Earl Weaver went home yesterday to recuperate from a heart attack that had hospitalized the former Orioles manager for more than a week. A full recovery is expected for Weaver, who turns 68 on Friday.
"We'll probably have a quiet [celebration]," his wife, Marianna, said from their Hialeah, Fla., home. "Earl hates birthdays."
Not this one.
On Aug. 3, around 9: 30 p.m., Weaver was lying in bed, watching television, when he felt his chest tighten. Assuming it was something he ate, he took two Rolaids and tried to walk it off. The pain increased.
"There was a lot of discomfort," said Earl, who sensed urgency and rushed to the hospital. Marianna made the normal five-minute drive in less than that.
"Doctors said getting there so fast helped a lot," she said.
Weaver was wheeled into the emergency room, given oxygen and medication to dissolve an arterial blood clot. For eight days, cardiologists monitored his condition before releasing the Hall of Fame manager with his marching orders:
Golf, yes. Cigarettes, no.
Weaver figures he's batting .500.
"I've gone eight days without a smoke," he said. "That's unbelievable. Every day is another victory. I feel like I'm in AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]."
He'll hit the links next month, said Weaver, who must return to the hospital next week for an angioplasty to clear another blocked artery.
"Once that [artery] is 'blown out,' it'll be like none of this ever happened," he said.
Except for the nitroglycerin tablets he now carries for emergencies.
Weaver was enshrined in Cooperstown in 1996 after leading Baltimore to four American League pennants and a world championship during his 17 seasons.
He managed the Orioles from 1968 to 1982 and 1985-86, during which his teams won 1,480 games and lost 1,060. Weaver's winning percentage (.583) ranks fifth among those who managed 10 years or more in the modern era. Only once during his tenure did Baltimore have a losing season, in 1986.
His teams won three consecutive league titles (1969-71), and the '70 Orioles defeated the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series, four games to one.
Though Weaver tried to keep his illness quiet, he did receive hospital calls from former players such as Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer and Orioles bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks.
"We were just too worried to notify people," Marianna Weaver said.
Weaver, who has no history of heart problems, reckoned his own quick thinking helped save his life.
"At my age, you've got to know the danger signals," he said. "What I felt was too similar to what some of my buddies have gone through."