On Saturday, the baseball world mourned the loss of one of its greatest managers and perhaps its most colorful personality, Earl Weaver, the fiery and beloved 5-foot-7 leader of the Baltimore Orioles who was often the center of attention himself. He managed the Orioles for 17 years, most of them in his first tenure from 1968 to 1982, when he led them to five 100-win seasons, four American League pennants and won a World Series.
“I grew up in the minor leagues with Earl Weaver and we proceeded to spend a significant portion of our lives together,” Nationals Manager Davey Johnson said in a statement released by the Nationals. “He was as intense a competitor as I have ever met. No one managed a ballclub or a pitching staff better than Earl. He was decades ahead of his time. Not a game goes by that I don’t draw on something Earl did or said. I will miss him every day.”
Johnson played for Weaver with the Orioles from 1968 to ‘72. Under him, Johnson made three all-star game appearances, won all three of his Gold Gloves, won a World Series (1970) and learned how to be manager. When Johnson manages, talks about his team or his managerial style, Weaver’s name, philosophy or a funny story about him occasionally emerges.
“I don’t like to bunt,” said Johnson during last season’s playoffs. “I’m kind of from the Earl Weaver school: Just keep swinging.”
Johnson is patient with his slumping hitters, just like Weaver. He prefers the three-run home run, just like Weaver. There were some clashes of personality between the two, too, just like Weaver had with some of his other players. Ahead of his time, Weaver embraced advanced statistical analysis but, of course, Johnson would regularly go into his office with some new numbers and analysis of how the Orioles’ offense would be better if Johnson would hit higher in the batting order. Johnson even managed the Orioles, like Weaver, from 1996 to 1997.
“Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball,” Orioles owner Peter Angelos said in a statement. “This is a sad day for everyone who knew him and for all Orioles fans. Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. On behalf of the Orioles, I extend my condolences to his wife, Marianna, and to his family.”
Added MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, in a statement: “Earl’s managerial style proved visionary, as many people in the game adopted his strategy and techniques years later. Earl was well known for being one of the game’s most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal.”
More on Earl Weaver:
Obituary: Former Orioles manager dies at 82
Thomas Boswell: Weaver was all that, and more