The lasting visions of Earl Weaver always will include an irate man with hat askew, kicking dirt and screaming at an umpire. But the Hall of Fame manager was more innovator than instigator.
Weaver, who won four American League pennants and a World Series during his 17 seasons as manager of the Baltimore Orioles, died early Saturday after collapsing during an Orioles-sponsored cruise. He was 82. The cause of death was not immediately revealed.
It was Weaver who pioneered the use of radar guns to measure pitchers' velocity. It was Weaver who kept a stack of index cards to keep track of pitcher vs. batter matchups, long before the computerization of the game's statistics.
WATCH: Earl Weaver's epic tirades
And, of course, it was Weaver whose 94 ejections – often flamboyant and once before a game even started – that made him most memorable. That total is an American League record, topped in the majors only by recently retired Bobby Cox and Hall of Famer John McGraw.
"The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager," Weaver once said. "It won't hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game."
But he also said, in a 1986 interview, "On my tombstone just write, 'The sorest loser that ever lived.' "
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The Orioles were holding their annual FanFest on Saturday, and a moment of silence was held as the event opened.
"Earl Weaver stands alone as the greatest manager in the history of the Baltimore Orioles and one of the greatest in the history of the game," Orioles owner Peter Angelos said in a statement released by the club. "Earl made his passion for the Orioles known both on and off the field. This is a sad day."
Said Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig: "Earl Weaver was a brilliant baseball man, a true tactician in the dugout and one of the key figures in the rich history of the Baltimore Orioles. ... Earl's managerial style proved visionary, as many people in the game adopted his strategy and techniques years later.
"Earl was well known for being one of the game's most colorful characters with a memorable wit, but he was also amongst its most loyal. On behalf of Major League Baseball, I send my deepest condolences to his wife, Marianne, their family and all Orioles fans."
Weaver, who didn't played in the major leagues, replaced Hank Bauer as Baltimore manager midway through the 1968 season. His 48-34 record the rest of that season wasn't enough to catch the Detroit Tigers in the American League race, but the Orioles' second-place finish was a message to the rest of the league. Weaver's teams won the next three pennants and the 1970 World Series.
"Bad ballplayers make good managers," Weaver said. "Not the other way around. … A manager's job is simple. For 162 games, you try not to screw up all the smart stuff your organization did last December."
Weaver joined his organization in 1957 as manager of a minor league team in Fitzgerald, Ga.
He worked his way through the Baltimore farm system and was added to the major league coaching staff in 1967.
The Orioles team he inherited was talented. It included future Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson. Another, pitcher Jim Palmer, would be promoted from the minors in 1969, the year Weaver's heavily favored team lost the World Series to the New York Mets.
He got his World Series victory a year later, winning seven of eight postseason games – a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Championship Series and a five-game World Series triumph against the Cincinnati Reds.
Weaver's relationship with his players often was as colorful as his celebrated battles with umpires.
Palmer once said, "The only thing Earl knows about a curveball is that he couldn't hit it."
But Weaver hardly was worried about his relationships.
"I don't know if I said 10 words to Frank Robinson while he played for me," Weaver said.
But those players understood Weaver was ahead of his time.
"He used to keep these little cards with what guys used to hit off certain guys," said Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who was an Oriole in Weaver's first five seasons as manager. "This guy was 2-for-6. This guy was 1-for-10. I tried to explain to him, 'Earl, you know what the standard deviation curve is?' He says, 'What the hell is that.' "
But he knew how to use players, making frequent use of platoons, having a left- and a right-handed hitter share a position. He also would list as the designated hitter in his starting lineup a pitcher whom he didn't plan to use, then insert a real hitter when that spot in the batting order came up.
Weaver managed the Orioles through the 1982 season, then replaced Joe Altobelli during the 1985 season and retired for good after 1986, the only losing season of his major league career. His final record was 1,480-1,060, the .583 winning percentage ranking fifth all-time among post-1900 managers.
The Orioles retired his No. 4 in 1982 and a plaque with his name and number is on the corner of the home dugout at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Weaver was known for positioning himself at the corner of a dugout nearest the runway to the clubhouse so he could go up the tunnel and sneak a cigarette, especially in the late innings of tight games. Reliever Don Stanhouse, who for a while was Weaver's closer, was nicknamed "Fullpack" for his effect on his manager.
Weaver, who has spent most of his post-baseball life in South Florida, was in Baltimore last summer at the unveiling of a statue honoring him.