The Earl of memorabilia

Orioles Hall of Fame manager's keepsakes up for auction

May 09, 2011|By Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun

When Earl Weaver cleans out his garage, he doesn't hold a yard sale. He has a headline-grabbing event sure to make collectors drool.

The bidding on his baseball memorabilia could net the Orioles' Hall of Fame manager as much as $150,000, said David Hunt, president of Hunt Auctions, who is peddling a number of Weaver's keepsakes Saturday in Chicago.

A 1966 Orioles World Series championship ring and Weaver's Baseball Hall of Fame induction ring are on the block, along with 45 other items bestowed on Weaver during his 17 years as the Orioles' winningest manager, between 1968 and 1986.

He is selling a lot of his stuff now to avoid potential conflicts among his heirs when he's gone, Weaver said.

"Not all of my things are worth the same, so how would it be distributed to my four children?" he said. "They might all want the same piece, and I don't want them to get disturbed or mad.

"The smartest thing I can do is to sell (the memorabilia), take the money and divide it equally, so they can do what they want — whether it's to set up a college fund for a grandchild, or take a trip around the world. That way, I'll get to watch them enjoy the money, too."

Weaver's children — Michael, Rhonda, Terry and Kim — range in age from 52 to 60. They all agreed with his plan.

"It's tough, we all hate to get rid of these things, but I know it's the best thing to do," said Weaver, 80, of Pembroke Pines, Fla. "It's not gonna cause any problems."

The online pre-bidding for his mementos is heating up. As of Monday, the high bid for Weaver's 1966 World Series ring (which he received for managing Rochester, the Orioles' Triple-A farm team ) was $13,860, while the value of the Hall of Fame ring had reached $13,500. Both are expected to bring between $15,000-$20,000, Hunt said.

"Many of Earl's items are already either above or quickly approaching the estimate levels, and there has been a ton of interest in his things nationally," the auctioneer said. "It shows that not only is Earl is an iconic figure in Baltimore sports history, but that his popularity transmits across the country.

"He really is one of the greatest managers of all time."

Hunt Auctions, of Exton, Pa., has handled the collections of other Baseball Hall of Famers, including Robin Roberts, Whitey Ford, Joe DiMaggio and Walter Johnson. More often, it's the families of deceased players who put their wares up for sale, Hunt said.

"It's very forward-thinking of athletes to decide what they want to sell and what they want to keep," Hunt said. "There are no better stewards than the players themselves."

Other Weaver items include:

A 1983 Manager of the Decade presentation clock;

A commemorative wristwatch given to him at Cooperstown;

A black-and-orange jacket worn by Weaver during Orioles games. It's not known if he was ever ejected while wearing it.

A complete list of Weaver's collectibles can be found at http://www.huntauctions.com. Online pre-bidding ends Thursday at 10 p.m. Bids for the live auction, which starts Saturday at 6 p.m., can be made online, via phone (610-524-0822) or in person at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago.

Weaver said he won't part with all of his treasures.

"I've got the ones I want," he said. "They're more keepsakes than anything and aren't worth robbing the house for." Like a photo of Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. who wrote, Thanks, Skip, for the switch from third base.

And, hands off Weaver's four American League pennant rings.

"Thank God I've got four of them," he said — one for each child.

Weaver also dispelled any notion that he is selling his wares because of hard times.

"Earl don't need the money," he said.

His agent, Dick Gordon, agreed.

"Extravagence is not in Earl's vocabulary," said Gordon, of Baltimore. "How frugal is he? When he goes to the track, Earl bets $2 a race."

Who'll buy Weaver's goods?

"I hope they are Orioles fans," he said. "I know the stuff will be worth a lot more, when they put me six feet under."

Here's hoping that at least some of it stays in Baltimore, said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Sports Legends Museums.

"I'd love to display those things, though we have no budget to buy them," Gibbons said. "Maybe someone will loan them to the museum, so the public can enjoy them."

Ironically, one of Weaver's most cherished possessions — his 1970 Orioles World Series championship ring — was stolen about 35 years ago.

"While I managed the Orioles, we rented our house in Florida every summer," he said. "I left the ring in a box, in a dresser drawer, and when we came home one year it was gone."

The ring has never turned up, Weaver said:

"I'll never know what happened to it. We still have the dresser, and I go through it at least once a year, just to check again."

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