There was no good news for Earl Weaver on the
18th green at the Bonaventure Country Club yesterday.
A 15-foot birdie putt made Weaver and his partner go deeper into their
pockets -- and then the former Orioles manager found out he did not make the
Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Former Detroit Tigers and
Cleveland Indians pitcher Hal Newhouser and ex-American League umpire Bill
McGowan were chosen.
On the surface at least, the birdie putt had the most noticeable effect.
"You picked a hell of a time to make a birdie," he said to Sid Wright, a
regular member of Weaver's Tuesday foursome (he has had a group for most
weekdays since retiring in 1986).
And later, to his partner, Sam Fapore, Weaver admonished: "You jinxed us
when you said we halved the hole [after Weaver had made his putt for a par]."
To which Wright added his own postscript: "You never tease an alligator
when you're still standing on the log."
Wright's partner and fellow winner was John LaPonzina, a managing partner
at Bonaventure. The four rotate partners every week and talk trash to each
other as much as any regular public parks foursome.
But when the golf match is over, they revert to just being friends. "I've
played golf with a lot of celebrities," said Wright, who is originally from
Canada and has lived in Florida for the past 22 years, "and Earl is as down to
earth as any of them. He's aggressive, and he's a fierce competitor, but
beyond that he's a regular guy."
Wright and LaPonzina have known Weaver since shortly after he first bought
a home in south Florida. "He's a character, he's feisty," said LaPonzina. "We
yell and scream and call each other all kinds of names, but then it's all
On the day that he was first eligible to go into the Hall of Fame, nothing
changed for Weaver. His golf match went on as scheduled, there were no advance
plans to celebrate or commiserate.
In his retirement, it was just another day at the office. Not completely
routine, mind you, but nothing out of the ordinary.
"It's a little bit of a disappointment, I have to say that," said Weaver,
who otherwise displayed no such emotions. "When I was told what it took to get
in [survive a screening committee and then collect 75 percent of the vote],
and how hard it is to do it the first year, I tried not to get myself too
"I'd like to get in someday, I'd have to admit that. Dead or alive it hTC
would be an honor," he said, "but it would be nice if it happened while my
mother was still alive."
If others found a touch of irony in the fact that an umpire, McGowan, was
chosen over Weaver, he wasn't among them. "Not at all," said Weaver. "I
understand he died the year  he retired -- and he still had to wait 38
"Leo [Durocher] didn't make it either -- I guess you just have to stand in
line. I understand I didn't make the top four. It's still an honor just to be
McGowan and Newhouser will be inducted along with Tom Seaver and Rollie
Fingers at Cooperstown, N.Y., on Aug. 2.
Under the veterans committee jurisdiction, Weaver falls into the
non-playing category, with managers, baseball officials and those who played
in the old Negro Leagues.
Durocher, William Holbert, who was president of the National League more
than 100 years ago (1876-1882), and Leon Day, a veteran of the Negro Leagues
who lives in Baltimore, were others who were said to have had strong
"There was support for Earl," said a Hall of Fame official after the
results were released, "but it was his first year on the ballot."
Weaver said his events of the day were not affected by the Hall of Fame
voting, regardless of the outcome. "I have to admit that I did think about
it," he said, "but as far as affecting my golf game -- no.
"It's no different than when you go on the baseball field -- you put
everything else out of your mind," said Weaver. The pending election results
didn't affect his game -- he's a 12-handicap and shot an 81 -- only his
wallet. "I played pretty good and lost money," he said.
And after a brief visit to the lounge (for two non-alcoholic beers) Weaver
went home to keep a pre-arranged date -- to play tennis. In the process, he
managed to lose a triple-header.
He and his wife, Marianna, played one set against daughter Kim and former
Sun baseball writer Ken Nigro -- losing, 6-4. "We had them on the ropes, but
Earl let up," said Marianna.
"Not only that, but I had to fix him [Nigro], too," said Weaver.
If nothing else, it was one of the more interesting days of Weaver's
splendid career -- even if he did get beaten by a former umpire and an
Some managers will tell you it can't get any worse that that.