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Eleven things you didn’t know about Earl Weaver

Jan 21, 2013, 10:27 AM EDT

Earl Weaver Getty Getty Images

As Alice Sweet of Norfolk, Virginia and the rest of baseball fandom mourns the passing of Earl Weaver, Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times gives us 11 cool facts about Weaver that probably never occurred to you.

The one that stopped me in my tracks: Weaver, despite being a gray-haired institution by the time I started paying attention to baseball in the late 70s, was only 56 years old when he managed his last game. As Jaffe notes, that’s younger than Ned Yost is now. And about the same age as Ron Roenicke.

Granted, there are different kinds of 56 year-olds. Some in better shape than others and some who didn’t spend most of their 30s through their 50s yelling at people all the time like Weaver. But man, that’s nutsy to think about.

Anyway, great post by Jaffe about a great manager.

  1. mdac1012 - Jan 21, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Liked the three run homer, high on base percentage batters, hated bunting, stealing bases and relied on strong starting pitching. Weaver was Moneyball before Moneyball existed.

    • woodenulykteneau - Jan 21, 2013 at 11:17 AM

      Or at least what people who have clearly never read “Moneyball” think it was about.

      • mdac1012 - Jan 21, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        Read it, didn’t find it to be all that groundbreaking.

    • Roger Moore - Jan 21, 2013 at 2:17 PM

      So some of the stuff you knew is wrong. Weaver didn’t have any objection to the stolen base. He didn’t like running into outs, so he insisted on high percentage base stealing, but he ran when he had the talent for it. Similarly, he wasn’t always an anti-bunting guy. He bunted a typical amount at the beginning of his career and only gradually stopped bunting much.

      • mdac1012 - Jan 21, 2013 at 2:40 PM

        I was talking in general terms and baseball philosophy. I wasn’t saying he never bunted or gave the green light to steal a base. Even strict Moneyball teams have bunted and stolen bases.

      • Roger Moore - Jan 21, 2013 at 3:08 PM

        @mdac1012:

        But the point is that he certainly wasn’t philosophically opposed to stealing bases. His teams were 4th in the AL in stolen bases over the course of his career, and there’s no consistent pattern of him giving up on the stolen base over the course of his career. The bunt was more of a philosophical thing- he didn’t just give up on bunting but also explained why he didn’t like it.

        I think, in fact, that the idea of the stolen base as a small ball tactic is greatly overstated. The idea behind the bunt (and the hit-and-run, when used as a tactic to avoid the double play) is to reduce risk; you’re trying to improve your chances of one run even at the cost of decreasing your chances of scoring a bunch of runs. Base stealing is very different because a successful steal increases both your chances of a single run (advancing the runner) and a big inning (cutting down on the double play), while a failed stolen base decreases both. In that sense, stealing bases is philosophically closer to playing for the three run homer than it is to sacrifice bunting.

  2. tpxdmd - Jan 21, 2013 at 10:59 AM

    I had the same feeling about Sparky Anderson. I remember getting his baseball card in the mid 80s and thinking he was ancient, and then when he died, I realized he was 61 when he retired in 1995.

  3. zipsports - Jan 21, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    I wonder how Alice Sweet’s tomato plants turned out

    • mdac1012 - Jan 21, 2013 at 11:21 AM

      Greatest interview ever!

  4. mungman69 - Jan 21, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    Earl Weaver smoked? A lot!

    • gosport474 - Jan 21, 2013 at 11:54 AM

      If I remember correctly, Earl nicknamed reliever Don Stanhouse ‘Full Pack’ because he would put so many runners on base that Earl would figuratively smoke through a full pack during the inning he pitched. Stanhouse’s Whip numbers of 1.5 and 1.376 during ’78 and ’79 certainly back this up.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/stanhdo01.shtml

  5. cur68 - Jan 21, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    I have only a limited knowledge of Weaver. He’s the guy everyone cites when a manager does his nut these days. Thanks to commenters, I’ve had a chance to see and hear Weaver in action via YouTube embeds. It was a treat to see the little bantam rooster throw down with umpires and whomever, all towering over him.

    Given the extraordinary vision and success Weaver had, you’d think his saber-friendly approach would be embraced, but no. Still a bit too nerdy for some, I guess. I can work up a full head of steam for the “no-sac bunt” approach any day.

    Jaffe’s article was a fun read and an affirmation that a results driven enterprise needs the best talent for the job as opposed to a guy who just LOOKS like the best talent. Weaver would have been a fine CEO of any large business: he understood that the best move was the one that got results, not the one that just looked good. As much as I like to take jabs at Billy “The Great & Powerful” Beane, I have to acknowledge that he’s pretty much cut from same cloth as Weaver when it comes to “do what works, not what tradition dictates”. I’m glad to know more about Weaver. He would have be fun to have around these days.

    • historiophiliac - Jan 21, 2013 at 12:35 PM

      Wait, what happened to extended replay and no challenges?

      • cur68 - Jan 21, 2013 at 12:48 PM

        Well yes. That. I imagine that a person like Weaver would still get the ole heave-ho regularly even with a booth ump. Given a hypothetical booth ump I bet, what with balks, check swings, balls/strikes, and Joe West, Mr. Weaver would still be a staple of the modern Managerial Meltdown YouTube Movie. Clearly he regarded umpires as people who should know the rules, apply them impartially, and not be above criticism. Those tirades of his seem a product of his perception of umpire-fail at those things. I imagine that a future Earl Weaver would march up to the booth and have it out with the booth guy, too.

        And now that I’ve said that, can you imagine Weaver telling off Joe West? Ah, the very thought of it warms my frosty heart.

      • historiophiliac - Jan 21, 2013 at 12:52 PM

        I’m okay with watching Leyland do it.

        Weaver is a perfect example why I oppose prohibiting challenges altogether. I’m not for little dorky flags and the like — but, dangit, managers should be able to come out and kick a little dirt too. Some of us are not for professionalism.

    • APBA Guy - Jan 21, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      I grew up with Weaver at the helm of my favorite team when I was playing Little League. He embraced more than a few “modern” concepts, such as an emphasis on doing what works, but also Baltimore could never compete dollar for dollar with New York, so his use of platoons (Roenicke/Lowenstein, Etchebarren/Hendricks) were both creative and effective. He was also very direct as a communicator with players and with the public. “The Baltimore Way” became synonymous with playing baseball the right way. Very sad to see him pass. RIP, Mr Weaver.

  6. raysfan1 - Jan 21, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    I remember hearing Jim Palmer say that some of Weaver’s tirades weren’t so much truly disagreeing with the umps as either demonstrating he has the players’ backs or trying to fire up the troops when he felt they were playing lethargically.

  7. louhudson23 - Jan 23, 2013 at 6:01 AM

    Weaver would bunt and he would send runners,or more correctly,allow runners to go.Both of which,when properly used are excellent tactics,however otherwise statistically demonstrated. While he liked to use individual performance statistics to form his famous platoons,making him a forbear in some ways to today’s game,the major theme of his managerial career was an incessant reliance on situational baseball and an unrelenting insistence on repetitive drills simulating those situations. The Orioles did not miss cut off men.They did not give up extra bases to trailing runners. They threw to the correct base,positioned themselves properly prior to a pitch(B.Robinson,Belanger,Ripken credit their defensive prowess and survival to this skill) They did not fail to take the extra base and they did not stand around watching triples turn into doubles and doubles into singles.Earl worked his players asses off on baseball fundamentals. I wish more teams then and now would spend the time and effort to learn the game and how to play it properly. Baseball is a beautiful game that extends far beyond the HR,and while Earl loved them,he understood the game was so much more than the long ball. Hitting stats make the money and today’s players work very hard on their stroke,but far too often(not always)the playing of the game suffers.To remember Earl is to remember the game as it was meant to be played.Skillfully,wisely…..

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