You could look it
up on page 37 of the fact-filled Baltimore Orioles 1975 Information Guide,
under a heading that chirps for attention in oriole-orange print.
BITS ABOUT THE
WINNINGEST MANAGER: Among all big-league managers since 1900 who have managed
for at least five full years, Earl Weaver ranks second in won-lost percentage
only to Joe McCarthy.
Now that's a bit
about the boss Bird that may startle you if you supposed that the closest
challengers to Joe McCarthy, that wire-lipped Yankee oligarch of the 1930s and
'40s, had to be legendary figures like John McGraw, who ranks only fifth, or
Connie Mack, who, good heavens, ranks 74th. In appraising Earl Weaver's career
one should not be misled by the Orioles' sputtering start this season, but
remember that Weaver managed them to a title last year after having been eight
games behind as late as Aug. 29. Instead, one must concede him the encomium of
Practicing Genius and wonder what clever managerial subtleties have enabled him
to win better than six of every 10 major league games he has masterminded. Peer
into the Oriole dugout, where in a corner, his cap perched rakishly high atop
his matted McGraw-gray hair, his eyes squinting pensively, Weaver follows the
arc of his pitcher's delivery.
he says, leaning across a row of ballplayers to catch sight of Pitching Coach
George Bamberger, "tell me, was that a curveball Cuellar threw?"
"Yeah, it was
Weaver bolts to
his feet—a pearl of brilliance at his lips? In a gravelly voice he bellows,
"Cuellar! Stick that curveball up...."
That's not genius?
Well, the components of genius frequently remain mysterious to lesser men. In
any case, say this for Weaver—if he does not always recognize a curveball, he
possesses conviction about them. "He tells us a major league pitcher should
get his curveball over every time he wants to," says Pitcher Jim Palmer.
"I think he actually believes it. He used to give me that stuff all the
time. Now I don't listen anymore. Dave McNally, he handled Earl best. I used to
make the mistake of arguing with Earl, but McNally would just nod and say,
certainly is a quality one looks for in a manager who in three consecutive
seasons—1969, '70 and '71—won more than 100 games, an accomplishment recorded
by only two other clubs in history. Five-feet-eight, compact in the
McCarthy-McGraw tradition, the creases of experience lining his face, Weaver at
age 44 looks like a manager, although in some respects he appears quaint. His
head dominates his body, possibly explaining why, in the minors, players called
him Watermelon Head. His frequent trips onto the field to battle umpires are
made at a gait that may best be described as an angry waddle. Hands on hips,
his body swaying from the trunk up, he marches in the awkward strides of a duck
trying to catch up with its flock.
Yet as Weaver
intently manipulates 25 willful athletes, there surely must lie beneath his
explosive temper a capacity for understanding, a requisite that in fact he
could easily draw on when Cuellar, the superstitious Cuban, in Milwaukee last
June to pitch the opener of a four-game series, informed Weaver that his
baseball cap had been left behind in Baltimore and that its absence surely
would ruin the performance he was scheduled to make the following night. At the
time Cuellar had won nine games in a row, pitching as though he could win his
10th wearing a bearskin borrowed from the Buckingham Palace guard. Nonetheless,
Weaver at once appreciated the gravity of the problem.