Friday, January 25, 2013


Earl Weaver is dead.

Somewhere devilish umpires are laughing out loud.

But, there is no joy in Baltimore tonight.

The king of bad umpire loathing, dirt kicking,  tantrum throwing, hard cussing, jaw chewing baseball managers has been ejected from the game of life. Earl Weaver knew what epithets were and he knew how to use them, often, and with enthusiastic fervor.  

The little round man, loved by Oriole fans and loathed by losing opponents and irritated umpires, died on a baseball fan cruise on Friday night.  He was 82 years old.

The Hall of Fame manager, who led his beloved Baltimore Orioles to six Eastern division championships,  four American League pennants and a single World Series title, served as the player-manager of the Dublin Orioles in 1958.

After one year without baseball, Dublin returned to the minor leagues, this time in the Georgia-Florida League.   The league fielded  six teams in its Georgia division:  the Dublin Orioles, the Valdosta Tigers, the Albany Cardinals, the Brunswick Phillies, the Thomasville Dodgers, and the Waycross Braves.

The Dublin team, which heretofore had veteran baseball men at the helm, took a chance on a 27-year old player who had bounced around the minor leagues for ten years. Before he began his major league managing career, Earl Sidney Weaver began his minor league career as a 17 year old in West Frankfort in 1948.  He enjoyed his best seasons in the minor league at St. Joseph in 1949, Omaha in 1951 and Denver in 1954.  In 1957, he played his last season as a regular player with Fitzgerald in the Georgia-Florida League.

During the 1958 season, Earl played in thirty seven games, tallying  twenty five hits, four home runs, and twenty one runs batted in.  In his  eighty five at bats,  Weaver hit for a .294 average with six doubles and twenty seven runs scored.  Earl mainly played at second base, but moved himself to left field when the situation required it.

Weaver managed two future major league stars in Dublin.  Dave Nicholson, (LEFT) a hard swinging power hitter, once signed the largest rookie contract in the history of baseball.  Nicholson played seven seasons in the "big show", including a season with the Braves. His 61 home runs were overshadowed by his 573 strikeouts.   Steve Barber, (BELOW)  a fire-balling southpaw, was a member of the pitching staff of the Baltimore Orioles,  which rose to prominence in the 1966 World Series.  Steve led the American League in shutouts in 1961, finishing with an 18 and 12 record. Barber pitched in the majors for 15 years with many teams including three seasons with Atlanta.   Despite their future major league performances Barber and Nicholson failed to receive any post season honors in the Georgia-Florida League.  First baseman Dave Bednar, outfielder Dick Ewin, and pitcher Ron Pearson were named to the Ga./Fla. All-Star team. The Orioles led the league in the number of players on the team.  Bob Bird was voted the team’s  most valuable player and Pearson was chosen as the most valuable pitcher for the Orioles.

The Orioles played well that year, especially for a new team.  They were consistent winners, especially in front of the home crowd.  The Birds finished in third place in both halves of the season.  Albany won the first half and Valdosta the second half.  The Valdosta Tigers won the post season playoff.  

The 1958 Ga./Fla. League was one of the better Class D minor leagues.  Several of the players went on to play in the major leagues.  Valdosta Tiger Dick McAuliffe, a three time All-Star, was regarded by many as one the best American League shortstops of the 60s. He played 16 seasons for the Tigers and the Red Sox.  McAuliffe, who led the AL in runs scored in 1968, was a leader of the 1968 World Champion Tigers.  Don Wert, also playing for Valdosta, led the AL in fielding percentage in '65.  Wert enjoyed his best season in 1968 playing on the all-star team and third base for the World Champion Tigers.   Mike Shannon, an outfielder for the Albany Cardinals, played third base for the World Champion Cardinals in 1967.

Weaver was hired as a coach for the Orioles in 1968. He finished out that season as the manager with a winning record.  In his first season, he led the Orioles to the American League Championship, before losing the World Series to the "Miracle" Mets.  Weaver led the Orioles to the World Championship in 1970.  The Orioles  won a third consecutive league title in 1971, losing to the Pirates in the World Series.  The Orioles came back in 1973 and 1974 to win Eastern Division titles.  Weaver's last pennant was in 1979 when the Orioles lost to the Pirates in the World Series.

Earl Weaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on August 4, 1996, becoming only the 12th manager to be enshrined.  His .583 winning percentage ranks him fifth on the modern all time list.  Weaver, known as a fireball when it came to arguing with umpires, was most proud of the fact that he was never fired.  Weaver had more 100-win seasons (5)  than any other manager except Joe McCarthy of the Yankees.  He only had one losing season, his last, in 1986.  Weaver ranks seventh all time in winning percentage (1,480-1060 - .583%) and first among managers who began their careers after 1951.

His 98 ejections are an American League record.  Once he was ejected from a game for smoking in the dugout.  In the next game, he presented the lineup cards with a candy cigarette in his mouth.  He got tossed again.

Somewhere you will find Earl Weaver on his perch,  following the ball, eyeing every check swing, every tag play, ready to fly out of the dugout, pounce on and  devour anyone who got in the way of his team winning the game.

Love him or lose him, Earl Weaver was a winner.  He would settle for nothing less, for in his own words he was “the sorest loser who ever lived.”

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