Earl Weaver was a reporter’s dream-come-true.
If you were a young columnist covering the Orioles in the early 80s, as I was for the old Evening Sun, you couldn't ask to be around a more colorful manager. You almost didn't have to talk to any of the players on those great Orioles' teams. Weaver would fill your notebook all by himself.
With Weaver, baseball meant show-time and the ballpark was his theater.
His hat-spinning, spittle-flying confrontations with umpires were legendary, some of the funniest bits of vaudeville I've ever seen in the game.
He cursed like a sailor in pre-game and post-game rants and his running clubhouse feud with Jim Palmer was pure soap opera.
When Palmer had a tough outing late in his career, Weaver would unload on him to the media, calling the future Hall of Famer gutless, a prima donna, a hypochondriac and whatever other nasty names he could think of on the spur of the moment.
He'd practically be cackling as reporters left his office and went running for Palmer's locker to get the great pitcher's reaction.
And when Palmer fired back, calling Weaver dumb, heartless, ignorant of pitching mechanics -- not to mention too damn short -- the game was on. Their barbed running banter could keep you in copy for weeks.
Weaver was short of stature, but everything he did in baseball was larger than life.
His teams won six divisional titles, four pennants and one World Series, and when people started calling him "the little genius," Weaver wouldn't argue with them.
He was headed to the Hall of Fame and he knew it, and he wanted you to know it, too.
Yet to the end, he also thought he'd be fired as Orioles manager at any moment and end up in the poorhouse.
Maybe that's one reason he chain-smoked Raleighs and clipped the redeemable coupons on the back of the packs, which was an endless source of amusement to players, reporters and anyone else who knew him.
"With all your money, you're still clipping coupons?" a man once asked him.
"Ah, hell, you never know," Weaver answered in his trademark rasp. "I might need to get a good vacuum cleaner or something."
I only covered him for three seasons, including his disappointing comeback as Orioles manager in 1985-86, but it was long enough to see how special the Earl of Baltimore was.
No one knew the game better. No one could think two and three innings ahead better than Weaver. No manager ever got more out of his players than he did.