The wit and wisdom of the Earl Weaver Way
- Senior writer ESPN Magazine/ESPN.com
- Analyst/reporter ESPN television
- Has covered baseball since 1981
You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we’ll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.
ON THIS DATE IN 1979, Earl Weaver won his 1,000th game as a manager.
Weaver was a top-five manager of all time. In 17 years as a manager, all with the Orioles, Weaver went 1,480-1,060 in his Hall of Fame career. He won four pennants and one World Series. He won 90 games 11 times. He won 100 games three years in a row, averaging 106 victories from 1969 to 1971. As the Orioles team bus left Kansas City after a rare loss in 1970, Weaver cracked from the front seat, “Damn, it’s hard to hard to stay 50 games over .500!”
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Weaver was always ahead of the game. He was irascible, indomitable, hilarious — he was Mickey Rooney in a baseball uniform. He was smarter, in a simplistic way, than the rest. He hated to bunt because, he said, “You only get 27 outs, don’t give any of them away.” It angered him when the other team was trying to bunt, and his pitcher wouldn’t throw a strike. He would scream, “They’re giving us an out, let them give us an out!”
Weaver implored his pitchers to never throw intentionally at a hitter because, “It might lead to a fight. If there’s a fight, our guys and their guys are going to get ejected, and our guys are better than their guys, so we’re going to lose on that exchange. Don’t throw at them!”
A writer made the mistake of constantly asking Weaver when Orioles outfielder Al Bumbry, whom Weaver loved, was coming off the disabled list. Weaver yelled at the writer, “As far as I’m concerned, Bumbry is dead! I only deal with the living! When he’s ready to come off the DL, then he’s ready. Until then, he’s dead!”
To Weaver, the DL was the Dead List.
Orioles outfielder Pat Kelly decided, while he was playing, that he was going to be a minister. So Kelly waited for the right time, a poignant moment, to approach Weaver with the profoundly important news in is life. “Earl,” Kelly said. “I’m going to walk with the Lord.” Weaver said, “I’d rather you walked with the bases loaded!”
Other baseball notes from April 5
In 2010, Matt Stairs played for a record 12th different team. Curt Schilling and I would later argue on Baseball Tonight because he said Stairs was better than Babe Ruth. I said he wasn’t.
In 1982, Jim Kaat, 43, pitched for his 24th consecutive season, a record that would later be broken by Nolan Ryan and Tommy John. Kaat, in one week in his 80s, twice shot his age in golf — once playing left-handed, once playing right-handed.
In 1977, Bucky Dent was traded from the White Sox to the Yankees. His three-run homer helped win the famous playoff game over the Red Sox in 1978. He was using Mickey Rivers’ bat. “Mick was amazing,” Dent said. “We’d get to September, and I’d say to Mick, ‘I need that playoff money, you have to go get it for me.’ And Mick would say, ‘Yeah, I need it, too.’ Then he’d go out and carry us in September.”
In 1993, Charlie Hough won the first game in the history of the Marlins. He was also part of the 1984 Rangers, whose pitchers started throwing footballs to strengthen their arms. I asked him if it was working. “I don’t know,” he said, “but we lead the league in third-down conversions.”
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