Weaver in Cooperstown Earl of Baltimore: Hall induction of Hanlon, too, embellishes Orioles' baseball legacy.

August 03, 1996

HAD THIS not been the summer Earl Weaver would be so deservedly inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it still offered plenty of reminders of his glory days managing the Orioles in Baltimore.

There was his former second-baseman, Davey Johnson, as the team's new manager. There was the fevered debate about whether to move Cal Ripken Jr. to third base; it was Earl Weaver, after all, who spotted the shortstop potential in Mr. Ripken 2,261 consecutive games ago.

There was the return of slugger Eddie Murray, one of only three Oriole greats to return after having had his number "retired." The others are the new Cooperstown honoree, Earl Weaver, and Frank Robinson.

This was also the first summer since Earl Weaver's reign that the Orioles had three All-Star Game starters -- Cal Ripken, Roberto Alomar and Brady Anderson. Unfortunately, the comparisons end there between 1996 and the Weaver championship seasons. The wreckage of this Orioles campaign dampened the build-up to tomorrow, when Earl Weaver joins his star players Brooks and Frank Robinson and Jim Palmer in baseball's shrine.

Still, the ties are strong between the Weaver legacy and the experiences of Oriole fans in recent summers: The emotional celebration for Cal Ripken as he surpassed Lou Gehrig's "Iron Man" record; the warm re-appreciation of Eddie Murray, who left town on a bitter note years ago; Camden Yards' rebound from the baseball strike much faster than most other cities. These are testament to the link that men like Earl Weaver helped strengthen between Baltimore and baseball. It was a bond begun 70 years before that by another crafty, diminutive Orioles manager, Ned Hanlon, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame, posthumously.

The "Raven maniacs" at tonight's festive NFL exhibition at Memorial Stadium would argue that Baltimore, in welcoming a new team, is once again a football town. Perhaps it is. But through his successes and antics, Earl Weaver dug in to win the hearts and minds of area sports fans as hard as he did against any vision-impaired umpire. Indeed, the Earl captured Baltimore long ago. Tomorrow's induction in Cooperstown is just sweet icing on the cake.

Pub Date: 8/03/96

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