There's a side of Earl Weaver few people have seen, far removed from the man remembered for kicking and screaming his way through 17 seasons managing the Orioles.
Weaver could be menacing and rude. Umpires ejected him 98 times. He feuded
with his players -- just about everyone he managed fought with him at least
But there's an Earl Weaver who sat in his office and wept when he had to
release a player. There's the man who would go out of his way to meet fans
when he really didn't have the time, and the manager who would feed stories to
anxious reporters as deadline approached.
He could go at it with a player, then hours later put him in the lineup
and assure him everything was fine.
Weaver says his friends are few, yet a legion of past players and
acquaintances say they are proud to know him because he's a good person and
not because he's being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown,
"He's a very sensitive person," said Elrod Hendricks, a player and coach
for Weaver. "He gets his feelings hurt a lot easier than people know. He
really has not changed. He's always been this way, but he never let a lot of
people into the other side of Earl."
His temper could push him to the brink of losing control. Weaver's tirades
against umpires could be costly: His players say some umpires made calls
against the Orioles to spite the manager. Weaver provoked confrontations with
his players, too, but didn't hold a grudge.
One night in the mid-1970s, Weaver yelled "home run or Rochester" the
first two times Bobby Grich, recently promoted from the Triple-A Red Wings,
came to bat. When Grich returned to the dugout, a shouting match ensued, and
he threw Weaver down the steps leading to the clubhouse. Grich had to be
restrained from further damage, but Weaver quickly forgot the incident and
Grich returned to second base, where he started for the next six seasons.
Weaver once instructed a reliever, who was throwing poorly at the time, to
warm up in the middle innings while Jim Palmer was on the mound, just to get a
reaction out of his starter. Palmer and Weaver argued on the mound and Palmer
cussed him out every inning, but he pitched a complete game, the Orioles won
and there were no hard feelings.
In 1977, Weaver and Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson were often
mad at each other. Robinson no longer was starting, but in the 10th inning of
a rainy, April weeknight game against the Cleveland Indians, Robinson had a
pinch-hit, three-run homer to win the game.
Despite the insignificance of the victory, Weaver later said that home run
was the second-biggest thrill of his career, surpassed only by winning the
1970 World Series.
Weaver respected players who argued back. In fact, he listened to their
side, players say.
In 1971, Weaver feuded with Don Buford because he wanted the leadoff
hitter to take more pitches. After much debate and a wager, Buford convinced
Weaver that pitchers wouldn't walk him to get to the heart of the Orioles
lineup. Weaver let Buford swing away, and he responded with 19 home runs, the
second-most by a leadoff man in Orioles history.
"I love Earl and appreciate the things he let me do," said Buford, now the
Orioles assistant director of player development. "You could go toe-to-toe,
face-to-face and cheek-to-cheek with him, and, no matter what, the next day it
was forgotten. That was outstanding."
His players have called him the greatest amateur psychologist around. He
could mix negative reinforcement and slight praise, motivating his players
Some players, such as Frank Robinson and Eddie Murray, didn't need
prodding. Weaver knew others, like a young Cal Ripken, would respond to
positive feedback. He frequently checked on Ripken to instill confidence as he
moved through the minors.
"He protected you in the media," Ripken said. "He protected you in the
front office. It was my experience that he battled for you in every respect."
Growing up tough
Weaver's combative nature took shape in his childhood years. ++ He was
raised in a tough section of St. Louis. As a small 12-year-old, he was playing
baseball against 16-year-olds. Weaver, who turns 66 on Aug. 14, would get
teased and beat up because of his size.