Earl Weaver kicks half-century habit Smoking: As he recovers from a heart attack, the Orioles Hall of Famer retires a two-pack-a-day cigarette routine.

September 02, 1998|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,Sun Staff

There are cigarettes strewn all around Earl Weaver's house - bedroom, den and kitchen - but not a one's been lighted. Nor will they be as long as he's alive, said Weaver, the former Orioles manager who is recovering from a heart attack.

"I miss smoking, but it just ain't worth it," said Weaver, 68, who keeps several packs around his Hialeah, Fla., home, to deny himself the pleasure.

Routinely, he'll pick up a cigarette, caress it and even place it in his mouth. But light up? Never.

"I'll wonder what it tastes like, and then I'll put it down," he said. "Believe it or not, the urge goes away."

Weaver, who smoked two packs a day for nearly 50 years, hasn't had a cigarette in four weeks since suffering the heart attack that hospitalized him for eight days in early August.

Smoking is a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

On Friday, the Hall of Famer underwent surgery for a coronary stent implant, a one-hour procedure to clear the 90 percent blockage in his right coronary artery.

Surgeons in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., inserted a small balloon, mounted on a tube, into Weaver's artery to open the obstruction. They then placed a one-inch piece of metal mesh at the blockage point to hold the artery open permanently.

On Sunday, just a day out of the hospital, Weaver played nine holes of golf. He played a full round Monday.

"Didn't feel a thing," he said yesterday of post-operative symptoms. "I've got arthritis and sore ankles and fingers and toes, but as far as the heart attack is concerned, there are no aftereffects at all." Except for the No Smoking sign embedded in his mind.

"He's been amazingly good about that," said Weaver's wife, Marianna.

The feisty Weaver, a dirt-kicking, umpire-baiting manager, piloted the Orioles for 17 years starting in 1968. His .583 winning percentage ranks fifth among modern-day managers.

Weaver led Baltimore to four American League pennants and a world championship in 1970, when the Orioles defeated Cincinnati's powerful Big Red Machine in the World Series.

A get-well card from then-Reds manager Sparky Anderson sits on Weaver's mantle, one of dozens he has received from acquaintances in sports. Weaver entered pro baseball in 1948 and started smoking that season. "Other guys would light up after games, so I did it, too," he said.

"I'd just as soon have never smoked; when you get up to two packs a day, it's not enjoyable," Weaver said.

"I'm just happy I quit. The house smells better, the stains are off my fingers and I've saved about 80 bucks."

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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