Earl Weaver, the umpire-baiting, dirt-kicking, tomato-growing manager wholed the Orioles to four American League pennants and a world championship, waselected yesterday to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
"I'm elated," said Weaver. "There are so many people to thank -- Brooksand Frank and Boog and Blair and Buford -- so many who made it possible.
"I loved managing those kids. I always thought, 'Let me manage as long asI can, and when I get run out of town, let me become a scout.' "
That never happened.
Weaver will enter Cooperstown with "Foxy" Ned Hanlon, another Oriolesmanager who guided Baltimore to three straight National League titles in the1890s; former pitcher Jim Bunning, a 224-game winner; and Negro leagues starBill Foster. Induction ceremonies are Aug. 4.
Hall of Fame officials said it was the first time two managersrepresenting the same city were elected together.
"It's a feather in Baltimore's cap," said Hank Peters, for- mer Oriolesgeneral manager and a member of the selection committee. "There wasn't muchdoubt that Earl deserved to go. And Hanlon was much the same innovative-typemanager.
"Both were ahead of their times in the way they did things. It's fittingthat they should go in in tandem."
Weaver, 65, who was playing golf near his Florida home when he got thenews, refused to leave the course until he'd finished the round nearly threehours later.
"Competition is competition," he said. "That's how I get my thrills.
"When I heard the news, my knees got weak and I could hardly hold the golfclub."
He bogeyed the hole, but won the match.
Weaver's peers and former players toasted the vote.
"He won almost 1,500 games, he had one losing season and he was neverfired," said former Detroit manager Sparky Anderson, who was let go by theTigers last year. "Earl walked away on his own, and a manager should cherishthat more than anything else."
Weaver's lone world championship, in 1970, came at Anderson's expense,when the Orioles defeated Cincinnati's Big Red Machine, four games to one.
"Earl was Earl," Anderson said. "He never tried to be Casey Stengel orWalter Alston. He was a great leader because he was fearless.
"So many people in life are afraid. Earl stood his ground on everything.He wasn't always right, but he never ran. What more can you ask of a guy?"
Weaver managed the Orioles from 1968 to 1982 and was coaxed out ofretirement to lead them again in 1985 and 1986. In 17 years, his teams won1,480 games and lost 1,060 for a winning percentage of .583 -- fifth all-timeamong managers of the modern era.
"The vote is a validation of how good he really was," said Orioles Hall ofFamer Jim Palmer. "It's like a USDA meat approval. He's just gone from'choice' to 'prime' -- though I never really thought of Earl Weaver as atenderloin."
Palmer -- who, along with Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson and ReggieJackson, is one of four Hall of Famers managed by Weaver -- had campaignedopenly for his manager, sending veterans committee members a two-page letter(single-spaced) praising his candidacy. The committee, composed of five Hallof Fame players, five sportswriters and broadcasters and four baseballexecutives, selected from a ballot of 20.
"Earl was the best manager of his era," said Palmer, who, as a player, hada fractious relationship with Weaver. "He was scrappy, loyal and never held agrudge. He knew what buttons to push, and he wasn't afraid to push them.
"He was never afraid of losing his job, though he managed most of hiscareer with one-year contracts. He was fearless. He never left spring trainingwith a 'political' roster. No player made the team because the front officewanted him there. These were 25 pieces of Earl's puzzle and his alone."
One of those pieces was an infielder from Aberdeen who, thanks to Weaver,endured a rocky beginning to his major-league career.
"I'm glad that I had the opportunity to start out with Earl," said CalRipken Jr. "He was a little intimidating at first, but he showed a lot ofconfidence in me. I started off 9-for-73. A less-experienced manager might nothave stuck with me as long.
"Once I got my feet on the ground, he moved me to shortstop, whichsignificantly changed the direction of my career. Looking back, my careermight never have gotten off the ground without the strength of Earl Weaver."
Like Hanlon, Weaver won three consecutive league pennants (1969 to 1971).
Hanlon, a cunning strategist and deft trader, turned a floundering Oriolesteam into one of the legendary clubs of the 19th century. A short, stocky mannot much taller than 5-foot-8 Weaver, Hanlon took over a National League teamthat had finished 54 1/2 games off the pace in 1892, swapped for three futureHall of Famers (Willie Keeler, Hugh Jennings and Joe Kelley) and won a pennanttwo years later.
"I'm floored," said Edwina Reeve of Lutherville, Hanlon's granddaughter,on learning of his election. "I'll bet Foxy Ned is up there now saying, 'I'vegot this thing worked out.' "
Hanlon's Orioles were pioneers in the use of "scientific" baseball tactics-- some legal, some not. The bunt, hit-and-run and squeeze play were Hanlontrademarks. So was scooting from first base to third when the umpire's backwas turned.
"He was always pulling something fast -- anything he could get away withto win a game, kind of like Earl Weaver," said Hanlon's grandson, AlbertThompson of Roland Park.
Hanlon's election to the Hall coincides with the 100th anniversary of hisgreatest Baltimore team: The 1896 Orioles went 90-39 (.698). Seven playersbecame big-league managers, including Hall of Famers Jennings, John McGraw andWilbert Robinson.
Hanlon later led Brooklyn to two pennants, retired and became ** head ofBaltimore's Park Board. He died in 1937, on Opening Day.
"It wonderful that the man who started scientific baseball and the man whopicked up on it are going into Cooperstown together," said Mike Reeve ofTowson, Hanlon's great-grandson.
"The man from the old era gets to go in with the student."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun