This great game of baseball spans many years and generations, and some of us really got to experience that Tuesday night at the South Atlantic League All-Star game hosted by the Delmarva Shorebirds.
Not long after we got to interview some up-and-coming stars of tomorrow, like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, we were sitting in a conference room across from Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver.
Now 80, Weaver led the Orioles to a .593 winning percentage in 17 seasons, winning four American League championships and the 1970 World Series. His 1969-1971 Orioles teams averaged 106 wins per year.
Weaver was the headline guest at the Fan Fest activiates that day and, for two hours, fans stood in line to get his autograph. He remains a beloved Oriole figure.
Here are some interesting quotes from Earl on two topics. First, he said the best players are not motivated by money.
“Frank and Brooks both made $100,000 a year. When I first got the club I made $28,000. Money has nothing to do with it. You get the right type of people.
“You get a Frank Robinson and a Brooks Robinson that want to come to the ballpark and Boog (Powell) and Paul Blair and all the guys that want to come out and play baseball every day, then you’ve got something.
“Money had nothing to do with it. It was their desire and their desire to play the game the right way. Same with Cal (Ripken) Jr., same with Eddie Murray. Broke those two in as rookies and it didn’t make any difference how much money they made.
“I was a little bit afraid about Eddie because he had so much potential. I thought maybe if Eddie got rich, that he might let up a bit but he never did. Wound up being one of three players with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits and he’s in pretty good company with (Hank) Aaron and (Willie) Mays.”
Rafael Palmeiro, by the way, became the fourth member of that club in 2005.
Long before the Internet, sabermetrics and the explosion of baseball stats and analysis, Weaver was the first major league manager to use hitter-versus-pitcher stats. He kept an index card of each AL pitcher and how his hitters fared against that hurler.
Weaver used those cards in 1979, when the left-field platoon of Gary Roenicke and John Lowenstein produced 34 homers from that position for his 102-win AL champs.
It was because of those cards that Weaver once let a weak-hitting infielder bat in a key spot against a futuer Hall of Famer.
“But it was not an automatic platoon (in 1979), because Roenicke could hit some right-handers and I had it there in black and white because of our front office - which pitchers Roenicke could hit. He probably played twice as many games as Lowenstein did. It worked out well for us.
“I remember, we were in Texas and (Mark) Belanger naturally was hitting his .208. Eighth inning or ninth inning it probably was, with a man on second base and two outs and everybody expected me to pinch hit for him.
“My stats said he was the best hitter on our club, a .300 hitter, off Nolan Ryan. I let him hit and naturally he hit a line drive over Ryan’s head and we got the winning run.
“That was the first time the writers asked me and I could show them on paper why I did it. I think that’s become history with everybody knowing everything now.
“But I think it gave me an edge. I remember (Tony) LaRussa asking me about it many years ago. He was a young guy that wanted to learn.”
He will always be the Earl of Baltimore and how could anyone ever tire of hearing Earl Weaver reminisce about the great times he had with the Orioles.
What are your memories of Earl?
By the way, you can click here to see some video clips from Earl in Salisbury from our media lounge.