Unpacking my suitcase Sunday morning after Ken and I returned from a cruise the night before, I imagined how Marianna Weaver must have felt aboard the cruise ship on which her husband Earl Weaver had expired early Saturday morning. I imagined her packing up his clothes and belongings, enduring one more day at sea before their ship docked again in the U.S., knowing her husband was not in their stateroom but in the ship's morgue, then disembarking the cruise liner, this time not on his arm, but perhaps walking slowly next to his body bag.
How a ruined vacation – and his death – was not in the plan.
A person in our group on our separate baseball-related cruise had approached our breakfast table to discreetly whisper in Ken’s ear, “Earl Weaver died.” From that point on, Ken’s cell phone jingled with calls from reporters and fellow teammates who needed to discuss the great legend of a manager. A manager whose job was to win games. A manager who focused on one game at a time. Who wasn’t afraid to let his players know they screwed up. A manager in a white and orange Orioles uniform who didn’t like umpires and didn’t care if all of Baltimore saw him on TV kick up dirt in a huff after a muffed call. In his career, he was tossed out of 97 games.
A manager who brought out the best in his players.
“His best attribute was his ability to get us focused,” said Ken, who played on Weaver’s team between 1975 and 1982. “We knew what our jobs were. He made us play hard. I appreciate him today more than I did back then.”
Earl had some tremendous players on his roster: Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr., Jim Palmer and Eddie Murray … all baseball Hall of Famers. Earl was in the Hall of Fame himself, inducted in 1996.
They say there’s a blessing in everything … then the blessing of Earl’s untimely death aboard an Orioles cruise was that he ‘went out’ having a good time ... partying, laughing and surrounded by baseball people who adored him. He and Marianna had participated in this same cruise annually for some 20 years, joined by several other former Orioles players, this time former pitchers Scotty McGregor and Bill Swaggerty.
Facebook friends and Baltimoreans covered social media with their memories and fond thoughts on the Baltimore legend. Everyone loved the ‘Earl of Baltimore’ – even if he yelled a lot. We grew up watching Earl – a feisty little guy with a cute little face that reminded me of Curious George.
Ken has a bunch of humorous stories about him. But now is not the time to tell them. Now is the time to honor the man who led Ken and his teammates. The manager who taught, led, inspired, drove, and won.
The last time Ken spoke to Weaver was at Eddie Murray’s statue unveiling last summer at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “He and I were alone,” said Ken. “He said he appreciated how hard I had played for him. But it was Earl who brought out the best in me. To say that he was unique is an understatement. There will never be another manager like him. Rest in peace Earl.”