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O's pay tribute to Weaver

BALTIMORE -- The Saturday night tribute to Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver at Camden Yards began, appropriately, with images of Weaver involved in some of the legendary arguments with umpires he was known and beloved for in Baltimore.

The dugout and clubhouse skirmishes he had with his own players probably were even more entertaining.

"We all butted heads once in a while," Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson said, "but we all loved him."

Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Rick Dempsey -who also played for Weaver - as well as Baltimore's current manager, Buck Showalter, were among those who who addressed the crowd in a celebration of the winningest manager in team history, who died in January at age 82.

Dempsey, in particular, pulled no punches.

"Earl Weaver, when we put the uniform on, was one of the toughest, most miserable human beings you'd ever want to be around on a ball field," he said.

Dempsey told stories about getting yelled at by Weaver for calling the wrong pitch, getting yanked from a game by Weaver for throwing a ball away, and getting into screaming matches with Weaver in the manager's office and in the shower.

Dempsey even recalled throwing his catcher's mask at Weaver and Weaver responding by throwing a batting helmet at him.

"It was funny, I hated him every day of my life when I had that uniform on," he said.

Dempsey, who won World Series rings for three different managers, said he thought a lot about his time with Weaver after he retired, and he kept coming up with the same conclusion.

"Now that it's all over with, when I look back, I actually loved him," Dempsey said. "Greatest manager I ever played for."

Ripken noted the "special" relationship Weaver had with the likes of Dempsey, Eddie Murray and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, who wrote a book with Weaver and was supposed to attend Saturday's ceremony but was unable to because of a family illness.

The Iron Man, however, said his relationship with Weaver was a bit different from theirs.

"I didn't hate Earl. It was the opposite for me," said Ripken, who related how Weaver played him "every single day" as a rookie in 1982, even at the worst of an early season 4-for-63 slump.

"Many managers wouldn't have had the guts to put me in every single day," he said. "Earl showed me so much compassion, so much understanding."

Weaver is one of only 19 managers to be inducted into baseball's Hall. His 1,480 wins rank 20th on the all-time list and his .583 winning percentage ranks eighth. His Orioles teams won at least 100 games five times, with six American League East crowns, four AL pennants and the 1970 World Series championship. He had only one losing campaign in 17 seasons, all spent with Baltimore.

"It's an honor to be the manager of the Baltimore Orioles because of Earl Weaver," said Showalter, who vowed that the team would continue to honor Weaver by playing the right way, noting that, "quite honestly, the Oriole Way was the Weaver Way."

Showalter and several of Saturday's speakers touched on Weaver's relationship with the fans of Baltimore - how much he appreciated them and how much they enjoyed watching him come out to argue for the Orioles when he believed the men in blue had done them wrong.

The fans weren't the only ones who enjoyed Weaver's pointing, screaming, dirt-kicking antics.

"The umpires didn't like to see Earl run onto the field but we used to watch to see what would happen," said Robinson, who recalled covering his face with his glove so no one could see him laughing at the spectacle.

While Weaver might've been best known for his arguments, some of which still provide traffic for YouTube 27 years after Weaver's last game, he was also ahead of his time in terms of using statistics to determine his best options during a game. While he didn't have the sophisticated computer printouts today manager's have, Weaver kept notecards about every player. He also had his memory and instincts.

"There was no one smarter in the dugout," said Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson.

Smart enough to move Ripken from third base to shortstop one day, without even telling Ripken beforehand. When he saw his name in the lineup beside the No. 6, the designation for shortstop, Ripken assumed Weaver had simply made a mistake.

Ripken recalled Weaver simply telling him, if the ball is hit to you, catch it, get a grip on it, and make a good throw to first base. But Weaver had thought a lot about making the move, which launched a transcendent, Hall of Fame career.

"I only played for him a very short time," Ripken said. "I wish I had played for him forever."

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