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THERE WAS nothing small about Earl Weaver, dead at 82, except his stature. The late former manager of the Baltimore Orioles more than made up for that with his larger-than-life presence in the game of baseball. His winning percentage of .583 (1,480 wins) over a 17-year managing career is the best since 1968. He was also thrown out of at least 91 regular-season games, right up there among the all-time leaders in that category, too.
Taking over as skipper of the Orioles in 1968, Mr. Weaver inherited a team that two years earlier had won its first World Series championship since the franchise came to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954. He skippered a team that fit his baseball philosophy, which he said was based on "pitching, defense, and the 3-run home run," and his teams were routinely superior in those aspects of the game. He was no fan of "small ball," or manufacturing runs using bunts, sacrifices, and the hit and run.
His teams won the American League pennant four times and the World Series once. He managed five 100-victory seasons thanks to a raft of 20-game-winning pitchers, top-rated defensive play, and power-laden lineups.
But Mr. Weaver was as famous for his on-field tantrums and umpire rants as for winning. Almost mechanically, he would spin the bill of his cap around to the back of his head, enabling him to get closer to the umpire's face as he screamed. He'd follow that up by kicking dirt on the ump's shoes. Upon ejection, he'd really get angry--making sure he got his fine's worth.
Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell covered the Orioles for nine years of Mr. Weaver's tenure and noted in his appreciation that despite any public perception of the man's bellicosity, he was introspective and enjoyed carefully measured relationships with his players. He also was a purveyor of baseball humor, once advising a slumping player on his way to church services to "take your bat."
He may have also been a man who knew his limitations, retiring for good in 1986 after a second, short stint with the O's, lamenting an inability to fix the team--which only rarely would flirt with success over the next 25 years.