"There are a lot of things to be touched on," he said of his speech. "When I was managing in Fitzgerald, Ga. [in 1957], I never thought it would come to this. I was just happy to be managing in Fitzgerald.

"Nobody goes through life without help, and I had mentors who aided me all the way. After 20 years in the minors and two decades in the big leagues, there are a lot of people to thank."

Though he has not yet seen the finished statue, Weaver was asked for his approval along the way.

"I had them tweak my cheeks a bit," he said. "At first, they were a little too puffy."

He'll receive a three-foot replica of the scupture, and everyone in attendance gets a miniature likeness of the little genius.

"I wonder how many of them will say, 'Hey, who's Earl Weaver?'" he said. "Let's see how many of those souvenirs are left under their seats, after the game."

Kidding aside, he admitted, the unveiling will bring him close to tears.

"This certainly ranks up there with being in the Hall of Fame," Weaver said. "I've got a plaque hanging there, and now, a statue here. What more can a guy ask, for chrissakes?"

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

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