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Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver dies at 82

January 19, 2013|By Mike Klingaman and Peter Schmuck | The Baltimore Sun

“There weren’t any gray areas with Earl,” he said. “We had a love-hate relationship. Earl was going to tell you what he expected and there wasn’t a lot of room for error with him.

“Earl was Earl. But once you were an Oriole, you played, because winning was a lot of fun and Earl was all about winning. Did he inherit a good young team? Sure, but he gave me the opportunity to win 20 games eight times. He was so good at handling his roster.

“Cal [Ripken] went 4 for 55 at the start of his career. [Second baseman] Rich Dauer went about 1 for 31. Earl stayed with them. Once you established yourself as a player, he stuck with you.”

Weaver went to bat for a couple of young players who would establish themselves among the best in the game. He pressed to keep a young Eddie Murray in the majors in 1977, and bucked convention by moving supposedly oversized Cal Ripken Jr. from third base to shortstop.

The rest is history.

“This man fought for me,” Murray, a Hall of Famer, said in 2003. “He kept telling [general manager] Hank Peters and the rest of the front office, that I should stay. They just had me penciled in there, but he kept sending me out [on the field].”

Weaver also helped shape the team’s mantra known as “The Oriole Way,” a standardized approach to minor league instruction that he instituted along with fellow minor league manager Cal Ripken Sr. during the early 1960s.

In some ways, he was a comic character, but he had a hard edge that could rankle a player as easily as an umpire.

Weaver provoked rookie Bobby Grich in the early 1970s, yelling “home run or [go back to Triple-A] Rochester” at the young second baseman as he stepped to the plate. Grich returned to the dugout and — after a loud verbal exchange — threw Weaver down the steps leading to the clubhouse.

To his credit, Weaver also had a short memory. Grich stayed in the lineup for five years and established himself as a top power-hitting second basemen of his day.

“You could go toe-to-toe, face-to-face and cheek-to-cheek with [Weaver],” former Oriole outfielder Don Buford said. “No matter what happened, the next day it was forgotten. That was outstanding.”

Murray said it was more complicated than that. Weaver had a way of adjusting his managerial style to each and every player.

“He did something that nobody else could do,” Murray said. “He had 25 different people on his ballclub and he had 25 ways to manage them.”

Paul Blair, the Orioles’ longtime center fielder, called Weaver “a good friend and mentor. If he had a beef with you, he faced you man-to-man. You could have a knock-down, drag-out argument but, when the air cleared, it was over and done with.

“Yes, Earl was a fair, fair man.”

Weaver is survived by Marianna, his wife of 49 years, of Pembroke Pines, Fla.; a son, Michael Weaver, of Fort Lauderdale, Fl.; and daughters Kim Benson, of Bel Air, Terry Leahy, of St. Louis, and Rhonda Harms, of Houston.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporters Jacques Kelly and Childs Walker contributed to this article.

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