The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Earl Weaver: Strategy, Innovation, and 94 Meltdowns (pt.1)

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As promised, here’s a run-through of the Earl Weaver story I wrote in the summer of 2009 and that was published in the fall, 2010 Baseball Research Journal.  ~  Jeff

Two seasons ago, I witnessed the Florida Marlins attempt to execute a classic Earl Weaver maneuver. It was the fifth inning of a game in Milwaukee. The Marlins, down 1–0, had runners on first and third with two outs. As the pitcher was winding up for the next batter, I nudged my buddy in the seat next to me and drew his attention to the situation. I’d heard the former Baltimore manager detail the play on a radio show some years before. He’d have the guy on first get himself caught in a rundown; meanwhile, the guy on third steals home. Weaver said they practiced the play only once a year, in spring training, but everybody was expected to know it and be ready for the situation any time throughout the season.

The brief discussion may have been lost on my buddy, at least the part about Earl Weaver. He asked if that was the same guy who had been kicked out of all those games way back when; he thought he had seen a few YouTube clips that he described as “hilarious.”

My buddy’s knowledge of Weaver, who retired from managing twenty-four years ago, probably ends with the video clips. In that respect, he’s probably no different from the people who have tuned in to YouTube nearly half a million times to witness the hilarity. One clip isn’t a video so much as a series of still photos strung together to go along with an old recording of Weaver’s radio show, The Manager’s Corner. That particular episode might as well have been scripted by David Mamet for the way Weaver spews profanity. He tears apart the idea of having speed on the basepaths, digs at Terry Crowley and how lucky he is to be in baseball, and finally gives Alice from Norfolk some rather pointed advice about her love life when all she was looking for was some pointers about growing tomatoes.

The other clip is of an infamous fit Weaver threw on September 17, 1980, at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. What unfolds is all too familiar regarding Weaver’s onfield reputation: He storms out of the dugout and erupts in umpire Bill Haller’s face: “You and your crew are here for one reason only—to fuck us!” That happens within the first 30 seconds of the three-minute clip, and it’s enough for Haller to run Weaver for the fourth time. Haller was purportedly featured in a documentary being filmed at the time and so was wearing a microphone that captured nearly every word of the obscenity-soaked tirade. What had Haller done to incur Weaver’s wrath? He’d called a balk on Mike Flanagan. There was one out in the top of the first inning. When Weaver finally decided to leave the field, he passed the pitcher’s mound and told Flanagan, “You got fucked.”  Flanagan replied, “I balked.”

Some would say the YouTube clips are a fitting legacy for Weaver. The audio clip, though, to accompany the montage of still photos is not to be believed. Baltimore sportswriter Rick Maese wrote about it in the Baltimore Sun on May 23, 2008. He found that it was a prank set up by Weaver and Orioles broadcaster Tom Marr. It was inadvertently leaked at one point and continues to fool casual Internet surfers, fueled no doubt by Weaver’s reputation as, to quote Maese, an “ornery cuss.” The question about gardening, that was a reference to the tomatoes Weaver and groundskeeper Pat Santarone grew beyond the outfield fences at Memorial Stadium.

The Haller clip is a different story. It is but one example of the 94 ejections Weaver accumulated throughout his 18-year managerial career. The total still stands as the American League record. (Bobby Cox holds the MLB record at 151 and counting, at the end of the 2009 season.) The number can’t be ignored in any discussion of the combative manager, especially in light of some of the circumstances under which the ejections occurred. Weaver began to earn notoriety in the mid-1960s when he was thrown out of each game in a three-game series while managing at double-A Elmira. (That was enough for Orioles owner Jerry Hoffberger to ask, when he was considering hiring Weaver as manager, how Weaver could manage his team when he couldn’t manage to stay in the dugout long enough.) In 1969, Weaver argued balls and strikes with umpire Shag Crawford and became the first manager in more than sixty years to be ejected from a World Series game. Ron Luciano ran Weaver early in game one of a doubleheader in 1975, and then ran him again during the lineup meeting prior to the start of game two. Weaver then got ejected the next day, thus giving the manager an unofficial record for the most ejections over the shortest amount of time. (Weaver scored two more ejections that year to set his personal season record of ten.) Perhaps fearing that he wasn’t getting enough international exposure, Weaver was once thrown out of an exhibition game in Japan.

But it wasn’t just the ejections that built Weaver’s reputation—many times it was the antics that followed. He kicked enough dirt to start another Dust Bowl, but that was the least of his histrionics. He once shredded a rule book on the pitcher’s mound and even went as far as twice striking umpire Terry Cooney in the face in 1982. The latter action earned Weaver a one-week suspension and $2,000 fine. It was the fourth suspension of his career. Weaver referred to it as a “vacation” granted by AL president Lee MacPhail. The scope of Weaver’s carryings on was so great that it’s probably hard for at least one other manager not to have duplicated any one thing he did on being ejected. Some might argue that former Pirates skipper Lloyd McClendon outdid Weaver when he pulled a base out of the ground and took it with him after he was tossed from a game in 2001. Not so; Weaver did the same thing in 1963.

Written by seeker70

January 22, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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