He retired for keeps after 1986, when the Orioles (73-89) finished seventh in the AL East. It was the only losing season in Weaver’s 17 years with the club.

He was always a fan favorite, and the Orioles faithful got several opportunities to let him know that during the course of the Orioles’ 2012 season. Weaver returned to Baltimore repeatedly to take part in the special series of statue unveilings in the center field plaza at Camden Yards, including one that was dedicated to him on June 30.

He showed his softer side during his acceptance speech, applauding the other great Orioles there who are immortalized in bronze, and dozens more who helped him become a managerial legend.

“What comes to mind is, 'Thank God those guys were there, and thank God we won 100 games three years in a row so I could come back for a fourth year,’ '' Weaver said. “And thank God for the fourth [team] that won enough games for me to come back for the fifth year … and on to 17.”

Weaver was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996. Two years later, at 68, he suffered a heart attack while watching television at his home in Florida. He quit smoking after that.

Jim Palmer, the Orioles’ Hall of Fame pitcher who had many a go-round with his manager, said that he heard of Weaver’s death at 3:30 a.m. Saturday from Scott McGregor, another Orioles pitcher. McGregor was on the same Orioles-theme cruise with Weaver.

“I didn’t get much restful sleep after that,” Palmer said.

Weaver straddled no fences in his life, Palmer said.

“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.


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