For a generation of Orioles fans, watching former O's skipper Earl Weaver throw out of the first pitch at the 2011 home opener at Camden Yards probably wasn't all that nostalgic. After all, do they really remember the fiery manager who routinely won American League pennants and pushed the buttons that allowed the Orioles to reach four World Series during his Hall of Fame tenure?
Back in December, no less a journalistic authority than the New York Times mistakenly reported that Weaver had died. "I'll be damned," the 80-year-old told The Baltimore Sun when contacted about the erroneous report. "All I can do is say, that's false. I'm still here, although my knees have given out, so I don't play golf anymore. I've always said that there were two places that I wouldn't mind dying. One was Memorial Stadium; the other, the golf course. Now I've got to wait forever (to go), because both of those places are gone."
Alive and well - and probably just crotchety enough to give his old sparring partner Jim Palmer a little what-for if the tall right-hander acted up - Weaver will be in Salisbury tomorrow as part of the festivities surrounding the South Atlantic League All-Star Game the Shorebirds are hosting.
Weaver will appear at the Cheerwine & Strawberry Crush All-Star Fan Fest at Perdue Stadium. From 3:30-5:30 p.m., Weaver will sign autographs and interact with fans. Then, he'll serve as an honorary manager for the main event, even participating in the exchange of lineup cards at home plate. MASNsports.com will be covering the All-Star action and hopes to get a few minutes with the legendary former Orioles manager.
In honor of the Earl of Baltimore, and to remind some of the young whippersnappers out there just how much he meant to a city and its baseball team all those years ago, here's a YouTube recollection of his going-away party following the last game of the 1982 season, an Oct. 3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers in a game that matched future Hall of Fame pitchers Don Sutton of the Brewers and Palmer, now a MASN color analyst. With the 10-2 defeat, the O's finished 94-68, a game back of Milwaukee.
The Orioles needed to sweep a four-game series against the Brewers to overtake them for the American League East crown in the final series of the season. But after taking the first three games of the series, they fell in the finale. ABC's Howard Cosell was on hand to describe the action. Pay close attention to Cosell's ruminations on the renaissance of Baltimore sparked by Harborplace, which in 1982 was still relatively new.
Weaver wasn't prone to emotional outbursts, so to see him crying amid the mob that engulfed him on the field following the game was something special. Edward Bennett Williams, then the O's owner, came on the field to congratulate Weaver and superfan Wild Bill Hagy kept the crowd of 51,642 in a frenzy with his O-R-I-O-L-E-S cheer.
Of course, Weaver's retirement wasn't really a retirement. He was lured back to the manager's office in 1985, but could only coax a 53-52 record and a third-place finish out of the O's the rest of the way. Weaver returned in 1986 and went 73-89, the worst record of the 18 seasons he managed in Baltimore. Weaver wasinducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1996, after posting a lifetime .583 winning percentage that included five 100-win seasons, six AL East titles, four pennants and a World Series crown in 1970.