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Umpire Bill Haller: What's that, Earl?
Weaver: To [bleep] us good.
That exchange took place after a grand total of five pitches had been thrown in a 1980 game.
Weaver is told that the Orioles pitcher getting whacked is Adam Eaton, whom Baltimore recycled after the Phillies preferred to pay him nearly nine million not to pitch for them. Weaver is 78 years old and has not managed a game in 23 years, not officially, anyway. He spends his time cooking, visiting the horse track, watching baseball on TV and playing gin rummy with buddies at his country club in Miami, sometimes after a round of golf, though not as often now that needing driver-three-wood-eight-iron to reach a par-4 has sapped much of the fun from his game.
"I'll tell you one thing: He throws strikes," Weaver says of Eaton. "That's something today, to tell you the truth."
Baseball today is a scientific game, far less mysterious than it was 30 years ago. It has been measured, mapped and cataloged like the human genome. Why bunt, we know now, when the run expectancy is 27.123% greater with a man on first base and no outs than a man on second base with one out? But what we know today, Earl Weaver understood back in his time without sabermetrics and computer spreadsheets.
On May 23, 1979, Weaver sent Pat Kelly to pinch-hit for Rick Dempsey against Boston pitcher Bob Stanley with two on and one out in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 2--2 ball game. Weaver knew that Dempsey was 0 for 6 lifetime against Stanley and that Kelly was 2 for 6. Kelly hit a walk-off home run. It was after that game that Weaver delivered to the gentlemen of the press the summary that would do well as the epitaph for his managerial career, if not his gravestone: "Pitching, defense and the three-run homer." (Actually, Weaver said in 1986, "On my tombstone just write, THE SOREST LOSER THAT EVER LIVED.")
Weaver is the grandfather of the modern game. He understood better than anyone in his time the preciousness of the 27 outs (often regarding the sacrifice bunt as a waste of one), the folly of the hit-and-run, the value and symbiosis of pitching and defense, and the importance of batter-pitcher matchups, statistical analysis and on-base percentage. Weaver was the Copernicus of baseball. Just as Copernicus understood heliocentric cosmology a full century before the invention of the telescope, Weaver understood smart baseball a generation before it was empirically demonstrated.
"I made no bones about it when I first got the job: I always wanted the next Earl Weaver as manager," says Oakland general manager Billy Beane, whose statistically oriented approach to the game, as chronicled in the 2003 best seller Moneyball, was considered cutting edge. "Earl was ahead of his time. He understood offensive baseball, pitching rotations, the efficiency of three-run homers versus a single and a sac bunt. His personality was something people recognized him for: the run-ins with umpires and Jim Palmer. But if you get to the core of what he accomplished, he was the template of the way I'd like to run a team. Consciously or not, he understood mathematics and probability."