Sunday, January 20, 2013

What Earl means to me

By James Baker

Yesterday Baltimore woke to learn that Earl Weaver, legendary manager of the Orioles, had passed away. Weaver was 82 years old and collapsed in his cabin attended by his wife while on the annual Orioles’ Fantasy Cruise. Roughly 18 thousand fans attended the Orioles’ annual Fanfest yesterday at the Baltimore Convention Center, as the news filtered through the crowd the celebratory nature of the day took on a bittersweet tone as the Orioles community would now begin to mourn a true giant of Orioles history.

In the day since his passing the baseball literati have written the memorial pieces that one would expect when a true legend takes his final reward. All have been varying degrees of great or beautiful so today I come here to explain what Earl Weaver meant to me.

Of course I am too young to have ever seen Weaver manage. I know Earl like I know any other historical player or coach. I know him as a collection of stats, numbers , video clips and photos. I have seen him speak, I have seen the statues and the various other exhibits which only now are truly memorials.  But Earl was more than that to this town.  In a way Weaver has always been a ghost to me. Weaver has always been a specter from the past, a shadow that still casts itself over the team and town. What made Weaver so great?

Of course Weaver was an elite manager, one of the winningest managers since 1960; considered to be eons ahead of his time when it comes to statistical analysis, so much so that he is now largely dubbed the “Godfather of Sabermetrics.”  Weaver’s teams earned American League pennants in 1969, ’70, ‘71 and ’79 as well as a World Series trophy in 1970. He was a master of platooning and believed in the importance of a strong bench. Three-run homers were as valuable as diamonds according to his world view and he loathed the thought of playing for one run because “that’s all you will get.”

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