Earl Weaver was a diminutive overachiever who embodied the spirit of Baltimore and revolutionized the game of baseball. He was never a great ballplayer, but much like the autoworkers and Bethlehem Steel employees who cheered for him in the “The Old Grey Lady” on 33rd street, he was a hard working, middle class guy who propelled his teams to great heights including four pennants and one world championship.
Earl’s hard work always seemed to keep him one step ahead of his competition. Long before the advent of sabremetrics, Moneyball, run-differentials, and Keith Law, Weaver began collecting statistics and tendencies on 3 x 5 index cards. As a kid, I heard the stories about these index cards and marveled at the genius that was Earl Weaver. They were many nights when I remember the Orioles taking on the hated Yankees who would bring out their top flight, high paid relievers like Sparky Lyle or Rich Gossage with the game on the line. Earl would counter with the 24th or 25th man on his bench, a guy like Terry Crowley or Andres Mora. Despite the odds, seemingly being against them, Earl’s homework would pay off. Crowley would get a key base hit, or Mora would hit a game winning homer. Earl was rarely outmanaged and never outworked.
Even as a kid, I knew Baltimore wasn’t New York or Boston or Chicago. We were the little city in between fighting for respect, and our General, Earl Weaver, led the way. We talked about the “Oriole Way” and we knew with Earl at the helm our team had a fighting chance. It wasn’t about high priced players, but buying into a team concept, playing the game the right way, and out-hustling the opposition at every phase. Earl managed 6 Hall of Famers, and with the exception of Frank Robinson, all came through the Orioles minor league system. He used role players and his entire 25 man roster to amass 1,480 Major League victories. Earl squeezed every ounce of talent, out of every one of his players on his roster. That was his greatest strength and the foundation of the “Oriole Way”.
Today Baltimore lost a great Leader, a baseball pioneer, and one of the Founding Fathers of the Oriole Way. As I think back on the 2012 season and this team, I can’t help but see the blue prints that Earl left behind. I’m sure Earl is smiling down on Baltimore and resting in the fact that the Orioles have seemingly found their way back to their roots and foundation that Earl Weaver laid for them.
May you rest in peace Earl Sidney Weaver. We’ll always cherish the memories you left behind. And whatever you do, Earl, try not to get ejected from your first game in heaven.
Martin Wilt is a lifelong Baltimore sports fan and contributor to BaltimoreSportsReport.com