There is an interesting anecdote connected to Earl Weaver's nomination for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The Veterans Committee will have a few carry-over candidates when it holds its election in Tampa, Fla., March 17. Most prominent is Leo Durocher, who fell two votes short a year ago, and has been a controversial nominee for the past 10 years.
One of Durocher's biggest admirers was Weaver.
"Not everybody liked Leo," said Weaver, who some say emulated Durocher, "but I followed him throughout his career. The fact that I'm even being considered with people like him is an honor."
There is a little-known story about Durocher that has an Orioles flavor to it. After Weaver retired for the first time, in 1982, Durocher offered to manage the Orioles -- for nothing, if they didn't win.
"We were at a dinner sometime after the season," Weaver recalled. "Leo asked me to tell EBW [the late former owner Edward Bennett Williams] to get him a penthouse apartment in Baltimore and pay him only if they won. If they didn't win, he said he'd manage free."
Joe Altobelli hadn't been hired yet, but the word never got back to Williams. And the Orioles wound up winning their third World Series championship the following year.
Does death affect chances?: Durocher, who had a burning desire to be elected to the Hall of Fame and wasn't above campaigning for the honor, has died since the last election. There is considerable speculation over how that might affect the Veterans Committee this year.
Some think Durocher's death may spark a sympathy vote, and others believe that if the Veterans Committee hadn't elected him before now, there's no urgency now. In fact, most of those considered to be Weaver's primary competition are no longer alive.
And that has become a major concern of the committee, who would prefer to have an inductee be able to enjoy the honor.
Durocher's falling two votes short a year ago seems like a narrow miss -- until you consider that Birdie Tebbetts, who has since resigned, was unable to attend the meeting. Had Tebbetts been there, Durocher would have needed three more votes (a total of 14 of the 18 electors).
Among the others on this year's ballot, besides Durocher, are umpire Bill McGowan, Negro League veteran Leon Day, Billy Southworth and Gil Hodges, the latter two appearing for the first time. All are deceased.
Southworth and Weaver share the accomplishment of managing teams that won 100 or more games three years in a row. Southworth's .584 winning percentage (1,064-729) is fifth best on the all-time list, one percentage point above Weaver, whose record took a beating in the last 1 1/2 years he managed the Orioles.
"If Southworth is on the ballot for the first time, that tells you what an honor it is just to be considered," said Weaver. "I can't say there wouldn't be some disappointment if I didn't make it, but it makes you realize how tough it is to be elected, which is as it should be."
It can get confusing: The election process for the Veterans Committee is more complicated than it is for the regular election, conducted by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Bill Guilfoile, director of public relations for the Hall of Fame, compiles a list of all those eligible who are nominated.
"They [nominations] come from all over," said Guilfoile. "Fans, former players, members of the media, executives all submit names."
Guilfoile forwards that list to a three-man screening committee, which consists of Charlie Segar, former adviser to the commissioner's office; Al Lopez, former player and manager; and Buck O'Neill, representing Negro League players. Those three then whittle the list to 15 in each of two categories -- playing and non-playing.
After the merits of each candidate are discussed fully, the Veterans Committee votes separately on the two categories. "They are permitted to vote for as many as 10 candidates in each category," said Guilfoile. "If the top vote-getter receives at least 75 percent, then he is elected.
"If nobody achieves 75 percent, then the list is reduced to the top 10 vote-getters and the committee is then allowed to vote for five," said Guilfoile. "Then, if the top vote-getter receives 75 percent he is elected. If not, then the ballot is over and nobody is elected from that category."
Some candidates, like Durocher, Southworth and Lopez, when he was elected, overlap the two categories. Voters are allowed to take into consideration a candidate's credentials as both a player and manager. But they must specify which category he is being elected from.
Hodges, for instance, came up short as a player, but his managing career could improve his chances, and he probably would be considered in the non-playing category.