7 classic tales about hot-tempered Earl Weaver

May 7th, 2020

We could all use a little Earl right now. Earl Weaver -- aka The Earl of Baltimore -- was insanely funny, creatively profane and unsparingly blunt. He had opinions on just about everything and was happy to share them.

Nor did he lack confidence. He once interrupted a postgame media scrum to tell a reporter, “Stop writing! This isn’t the good stuff.” Moments later, he announces: “You’d better get all this down. This is going to make all the wires.”

Or the time he went to the mound for a chat with Jim Palmer.

“Are you trying?” he asked.

“Am I trying?” Palmer snapped. “You filled out the lineup card. Are you trying?”

Or the day Palmer second-guessed Weaver’s decision to start him in Game 1 of a playoff series.

“You know so much, why don’t you call the Angels and set up their rotation, too?” Weaver screamed.

Covering Weaver was more fun than should be legal, and, like I said, we could all use a little Earl right now.

If Weaver, who died at 82 in 2013, wasn’t baseball’s greatest manager, he was certainly on the short list, averaging 96 wins a year in his first 12 full seasons as skipper of the Orioles (1969-80).

He was a little rooster of a man, alternately charming and combative, and this piece is lovingly dedicated to the late umpire Steve Palermo, whose less affectionate nickname for Earl was “The Little Idiot.”

Here’s to seven moments of Earl:

1. How you define genius
Orioles pitching coach Ray Miller picked up the lineup card from the manager’s desk and took a quick glance.

“Benny Ayala,” Weaver told Miller.

Miller, puzzled, pointed out the obvious.

“Wait, Benny’s not in the lineup, Earl,” he said.

Weaver shrugged. “Benny Ayala,” the manager repeated.

In the ninth inning of that game, Ayala came off the bench and hit a three-run homer to help the Orioles win, 7-6, on Sept. 15, 1981, in Cleveland.

You could study thousands of box scores and talk to hundreds of his players and not find anything that explained Weaver’s genius any better than one otherwise forgotten night in Cleveland.

“Earl had played out the game in his head long before a pitch was thrown," Miller said. “He guessed what relievers the Indians had available and, in his head, was hoping for a certain matchup. When he got it, he was ready.”

Orioles DH and longtime Yankees broadcaster Ken Singleton once spoke for a lot of Weaver’s players when he said: “It's pretty comforting to look down there and know your manager is two steps ahead of the guy in the other dugout.”

Weaver was years ahead of his time. He leaned on home runs and pitch usage -- “Throw your damn slider” -- before it was popular. Same thing with platoons at multiple positions.

2. “Line us up and shoot us."
After a particularly dreadful loss near the end of Weaver’s second stint with the Birds, reporters quietly shuffled into his office and surrounded his desk. Weaver did not wait for a question.

“Just line us up and shoot us,” he announced. “That’s what we deserve.” And with that, he was off and running.

Later that season, after things had fallen apart, he held up a lineup card and announced, “This one should go to the Hall of Fame with me. It’s the worst one I’ve ever put on the field.”

That was the week he told one player, “You know what bothers me about you? You have no idea how bad you are.”

3. “Did you balk?”
Weaver’s argument with umpire Bill Haller has been viewed more than 500,000 times on YouTube. Among the highlights:

Weaver: “You’ll see! I’m going to the Hall of Fame!”

Haller: “For what? Screwing up the World Series?”

Weaver was objecting to Haller calling a balk on Mike Flanagan, although he didn’t dispute the call, only Haller’s motives, integrity and family lineage.

What did not make the video was Weaver stopping at the mound on his way back to the dugout and asking Flanagan: “Did you balk?”

“Yeah, I think I did,” Flanagan said.

“Well, [bleep] you too,” Weaver shouted.

4. “Where’s Piniella?”
Talk about two kindred spirits. In 1965, Weaver suspended 21-year-old outfielder Lou Piniella from his Double-A team in Elmira, N.Y., after they got into a clubhouse shouting match.

Piniella returned to the room he shared with shortstop Mark Belanger and decided to take a few days off. But when a player got hurt, Weaver needed Piniella back.

The manager showed up at the apartment, and, according to Piniella, this is sort of how the conversation went:

Weaver: “Where the hell were you?”

Piniella: “You sent me home.”

Weaver: “Well, someone got hurt last night. I need you.”

Piniella: “I’m not playing. You suspended me.”

Weaver: “I’m not kidding.”

Piniella: “I’m not kidding.”

Weaver once told Piniella he’d never make it in the big leagues because he was too much of a hothead.

“Well, you’re a fine example,” Piniella shot back.

5. “You jinxed him!”
Weaver was about to summon lefty reliever Tippy Martinez to face Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles. In the dugout, Palmer pointed out that Martinez had been used heavily (four of the last five games) and probably was tired.

“If you bring him in, Nettles is going to hit one into the upper deck,” Palmer said.

Weaver did bring Martinez in, and as the home run sailed into the upper deck, Weaver lost his mind:

“You jinxed him! You jinxed him! You jinxed him!”

6. “Get me the bleeping rule book!”
Once, during an argument with an umpire at home plate, Weaver ordered Miller to produce the MLB rule book he was told to have with him at all times. It was dog-eared and filled with notes.

Weaver ceremoniously tore it into dozens of pieces and threw it at the umpire. Newspapers around the country carried photos of Weaver tearing up the rule book. In one corner of the photos was the sight of Miller on his knees trying to salvage the book.

7. “You’ve got one minute, Earl.”
Here’s one from Palermo: “So I throw The Little Idiot out of a game at Yankee Stadium in the first inning. But he won’t leave.

“I told him, ‘Earl, if you don’t get out of there, I’m going to forfeit this game and you’re going to have 50,000 Yankee fans on your butt.”

“I’m not leaving,” Weaver said.

And he didn’t. He went and stood on second base, crossed his arms and dared Palermo to forfeit the game.

“Earl, you’ve got one minute, or I’m calling this a forfeit,” Palermo said. He told third-base ump Richie Garcia to start his stopwatch.

“Earl’s screaming that I don’t have the guts to do it, and I’m calling 40 seconds, 30 seconds,” Palermo said. “Finally, at five seconds, Earl starts running off the field yelling that he’s going in to call the league office.”

Here’s one more from Palermo:

“You know what we’d do that drove him crazy? He had a raspy voice that didn’t carry, and there’d be times he’d be cussing us. Instead of reacting, we’d say, ‘What’s that, Earl? I can’t hear you.’ That would drive him crazy.”

Weaver retired the first time after the 1982 season. Early the following season, center fielder Al Bumbry, as was his custom, was assisting with the meal service on a team flight.

“Hey, B, where’s the shrimp?” somebody asked.

“Playing golf in Florida,” Bumbry said.