Front Row Seat: Manager Weaver remembered for verbal outbursts with umpires

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Mention the name of legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, and you'll likely envision the fiery skipper arguing fiercely with umpires.

Weaver was ejected from regular season games 94 times -- the most in American League history -- during his 17 years as Orioles manager.

I got to witness one of Weaver's managerial tirades numerous times as a fan -- and even got to hear him talk about one of his ejections while I was covering a Cleveland Indians game as a sports writer years ago.

Weaver, 82, died Jan. 19, 2013, of an apparent heart attack while on an Orioles' fantasy cruise ship in the Caribbean Sea. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

My most vivid memory of Weaver came while I was covering Indians' Sunday home games at Cleveland Stadium for another newspaper. The lowly Tribe had lost, of course, and Weaver had been ejected for arguing the call of an umpire who ruled that a potential Orioles' home run down the left field line was actually a foul ball.

In Weaver's office afterward, I was among a handful of sports writers who listened to an animated Weaver loudly complain that the umpire was out of position and should have consulted with fellow umpires before making his call.

At one point, he stood up and motioned with his arms, as if to draw an imaginary line depicting how he believed the ball had stayed fair.

"It was a terrible call," he bellowed.

At that moment, I remember thinking about how millions of people on TV and thousands of fans at the ballparks had gotten to see Weaver tirades, but I was getting an up-close-and-personal performance.

WEAVER wasn't finished. He went on to blast Orioles star pitcher Jim Palmer, also a Hall-of-Famer, whom Weaver said he coaxed through enough innings that day to get the victory even though he said Palmer complained his back was hurting.

Weaver wanted Palmer to throw more fastballs, and he claimed Palmer insisted on delivering more off-speed pitches. That annoyed Weaver.

"Palmer knows how to pitch," Weaver said, his voice getting louder and louder. "He's got to throw more fastballs."

Whatever Palmer was throwing, it was good enough to beat the Indians on this day.

When Weaver launched into arguments with umpires, he would turn his cap backward so he could get face-to-face with the ump without striking him with the bill of his cap.

He waved his arms furiously, kicked dirt and yelled so loudly that his face often got red. It was fabulous entertainment.

Of course, Weaver's teams won a lot of games, too -- 100 or more games five times, the American League pennant four times and World Series once.

Weaver's squads also had five Hall-of-Famers -- Palmer, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray. No manager wins consistently without great talent.

Those teams also won because they were guided by Weaver's intelligent managerial decisions and intense personality.

He was one of a kind.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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