"I got in a lot of fights as a kid, and because I had some baseball ability, I was always playing with guys three or four years older," said Weaver, generously listed as 5 feet 8 in Orioles publications. "So whenever I got in a fight, I got beat up."

Weaver left home shortly after graduating from high school.

"I signed at 17 years old and didn't have no further education," Weaver said. "So baseball was what I was educated in, and I decided to stay in that."

He paid his dues as a minor-league player and manager for 20 years, fighting all the way. Fighting the opposition. Fighting umpires. Fighting his players. Fighting himself.

"He told me a long time ago how tough it was for him as a kid," Hendricks said, "not having much and getting jumped and everything. So he had to be tough. It didn't just happen by accident. He's always felt like he had to defend himself in life because basically he's had to battle for everything he's owned."

Boog Powell first played with Weaver in the minors in 1959, when Weaver was still young enough to be a player/manager. They rose together through the system, and eventually Powell played for Weaver in Baltimore.

"Earl is a very caring human being underneath the facade, underneath all of the BS and the carrying on," Powell said. "And we all knew that. We felt like family, and when I left here, I felt like I had left my family. You always knew that Earl would do anything in the world he could for you."

The hardest part for Weaver was telling someone he was no longer needed. Pat Santarone, a former Orioles groundskeeper and friend of Weaver's for more than 30 years, said he often would see the manager's eyes well up with tears before he released a player.

"I would worry about releasing a guy night and day," said Weaver, who'd give a released player leads on a new job, even though he might come back to hurt the Orioles. "It hurts inside, especially a guy that gave you great service. But I had to be the guy that told them. I didn't want them to hear it from anybody but me. Two or three days before it happens, you don't sleep. That was one of the reasons I retired."

On such occasions, stepdaughter Kim Ross found it best to leave him alone with their two dogs.

She said: "I always used to think if everybody could see him around those dogs they'd be amazed at how gentle he could be."

Winning moves

In 17 years with the Orioles, Weaver's clubs won six division titles, four pennants and the 1970 World Series. He compiled a .583 winning percentage, ninth all-time. His teams won 100 or more games five times. He had just one losing season. Three times, Weaver was Manager of the Year. He won at least 100 games three consecutive seasons (1969 to 1971) -- only two other managers, Connie Mack and Billy Southworth, accomplished that feat.

Weaver moved Ripken to shortstop, made Buford an everyday player and kept Murray in the majors when others thought he should go back to Triple-A. He platooned John Lowenstein and Gary Roenicke in left field in 1982, and they combined to hit .292 with 45 homers and 140 RBIs. He had a knack for finding role players such as Benny Ayala and Terry Crowley, who would sit on the bench without complaint and produce when called on. Past players and coaches still speak of the gift Weaver had for leaving spring training with the best team, not necessarily the best 25 players.

"I want to take some credit for that," Weaver said. "I think I perfected my baseball judgment both through the 10 years I played in the minors and my 10 years managing there."

Weaver preached fundamentals and worked his team hard during spring training until every relay throw was crisp and all cutoff plays were exact, yelling like a drill sergeant. His philosophy was simple.

"Make a mistake once, fine," Weaver said. "Make a mistake twice, accident. But don't make that mistake over and over. One guy makes a mistake, and the other 24 guys expect you to say something, no matter who that player was. That satisfies everything."

Superstition and statistics

He was superstitious, too. Weaver would rest his foot against a good-luck pole in the Memorial Stadium dugout and order anyone near it to clear out. When the Orioles were winning, Weaver never looked at a clock. And to this day, he puts his left sock on first. Weaver would talk to himself during the course of a game, apparently never realizing every snide comment was audible to his players.

"I wish I would have had a tape recorder in the dugout when he would think out loud," Hall of Fame outfielder Frank Robinson said. "He didn't realize he was doing it, but he could say some funny things, and no one took it as being serious or malicious. It was always an upbeat and easy atmosphere with Earl managing."