Weaver teed up for vote If Cooperstown calls, he'll be on the links

March 05, 1996|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

Earl Weaver is trying to hide his jitters. When the Baseball Hall of Fame veterans committee votes today, candidate Weaver will be on the links.

If Cooperstown calls, Weaver is out playing golf. If not, where better to be teed off?

"If it happens, wonderful," said the Orioles' former manager. His election, said Weaver, would be "the ultimate tribute to a little guy from St. Louis who spent 20 years in the minor leagues and had some success in the majors."

Weaver's fate rests with the veterans committee, which, having chosen a pool of 20 candidates for each of four categories, can name a single person from each for the Hall of Fame.

Weaver is in a grouping of managers, umpires, team executives and Negro leagues players. That ballot is expected to include Ned Hanlon, another Orioles manager and a pioneer strategist who led Baltimore to three straight pennants in the 1890s; Negro leaguers Smokey Joe Williams, Dick "Cannonball" Redding and Bullet Joe Rogan; and umpires Cy Rigler and Larry Goetz.

Weaver's fate rests with the veterans committee, which can choose a pool of 20 managers, umpires, executives and Negro leagues players. That ballot is expected to include Ned Hanlon, another Orioles manager and a pioneer strategist who led Baltimore to three straight pennants in the 1890s; Negro leaguers Smokey Joe Williams, Dick "Cannonball" Redding and Bullet Joe Rogan; and umpires Cy Rigler and Larry Goetz.

Weaver, 65, who has been eligible for the Hall since 1992, received "some support" in last year's balloting, said Bill Guilfoile, vice president of the Hall of Fame. "He has as much chance as anyone. But with so many people to consider, it becomes a very, very competitive election."

That the feisty Weaver, who aggravated umpires, should compete with them for a spot in the Hall is "somewhat ironic," Guilfoile said.

Weaver's teams won 1,480 games, six division titles, four American League pennants and a world championship in 1970. Five times, he managed the Orioles to 100-victory seasons. Only his last club, in 1986, was a loser.

Of the 11 managers in the Hall, only Joe McCarthy, Al Lopez and John McGraw can top Weaver's winning percentage of .583 over 17 years.

"I think Weaver is a Hall of Famer," said baseball author Bill James, whose book, "The Politics of Glory," details the selection process at Cooperstown.

Statistically, Weaver is among the game's top 10 all-time managers, said James, who ranks him seventh, behind five Hall of Famers (McGraw, McCarthy, Connie Mack, Casey Stengel and Walter Alston) and Sparky Anderson, who managed Detroit last year. ("I hope he sent that list to the veterans committee," said Weaver.)

But those numbers don't make Weaver a cinch for baseball immortality, said James. That he managed as recently as a decade ago could delay his selection. Most managers in the Hall were born in the 19th century; Alston, the youngest, was born 20 years before Weaver and died in 1984.

"Predicting what the veterans committee will do is almost impossible, because it's very arbitrary, but predicting what they won't do is not quite as hard -- and it's pretty early for those guys to talk about electing Weaver," said James. "They only took Leo Durocher two years ago, so Weaver is probably five years away." For election, Weaver must gain 11 votes from the 14-man committee, which features Hall of Famers Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Yogi Berra, Pee Wee Reese and Monte Irvin, five sportswriters and broadcasters and four baseball executives, including former Orioles general manager Hank Peters.

"Earl's got some things going for him," said Peters. "But so do others, and this process isn't set up to put them all [in the Hall] at the same time."

The veterans committee also will consider candidates in three other categories: former major-leaguers, 19th century players and a separate ballot of Negro leaguers. Former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning, Chicago White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox and Brooklyn Dodgers slugger Gil Hodges bear watching.

The veterans committee also will consider candidates in the categories of former big-leaguers, 19th-century players and personnel, and a separate ballot of Negro leaguers. Former Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jim Bunning, Chicago White Sox second baseman Nellie Fox and Brooklyn Dodgers slugger Gil Hodges bear watching.

Last year, former Philadelphia outfielder Richie Ashburn, NL founder William Hulbert, Negro leagues star Leon Day of Baltimore and turn-of-the-century pitcher Vic Willis were chosen by the veterans.

Hall officials are to announce this year's their decisions at a 2 p.m. news conference. Weaver should be in the clubhouse by then.

"Earl Weaver is clearly Hall of Fame quality," said committee member Leonard Koppett of the Oakland Tribune. "But the ultimate consideration isn't 'Is he good enough?' but 'Should he go now?' "

No question, said Harry Dalton, who hired Weaver 40 years ago. "But I'm biased," said the former Orioles GM.

"Earl Weaver was an entertainment item in uniform. Some people loved watching him manage. Others loved to boo him. But he did what he was paid to do -- win ballgames."

Weaver, who lives in Florida, appeared calm on the eve of balloting. "When they sit down at the table, with all of my numbers in front of them, the votes will either be there or they won't," he said. "Either way, my lifestyle won't change.

"I'm just happy I made a living in this game. But I wouldn't want to do it over, because it might not turn out the same."

Pub Date: 3/05/96

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