BALTIMORE - Orioles FanFest had a somewhat somber tone to it in the morning hours Saturday, when word had already spread through the Baltimore Convention Center that former manager Earl Weaver died at age 82.
The team's annual winter Baltimore gathering was well attended, with fans getting a chance to meet players, ask questions during forums, and snag autographs. And many of them had Weaver on their minds throughout the day.
"Growing up, going down to Memorial Stadium ... it takes me back," said Hampstead resident Tim Greenwood, who attended FanFest with his family. "Driving down to the metro today in Owings Mills, and my wife gets a tweet, 'Earl's dead.' I'm like, 'This can't be true.'
"My son has really been into baseball because of the Orioles' success this past season. He's 5, and he even knew. 'He's the mean guy.' I said, 'He's not mean, he's just a rascal. He's loud.' It put a damper on the day."
The Orioles honored Weaver several times during the event with video tributes. A replica No. 4 jersey was displayed on the left side of the main stage, while Weaver's number hung above it for all to see.
The man who won 1,480 games, took the Orioles to four World Series, and earned a spot in the Hall of Fame, may have been best known for his squabbles with pitcher Jim Palmer. Weaver and his ace had a love-hate relationship at times, but Palmer said he took note of his former manager's attending all of the Orioles' statue ceremonies last season.
"It was almost a victory lap, or a victory tour, for him because we got to see him again," Palmer said. "It's a sad day, but I think it's appropriate that they are celebrating Oriole baseball at FanFest here in Baltimore."
Team owner Peter Angelos released a statement and called Weaver "the greatest manager in the history of the Orioles organization and one of the greatest in the history of baseball."
Palmer reminisced with members of the media by telling a few stories, and his emotions got the best of him before he was finished.
Buck Showalter isn't one to shy away from his adoration for Weaver, either, and the Orioles manager met with the media as well Saturday to talk about one of his idols.
"I think everybody is still trying to come to terms with their thoughts and their feelings," Showalter said. "He meant so much to so many people. There's a reason why they called him 'The Earl of Baltimore.' There was such a connection with the way he went about his business."
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said he was sad to hear of Weaver's death, and the news made him reflect on a man who accomplished many things in 82 years.
"Think about what he's seen, think about the championships they won here, think about all the things he's seen in life," Jones said. "The man lived a great life, so I think it should be a celebration. I hope I live that long."
Weaver managed in Baltimore from 1968-82 and again from 1985-86. Despite being retired for more than 25 years, and now gone, his name remains synonymous with the club Orioles and its rich tradition.
Said catcher Matt Wieters: "He was Orioles through and through."