Leader in the clubhouse
Feisty Weaver holds court on the art of the ejection
Posted: Thursday May 31, 2007 12:39PM; Updated: Sunday June 3, 2007 8:55PM
Once, back in the waning days of the 1985 season, the dean of disputatious big-league managers, Earl Weaver, was thrown out of both games of a doubleheader in Yankee Stadium. The second time it happened, he barely made it to home plate for the pregame exchange of lineup cards before he was run.
The first time, though, was the beauty. In the third inning of the first game on that late-September day, after Weaver already had been out on the field three times to argue something or other, umpire Jim Evans finally tired of the show and tossed the diminutive Baltimore skipper. The ump then took out his watch and gave Weaver one minute to leave the field.
Weaver grabbed the watch, reared back and flung it into the visitors' dugout, where it skidded to a stop under the Orioles' bench.
"If my arm was still good," Weaver told reporters after the game, "I would've thrown it into the stands."
And that, like it or not, is what the Braves' Bobby Cox will be measured against in the next few days, or the next week or two, or whenever it is that he finally breaks John McGraw's major-league record for getting thrown out of games. In the long history of baseball there have been fighting managers (McGraw, who managed parts of seasons from 1899-1932, was known as "Little Napoleon") and wild-eyed managers (Billy Martin and Lou Piniella come to mind). There have been managers known almost specifically for their mouthy ways (Leo "the Lip" Durocher).
But few, if any, made the distinctive mark on the game that Weaver did, and he's the only one (among the top five in manager ejections) that Cox actually has managed against. Weaver was a sub-6-foot ball of spittle and curses and screams, a brilliant baseball mind who terrorized umpires and delighted fans -- at least the ones in Baltimore -- during an 18-year managerial career in which he won more than 2,500 games, four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series.
Other than their sheer volume of ejections -- Cox is at 130, one short of McGraw's record, and Weaver ended his career at 97, currently fourth on the list -- the two managers don't have much in common when it comes to arguing with umpires. Weaver was renowned for turning his cap backward, stretching to his tiptoes and getting nose-to-nose with the men in blue like Evans and Weaver's personal foil, longtime umpire Ron Luciano. Weaver would scream at the top of his lungs. He would toss his hat. He would go wild. (After he was thrown out of the second game of that 1985 doubleheader, before it even started, he kicked dirt on umpire Ted Hendry, who then kicked some back. Not to be outdone, Weaver squatted down, picked up a handful of infield dirt and threw it on Hendry's pants.)
Cox, now 66 and in his 26th year of managing, isn't nearly that combative. He'll jog out of the dugout and get in someone's face. He'll clearly say things that are better left unprinted. (Though nothing, I'd imagine, like some of Weaver's famously profane outbursts, one of which can be seen and heard on a well-know Web site for videos, if you care to call it up while ushering the kids out of the room.) Cox may even remove his cap once in a while and fling it to the ground.
But that's about it. He comes. He has his say. He gets the thumb. He leaves.
"Bobby, I was surprised he had that many ejections. To me, Cox is kind of cool headed, not like [Lou] Piniella or Billy [Martin] or myself. Or ... I don't know if you remember Ralph Houk," Weaver, now 76, told me the other day from his home in Florida. "I didn't think Bobby was the excitable type. I guess I was wrong."
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