When a young umpire's blown call cost the Baltimore Orioles a home run Sunday, Manager Earl Weaver did a strange thing.
He didn't go crazy.
Nor did he curse the umpire, throw his cap, kick dirt, tear up a rule book, step on the guy's toes or recite the 23rd Psalm. Instead, he jogged out to the field, calmly asked a couple of questions and returned to the dugout.
Later, he said if this had been a regular-season game, he would have been thrown out because "I wouldn't have left the field without getting the home run back.
"That was one run," Weaver said, "and everyone in the park knew it except the guys who counted. When I was on the field, I walked over to Mike Schmidt and he said, 'Tell, the kid catcher Al Pardo he reached Boardwalk.' That's what they call that sign a billboard behind the right field fence , Boardwalk."
Once upon a time, such an incident might have set Weaver off in a dozen different directions. Forget that this is spring training. This is the man who once pulled his team off the field in a spring game at Fort Myers, Fla., and the man who got one of his 93 career ejections during spring training.
Has Weaver mellowed?
In what sounded like a parody of himself, he said, "No. During the season, that's when I'd go banana cake."
Not all umpires have agreed with the late Nestor Chylak, who never threw Weaver out of a game because he said Weaver made the games better and Weaver made the umpires better.
Not Marty Springstead, who said, "I don't put up with a lot of his crap. Look how many times I've thrown him out."
Not Jim Evans, who according to Weaver, last summer told him, "The game has passed you by."
Yet as the Orioles have bused across Florida this spring, the sight of Weaver coming onto the field to argue with an umpire has drawn more crowd reaction than a home run by George Brett did in Fort Myers or one by Andre Dawson in West Palm Beach.
Likewise, when Weaver hasn't left the dugout on a close call, there have been dozens of yells begging him to come out and get something started.
Weaver-umpire arguments have become part of baseball's folklore, and with spring training a chance for fans to see slices of regular-season moments, almost everyone wants to see one of these slices.
So, does this little man really hate all these umpires? People who know Weaver best say: Sort of.
They say his relationship with umpires is strange, especially since he doesn't yell at them any less than he yells at players, trainers, reporters or anyone else he believes is guilty of incompetence or unfairness.
They say Weaver yelling at everyone who performs under his standard -- an umpire who blows a call or an outfielder who misses a cutoff man -- is part of the magic that has helped him finish first or second in 12 of his 14 full seasons with the Orioles and win 100 games or more five times.
But in his dealings with umpires, a bigger question may be: Does Weaver yelling at umpires hurt or help the Orioles? The former, some say.
"Let's put it this way," Orioles pitcher Mike Flanagan said, "he treats all umpires the same, and they aren't all the same. Some respond differently, and I know he gets to certain ones, which may end up hurting me in a game.
"Sometimes I tell them before a game that we both know he's going to be yelling, but just try to give me a good game. I can usually tell which ones are already looking in the dugout before the first pitch. Overall, I really believe he makes an umpire bear down, and I like that better than one who is passive."
Last summer, Springstead achieved the distinction of tying Ron Luciano for the most career ejections of Weaver (seven), and the two have been feuding intermittently for years. This year, he was named American League supervisor of umpires, and his memories of Weaver are strong and sometimes bitter.
Springstead admits few people know the rule book better than Weaver, but it's the style with which he uses this knowledge that bothers him.
"This job is like a player's in that concentration is so important," he said. "But working a game with him in the dugout is like wearing a headset. I'm behind the plate trying to do my job, and there's this little voice in my ear the whole night. It just gives you something else to think about, and when it gets to be too much, I get rid of him.
"What bothers me is that Weaver won't give a young umpire a fair chance. He's a very skilled manager, and I certainly respect what he's done. But I don't like putting up with his stuff ."
In discussing this story, Weaver was testy, and a little irritated, perhaps because a large part of him truly does not like umpires and may not respect them, either. At the same time, he knows talking publicly about them does him no good.
Asked about an argument with Evans that led to him getting thrown out of both ends of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium last September, he said, "I don't think any less of Jim Evans than I did before."
He smiles and winks, another way of saying he didn't think much of Jim Evans to begin with.
"They're at the top of their professions," he said. "My reactions are to the situations. I don't like losing my temper, but that goes along with the job. I respect the umpires, but I respect my players, too. If a player makes a mistake, I tell 'em. Why shouldn't I tell an umpire?"
Is there a certain amount of showmanship involved? "No," he said, "I'm trying to win a ball game."