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Weaver: And another thing, if you don't make the last out of the game, you never lose! I never made the last out.
[Pitcher Jim Palmer raises his hand.]
Palmer: We all know why you never made the last out, Earl.
Palmer: Because they always pinch-hit for you.
Weaver: Aw, you ruined the mood, Palmer!
Weaver managed 12 full seasons in the big leagues, not counting the strike-shortened years of 1972 and '81, or 1986, part of a brief tenure when he was coaxed out of retirement to help the Orioles sell tickets. He averaged 97 wins in those 12 full seasons. In 11 of them he won at least 90 games, and the one time he didn't win 90 he won 88. Weaver won 1,480 big league games, more than anybody who never played in the majors except famed Yankees manager Joe McCarthy. He took the Orioles to four World Series and won one, in 1970.
"I played Class D, C, B, A, Double A and Triple A," says Weaver, who was a 5'6" middle infielder in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. In 1956, his 10th year in the minors, he had plumbed back down to A ball in Knoxville, Tenn., when the manager was fired in late July. The club asked the 26-year-old Weaver to run the team for the rest of the season. That winter the Orioles offered Weaver a job as manager of their Class D team in Fitzgerald, Ga., and over the next 10 years he moved from Fitzgerald to Dublin, Ga., to Aberdeen, S.D., to Fox Cities, Wis., to Elmira, N.Y., and Rochester, N.Y., before making the jump to Baltimore in 1968.
"I loved it," he says of managing in the bushes. "Judging ballplayers and turning in reports, giving my opinion of who will get to the big leagues and who will not.... I think my baseball judgment was really good."