Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver became a fixture at the annual Baltimore Baseball Cruise, traveling as part of a baseball-themed trek around the Caribbean during the offseason for many of the past 22 years.
Early Saturday morning, the 82-year-old Weaver was on the last leg of this year’s week-long cruise, heading from a stop in Haiti back home to Fort Lauderdale when he complained of having trouble breathing and passed out on the floor of his cabin, said Ken Nigro, the cruise’s organizer.
A doctor on the cruise spent several minutes trying to revive Weaver, and the ship’s doctor pronounced him dead at 2 a.m., Nigro said.
“I got a call in the middle of the morning,” said Nigro, who also covered Weaver’s Orioles teams as a writer for The Baltimore Sun. “Earl Weaver is dead. Just wow. He had seemed really worn down. In my mind, I wondered if this might be his last cruise. He was one of a kind. One of the best managers of the last 50 years and one of the best of all time."
The cruise docked in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday morning and Weaver’s body was removed from the ship’s morgue, and preparations for his funeral began, Nigro said.
Weaver rarely missed the cruise, which isn’t sponsored by the Orioles but includes several former players, over the past two decades. He enjoyed mingling with other cruisers and he always drew a crowd. He looked forward to seeing the same familiar faces every January.
“They say if you pass away, you’d want your family to be around,” Nigro said. “The cruisers on that ship were really like a second family to Earl.”
In the days leading up to his death, Nigro said that Weaver, although weak, still showed his famous tenacity. The cruise involved many game nights, and Weaver became incensed during one game of Jeopardy, arguing the score of the game.
“He was questioning the score,” Nigro said. “He was like, ‘It’s not 4-3, you lost that point. It’s still 3-3.' He just started complaining. It was the old Earl Weaver all over again. He had that competitiveness until the end.”
As reported earlier today, Weaver will likely have a private service in South Florida sometime this week. The Orioles plan to hold a memorial to honor Weaver, but plans have not been finalized.
While some reports said that Weaver died of an apparent heart attack, but Nigro said he knew of no cause of death.