It goes without saying that there’ll never be another Earl Weaver, because as we all know each person is unique in this world and once they’re gone the world isn’t the same. However this column isn’t about reflections on the man, or even necessarily the mark that he left on baseball and on the Baltimore Orioles. When most people hear the name Earl Weaver, they think of a short and stodgy manager that didn’t tolerate many bad calls from umpires. For the record, Weaver was thrown out of 98 games as a manager, an AL record that stands to this day. And that right there is my beginning point as to why we’ll never see another Earl Weaver.
Granted Bobby Cox holds the MLB record for career ejections at 158. However Cox achieved that number over 26+ years in the dugout; it only took Weaver 16+ years to get to 98. (It’s also worth mentioning that Weaver was run out of seven postseason games as well.) However Cox’s ejections didn’t have anywhere near the amount of flavor that Weaver’s did. I suspect that anyone who “got run” out of that many games today might have to start working another job in the off season to pay off his fines.
As a former basketball coach who was ejected from a youth game in 1999, I respect a coach’s right to voice his displeasure with bad officiating. However in most sports we don’t see coaches being ejected (or disciplined) as often as the likes of Earl Weaver, Bobby Knight, Billy Martin, et al. (Ironically, Baltimore’s football coach, John Harbaugh, has collected a couple of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for barking at officials.) The likes of a character like Earl Weaver eventually might be run out of the game today because he wouldn’t be able to survive the numerous suspensions he’d receive. I feel like these days most managers might get ejected 2-3 times a year. Weaver averaged 6 + ejections each season.
I suppose what I’m saying is that while baseball definitely celebrates the fire of a guy like Earl Weaver, it seems that kind of attitude is also frowned upon by today’s standards. In fairness, I don’t think baseball would tolerate some of the antics that umpires would pull with Weaver either. We’ve all seen the video of Weaver’s tirade against umpire Bill Haller; Weaver was fairly disprespectful, but Haller gave as good as he received. In another famous incident after Weaver threw his cap on the field during a tirade umpire Don Denkinger walked over to the hat and rubbed it into the dirt with his feet.
However there’s more to this than just Weaver’s demeanor towards umpires. Earl Weaver was a pretty hard-nosed type of guy in general. Birds Watcher staff writer Randy Buchman shared a story on Saturday about former Oriole Pat Kelly telling Weaver that he was “walking with God.” Weaver’s response was that he’d rather him walk with the bases loaded. Former players such as Jim Palmer and Rick Dempsey have all said things to the effect that they loved playing for Weaver, but they couldn’t stand him. Granted all of these types of comments are often made in a roasting type of manner in that they had a genuine respect and love for the man. However again, ask yourself if that kind of thing would fly today…?
As much as it might not sound like it, I’m not being critical of Earl Weaver. Believe me, I think the guy was one of the greatest managers ever. That goes for how he handled players, umpires, the press, etc. And I suppose that what I’m arguing is that it’s almost sad that we’ll never see someone like Earl Weaver (or Billy Martin, Bobby Cox, etc) come along again. As I said above, I think that managers’ actions with regard to umpires are much more scrutinized now. I also think that it’s a different time in that the hard-nosedness for which Weaver was noted is frowned upon now.
Again, it’s with a heavy heart that I say these things. Sports has always been a haven where the toughest of the tough are the ones that survive. This is not to say that sports figures who take a lighter view of things aren’t any good…see Buck Showalter as exhibit one. I may well be doing a poor job of describing my ideas here, however I suppose my point is that someone like Earl Weaver would probably be run out of a franchise in this day and age. Furthermore, the players of today are conditioned a bit more to expect more tolerance from their leaders than what Weaver was able to provide. In an age of free agency, would players shy away from coming to Baltimore? Perhaps more importantly, would current Oriole players who are up for contracts decide to take their services elsewhere?
Let me unequivocally state that I feel Orioles fans should be indebted to Earl Weaver for what he did for the franchise and for the community. I honestly think that it’s a sad commentary that things have changed to where people of his ilk might not be welcome in sports any longer. The fact is that there will never be another one like the great Earl of Baltimore.