Earl Weaver managed the Baltimore Orioles from the middle of the 1968 season, when he replaced Hank Bauer, until he retired in 1982. He came out of retirement to pilot the Orioles in 1985 and 1986, after which he retired for good.
Weaver teams have won only one World Series. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1996.
Playing for One Run
Managing with the philosophy that “if you play for one run, that’s all you’ll get,” Weaver popularized waiting for the three-run home run.
Weaver’s approach produced four pennants but only one World Championship, primarily because in the World Series, playing for one run and getting one run is more productive than waiting for a three-run home run and not getting it.
The “Can’t Lose” Orioles Lost
The 1969 Orioles won 109 games. Future Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, and Brooks Robinson were key members of the team that was prohibitive favorites to beat Gil Hodges’ New York Mets in the World Series.
The Birds pitching staff had a 2.83 team ERA, allowed only 7.4 hits and 3.1 runs a game, and had an incredible 20 shutouts, 19 of which were complete games.
The Orioles offense averaged 4.81 runs a game and hit 175 home runs.
After winning the first game of the Series handily, the “can’t lose” Orioles lost the next four to New York’s most beloved team.
Gil Hodges and Earl Weaver: Contrasting Styles
A key play in the fifth game graphically illustrates the differences between Gil Hodges’ quiet, logical, professional managing style and Earl Weaver’s bombastic approach.
With the New York Mets trailing 3-0, Cleon Jones led off the sixth inning. He appeared to be hit in the foot by a Dave McNally pitch, but home plate umpire Lou DiMuro told Jones to get back into the batters’ box.
A calm Gil Hodges ran out of the dugout, grabbed the ball that was near the backstop, and showed DiMuro a shoe polish mark. Jones was awarded first base.
Weaver protested vehemently, screaming uncontrollably in DiMuro’s face, but to no avail.
Donn Clendenon promptly hit a two-run home run to drive in Jones, giving the Mets their first two runs to cut Weaver’s lead to a single run, Al Weis’ seventh inning home run tied the game, and two Mets’ eighth-inning runs finished off Weaver and the Birds.
Years later, Mets’ shortstop Bud Harrelson asked, “Do you think Earl Weaver would have gotten that call from DiMuro?” Not the way Earl treated the guardians of the game.
Two World Series Losses to the Pirates
The Orioles repeated as pennant winners in 1970 and 1971.
They beat the Cincinnati Reds in a five-game World Series, led by Brooks’ Robinson great defense at third base in 1970, but in1971, Weaver and the Orioles found themselves losers, as Danny Murtaugh’s team rebounded after losing the first two games at Baltimore to win in seven.
Many blamed Weaver because he played injured first baseman Boog Powell, who hit only .111 in the Series and was visibly in pain at each at-bat.
The Pirates, led by Chuck Tanner, beat Weaver’s Orioles in seven games again in 1979, this time overcoming a 3-1 deficit.
As reported in an ESPN article, Earl Weaver’s character was clearly visible at the Sports Boosters of Maryland Headliners Banquet in November, 2000.
Weaver was being “roasted” as guest of honor when Jim Palmer needled Weaver about his height and drinking habits, at one point saying that the Maryland police were relieved that Weaver moved to Florida.
Weaver didn’t take the high road. He told the audience that during his career, Palmer had claimed injuries he didn’t have.
Weaver then confronted Palmer directly and had to be led away by former Orioles’ first baseman Lee May.
Playoffs and World Series Record
Earl Weaver is in the Hall of Fame based on his managerial achievements during the regular season. Weaver is 0-2 in the playoffs and 1-3 in the World Series.
Too bad for Baltimore that Gil Hodges didn’t manage those Orioles teams.
Earl Weaver’s Managerial Record at Baseball Reference
Earl Weaver at Baseball Library
Bud Harrelson Interview