A Cooperstown road trip to honor the Earl of Baltimore

He was the Earl of Baltimore, and among the Orioles’ many fans, just about as popular as any great player ever to wear the orange and black.

On his way to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., Earl Weaver managed the Orioles to 1,480 wins, including six American League East titles, four AL pennants and the 1970 World Series championship. Between 1969 and 1980, his teams won 100 games five times. No O’s team ever managed by anyone other than Weaver ever won 100 games.

Fans appreciated and eagerly cheered him on during his many arguments with umpires and all of those ejections. He seemed to always fight for his team and players, and that played well with O’s fans young and old.

We loved No. 4.

earl-weaver-argue-ump.jpgI was one of those fans out there cheering on the Orioles at Memorial Stadium and giving Weaver a standing ovation every time he ran back to the dugout after another argument. He would turn his cap around, scream at the umpire and then kick dirt on home plate on his way back to the dugout. It was quite the show and often as entertaining as the game.

But he was more than a fiery man who never played in the majors who was not very tall. He got the most out of teams that were admittedly very good. A lot was expected and delivered. He was a master at keeping the entire 25-man roster fresh and ready. He used index cards to track his hitters against other pitchers. He was way ahead of his time in that regard. His teams used pitching, defense and three-run homers to win. Bunting and small ball were discouraged. His teams won a lot, but they lost a couple of World Series Game 7s or his 1-3 record in the Fall Classic would be 3-1.

That didn’t keep fans from adoring No. 4. They did. And still do.

In August 1996, Weaver was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Three men who grew up loving Earl and his Oriole teams, by that time in their 30s, just could not miss that ceremony. They wanted badly to be there to cheer on Weaver one more time as he took his rightful place among the game’s all-time greats.

So off we went, heading north by car several days before the induction ceremony. Myself and college classmates Spiro Morekas and Jeff Dugan. A four-day trip would include golf, a lot of fun, a few adult beverages, several hours spent inside the Hall of Fame, an encounter (that only one of us truly appreciated!) with a Hall of Famer’s son and one wonderful moment captured in a picture taken in a famous bar with the man himself.

Here is a video where Morekas and I remembered our trek to the Hall of the Fame from 24 years ago. To the “Coop,” as I think we called it a few times on that trip.

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