Earl Weaver had to be perfect.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
Since learning of his election in March, Weaver dreamed of the afternoonwhen he would join the immortals of baseball in the Hall of Fame. He spent thefollowing months writing and rewriting his speech -- rehearsing it "at least100 times."
Weaver paced back and forth in the minutes leading up to 2: 30 p.m.yesterday, bubbling over with nervous energy and counting down the momentsuntil the ceremonies started.
Weaver was going to stand before his St. Louis boyhood heroes EnosSlaughter and Stan Musial, thousands of fans and 31 other Hall of Famers, andthe speech had to be perfect.
No excessive emotional displays. No mistakes. The same expectations Weaverset for his players during the 17 years he managed in Baltimore.
But before Weaver could speak, the fans took over. Chants of"O-R-I-O-L-E-S" rang out. Others screamed, "We love you, Earl." Weaver almostchoked up.
"Please don't make me cry now," Weaver said. "I don't want to cry. Thankyou, thank you."
Then Weaver explained how he felt.
"I have a tremendous feeling of humility, and this comes from the factthat I am standing in front of the greatest baseball players and baseballpeople who ever lived," Weaver said.
"From the time I was real young right to this day, these were the people Ilooked up to, idolized and worshiped. How could any baseball fan not behumbled to be included in this group of gentlemen? Believe me, it'soverwhelming."
Weaver was driven to perfection as a manager and had just one losingseason in Baltimore, his last in 1986. He was voted Manager of the Year threetimes. Weaver is one of three managers to post three consecutive 100-winseasons, and his .583 winning percentage is ninth all-time.
He managed six Cy Young Award winners and Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson,Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson and Jim Palmer, who all sat behind their oldmanager on the stage yesterday overlooking a smattering of fans decked out inOrioles' orange and black.
Weaver, who turns 66 next week, said he began trembling on stage when hethought about the legends of the game sitting back there, but even then hedidn't shed a tear.
He went on to thank the Orioles organization, including former generalmanager Harry Dalton, who offered Weaver his first managing job. Weaverthanked his players and coaches for helping him reach the pinnacle of baseballsuccess. He even praised the umpires, who were most often the target ofWeaver's temper.
Weaver, the 13th manager inducted into the Hall, reserved special thanksfor his family.
"I'll tell you, it really gets you when you start talking about thefamily," Weaver said after the ceremonies concluded. "Leaving your wife athome, missing the kids' graduations and proms. Those are the things you weresorry about."
His son, Mike Weaver, one of 22 family members present, said he understoodthe sacrifices his father had to make for his career.
"I'm one of the proudest people in the world," Mike Weaver said. "Heworked so hard for so many years, not only in Baltimore, but in the minorleagues. He's so deserving of this. I'm just so proud. Proud is the word."
A special bond between Weaver and the Orioles fans also was evident at theceremonies, where Jim Bunning, Bill Foster and turn-of-the-century Oriolesmanager Ned Hanlon also were inducted.
Busloads of Baltimoreans made the 350-mile trip, many of them wearingold-style Orioles jerseys and caps from Weaver's era. Weaver T-shirts with hisNo. 4 were on the chests of fans throughout the crowd.
Grandparents and grandchildren played catch in the huge stretch of grassreserved for fans. Many fans sprawled out on Orioles blankets, and Oriolesumbrellas created shade from the sun.
"Earl led the Orioles when I was just getting into baseball," said EdLawrence, who was born and raised in Baltimore. "He was our manager, and wewon. He represents Oriole baseball. He's the best we had."
Weaver, introduced yesterday as "The Earl of Baltimore," closed his speechby acknowledging the fans and the city he called home for parts of threedecades.
"Let me tell you I'm proud of my record. I'm proud of the fact that I waseven considered to be in the Hall of Fame, let alone voted in. And I'm proudof the fact that I spent my whole major-league career in one city. I wouldlike to thank the wonderful fans of Baltimore for letting me stay."
Again the fans erupted, smothering Weaver in cheers. He never slipped up,he never broke down and Weaver was in the Hall of Fame.
Perfect.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times