Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Remembering Earl Weaver, Plus a Corey Hart Update

leave a comment »

This past Saturday (January 19, 2012 to be exact), news broke regarding the passing of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver. Weaver managed the Baltimore Orioles for his entire career and had a 1480-1060 record, good for fifth-best among 20th century managers who managed for ten years or more.

But that’s not what I remember most about Weaver.

Nope.  I remember Weaver as a firecracker, someone who loved to bait the umpires and held the record for most ejections in a career (with 91 regular-season ejections by most counts) until Bobby Cox later came along and broke it.  (But don’t fret, Weaver fans; he still holds the American League record for ejections.)

Weaver was a great manager, don’t get me wrong.  And he certainly beat my Milwaukee Brewers team more often than not, though we did win against Weaver and his Orioles in 1982 in the final game of the season.  (Don Sutton out-dueled Jim Palmer in Baltimore.  Had the Brewers lost that game, the Orioles would’ve advanced to the 1982 ALCS and the Brewers would’ve gone home, there being no wild cards back then.)

Here’s how Sports Illustrated described Weaver:

Anointed as “Baltimore’s resident genius” by Sports Illustrated‘s June 18, 1979 cover, Weaver was a 5-foot-7 spitfire whose irascibility was exceeded only by his tactical acumen; imagine Ozzie Guillen’s profanity crossed with Lou Piniella’s explosiveness, multiplied by Tony LaRussa’s mastery of roster usage. Weaver’s tirades against umpires were legendary; he holds the AL career record for ejections with 94. In 1969, he became the first manager thrown out of a World Series game in more than 60 years. In 1975, he was run from both games of a doubleheader in by umpire and longtime nemesis Ron Luciano, the second time during the exchange of lineup cards, then ejected again by Luciano the next day.

Mind you, Ron Luciano was one of the most colorful umpires in MLB history, and wasn’t likely to get along with someone as equally colorful as himself.

Not that Weaver was easy for any umpire to get along with.  Don Denkinger said this in an article by the Associated Press (via Yahoo Sports):

Former umpire Don Denkinger said he called one of Weaver’s last games in the majors.

”He comes to home plate before the game and says, ‘Gentlemen, I’m done.’ He told us the only way he’d ever come back is if he ran out of money,” Denkinger told The Associated Press by phone from Arizona. ”I told him that if he ever ran out of money to call the umpires’ association and we’d take up a collection for him. We’d do anything, just to keep him off the field and away from us.”

But Weaver had a slightly softer side.  Again according to Denkinger (from the above-mentioned AP article):

Umpires found out just how demonstrative Weaver could be.  Denkinger remembered a game in which the manager disputed a call with Larry McCoy at the plate.

”Earl tells us, ‘Now I’m gonna show you how stupid you all are.’ Earl goes down to first base and ejects the first base umpire. Then he goes to second base and ejects the second base umpire. I’m working third base and now he comes down and ejects me,” Denkinger said.

Much later, after they were retired, the umpire asked Weaver to sign a photo of that episode.

”He said absolutely. I sent it to him, he signed it and said some really nice things. It’s framed and hanging up in my office back home in Iowa,” Denkinger said.

I remember many games where I sat in the stands at old Milwaukee County Stadium, watching the Milwaukee Brewers play Weaver’s Orioles.  Weaver was a brilliant statistician, something I didn’t fully appreciate at the time (especially as it always seemed whenever I went to a Brewers-Orioles game, the Brewers were going to end up on the short end of the stick).  But he was an even better motivator, which is why he knew how to get the best out of such players as Mark Belanger (a defensive specialist who regularly hit below the “Mendoza line”), John Lowenstein and Terry Crowley.

Here’s a bit from the SI article, quoting a well-known “underground” audiotape of an interview Weaver did with broadcaster Tom Marr:

Weaver was known for assembling productive platoons, and nurturing exceptional pinch-hitters who could turn a game around. In this legendary 1980 “Manager’s Corner” interview recorded with broadcaster Tom Marr as a gag after a flubbed take — unaired but widely circulated since then (and again not safe for work) — he extolled the virtues of one of his long-time benchwarmers:

Terry Crowley is lucky he’s in ——- baseball for Chrissake. He was released by the Cincinnati Reds, he was released by the ——- ——- Atlanta Braves. We saw that Terry Crowley could sit on his ——- ass for eight innings and enjoy watching a baseball game just like any other fan, and has the ability to get up there and break one open in the ——- ninth.

Weaver believed in pitching, defense and a three-run home run (one of his most widely-shared sayings).  And for the most part, he had the pitchers to back up that philosophy in Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Steve Stone, Mike Flanagan, Pat Dobson and Dave McNally, among others.  He also had the acumen to move Cal Ripken, Jr., from third base to shortstop during Ripken, Jr.’s rookie year.

Weaver’s managerial record is extremely impressive.  His demeanor on the field was that of a fiery Napoleon, which was fitting considering Weaver might’ve been 5’7″ on the tallest day of his life — exceptionally short for a major league anything, much less a manager.

And Weaver even has a Wisconsin connection (aside from all those games against the Brewers): He managed the Appleton Foxes (now known as the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers) in 1960 to a 82-59 record and a league championship according to ReviewingtheBrew.com, and is ensconced in Appleton’s Baseball Hall of Fame for that season alone.

With all of Weaver’s potty-mouthed tendencies, he was also known as a devoted family man.  He was married, only once, for forty-eight years.

With all of that color, and all of that style and all of those umpire-baiting moments (not to mention the chain-smoking and his well-known penchant for conducting post game interviews in the nude — back in the clubhouse, of course), Weaver will never be forgotten by anyone who ever saw him manage.

Now for something completely different: Brewers RF-1B Corey Hart has decided to seek a second opinion regarding his right knee issues, so surgery has been delayed.  According to MLB.com, the MRI of Hart’s knee has been sent to Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, CO.  Depending on what Dr. Steadman thinks of the MRI, the doctor may or may not wish to consult with Hart in person.

The Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash said this in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article via Yahoo Sports about Hart’s delayed surgery:

“Until we get past this step, we don’t know what the next step will be,” Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said, according to the (Milwaukee) Journal Sentinel. “Time is of the essence, so we’re hoping it won’t be delayed that long. It’s hard to say right now.”

My take?  I understand Hart’s caution.  He’s already endured one knee surgery on that knee already, and he probably would prefer not to have to go through another one.  Plus, he’s in the final year of a three-year contract and has wanted the Brewers to give him an extension as he wants to join Ryan Braun as potential “Brewers for life.”

The Brewers will not even bother offering Hart an extension if he can’t play, no matter how much heart he showed at the end of the 2012 season while continuing to play on a ruptured plantar fascia.  And no matter how much heart he showed by moving, midseason, to an unfamiliar position in order to better benefit the Brewers after Mat Gamel went down with an injury.

But unless there’s something really odd on that MRI, it’s highly unlikely that Hart will be able to avoid surgery.

What I’m guessing — and mind you, it’s only a guess — that Hart wants out of this second opinion is to perhaps endure a lesser knee surgery that will allow him to heal more quickly.

The current surgical plan would cause Hart to stay completely off his knee in a non-weight bearing capacity for six full weeks after the surgery.  But Hart’s a workout fiend.  He’s known for it.  So being completely off his knee, unable to do any weight-bearing exercises, is likely to make him stir-crazy.

And when you add in the contract issues to the whole mix, I can see why Hart would rather have someone else look at the MRI in order to see if any other course of action will bring about a good result.

However, as a Brewers fan, I’d like to see the speedy Corey Hart of old return to the basepaths.  That can’t happen unless he goes through the currently planned knee surgery, rests up, and then enjoys better flexibility and range of motion in his knee and foot thereby.  (I know the plantar fascia issues seem to have improved, but I won’t really know how Hart can run until he’s able to get to spring training and give it a shot.  Or get into rehabilitation, go to the minors and work his way up to the majors, whichever one is doable.)

That’s why I urge Hart to err on the side of caution with regards to this surgery.  I know it may mean a lesser payday in 2014 if he really can’t play until mid-May or later.  I know it may mean he’ll end up with a different team entirely if the Brewers are unwilling to give him a new contract (or an extension if he really burns it up upon his return).

But I want to see him healthy again, able to run the bases with greater abandon (and without knee and foot pain, natch) and to play at his full capacity.

As great as Hart’s 2013 season was (.270 average, 30 homers and 83 RBI), I believe he will feel a whole lot better once the surgery has been completed and the rehab done.  And once he feels much better, he’s likely to hit even better and maybe even make a few more All-Star teams.

Let’s just hope the Brewers have the sense to lock him up to a new multi-year deal before his stock dramatically rises, post-surgery.

Advertisements

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 23, 2013 at 1:58 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: