to him than sitting there like a rooster, playing the angles, looking for the edges.
Enjoyment is a key word in his life now. As is money. In the world according to Earl Weaver, you can't have the first without the second.
Right now, his world is good.
"Oh yeah, yeah," he says. "It's what I wanted to do. Here's the thing: you get out of bed in the morning and do anything you want, any time you want. Play golf. Go to the track. Who wouldn't want that? As long as you've got the dollars in your pocket, it's a great life." Earl runs his hand through his hard gray hair -- the perm is history -- and grins. "If I didn't have the money to do what I wanted, I wouldn't be here, I'd be working."
He's 54 years old. That's young. Anything special he'd like to be doing with his time?
"I'm doing it."
Does he miss managing?
"No. There's a difference between playing and managing. Playing is fun. If I was a player, I'd be like the rest of them; they'd have to carry me out. But managing . . . " Earl shakes his head, like he can't believe he actually has to explain this. " . . . that was work. W-O-R-K."
But he liked it, didn't he?
Earl gets this are-you-kidding-me look on his face. "No. It was work." He says the word sourly, as if its mere mention might cause an allergic reaction. "Let me say this: I had to make a living, and I liked it better than anything else -- shoveling manure, planting trees, carrying the hod. It was a great way to make a living. But work is work."
Let's just suppose he had to work again. Could he step in now and be as good a manager as he was?
"I'd have to get that feeling back inside, that I want to do it. I didn't have it anymore; that's why I retired."
In the two years since he retired, has he had that feeling often?
He doesn't want to manage again?
Earl laughs. "Look, I turned down six jobs, one for over $1 million, just from Sept. 15 to the winter meetings. At this time there is no team I'd accept the job from. I turned down six. If 26 would have asked, I'd have turned down 26. I think everyone knows I'm not interested." He grins impishly. "The word's out: forget Weaver -- he don't want to manage. If I did, you know where I'd be: downtown at the stadium; I'd have been there at 8 this morning."
Then I guess we've seen the last of the Duke of Earl, right?
He bounces up animatedly, and, like Casey Stengel used to, starts filling in the answers, having anticipated the questions. "No. 1, I really haven't had to live off what my expected retirement income is. Because of my contract with ABC, there was still money coming in. That was a perfect job: 23 days a year. It let me play golf with my wife on Sunday, go to see a game and some old friends on Monday, then got me back in time to tee off Tuesday morning. And the salary was fantastic. Naturally I'd have liked it to continue -- for the money and for the enjoyment of going into the clubhouse and joking with the guys." A rather wistful look covers his eyes as he says, "I might miss that. You never know."
Parenthetically, and without rancor, he continues: "But I saw it coming, and I wasn't surprised or hurt when ABC didn't renew my contract. I think the name Weaver turned on some sets for two years, and I think I was an excellent analyst. But to be a good journalist you have to ask controversial questions. I didn't want to. What was the point of asking questions I already knew the answers to? Even if I don't agree with them, I know why managers make their moves."
Returning to the original point, he says, "I had that income for two years. And there's still big money coming in from Baltimore this season; I get paid from Baltimore until 1990, but on a much smaller scale."
Is he saying that money would be the factor in him managing again?
"I've got to find out what it costs me to live without any income. And I said this the day I retired: The first time I have to tell (my wife) we can't afford something -- I'm back to work. I call the agent and tell him I'm available. I could get a radio show, or a TV job somewhere on the cable. But as long as I'm going to be traveling, I'd rather be a manager."
Would it matter where?
"No. No. No. Not if you need a job. I'd be back to work as quickly as I could. First job I get."
It probably won't surprise you to know that Earl hasn't been to any Orioles games this spring. "Believe it or not, I've been real busy," he says, "with the golf, and fixing up my van; it needs belts and tires. I'd like to see the guys, but riding down there when they're available early in the morning, that's fighting tough traffic, you know? I've been dying to get down there, but it hasn't worked out."
He lights another cigarette and stretches his legs, altering his angle to the floor. "You know, what I'd really like is to be a consultant. Something that didn't involve a lot of work and travel. Maybe something in the spring, where I could live here, watch their games and share my opinions on certain players."
Nice work if you can get it.
"But who," Earl Weaver is wondering as he sits and listens to the sounds of fairway woods slashing through the thin, clean air, "wants to pay me to do that?"