Saturday, January 19, 2013

R.I.P. Earl

Woke up today to the news that one of the Oriole franchise's greats, Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, has died at the age of 82. I had always thought of him as indestructible. I was so lucky to have met him a few times and told these stories before. 

The first time was at the baseball winter meetings in Houston in 1981. I had finagled press credentials from the college paper and skipped a week of classes to hang out with all the baseball bigwigs.

The highlight of that week was a press lunch that I attended and sat down at Earl's table. He had some great stories. I brought up an Oriole-Yankee game from 1970 that had been the best regular season game I had ever seen. Earl picked up the game story from me and went on and on about that game. What a fun day that was.

Some years later I was waiting for my luggage at Hobby Airport here in Houston when a couple of brown tweed bags with embroidered Oriole emblems emerged. I was amazed to see the guy next to me reach for them! I turned and saw it was Earl. I spoke to him and he was genuinely interested in talking to an Oriole fan in Houston. He even remembered (or so he said) the press luncheon discussion from several years before.

The scan up top is of the cover of the program given out at the 'Thanks, Earl' game in September of that amazing (and ultimately disappointing) 1982 season. This video from the ending of the last game of the season, as seen on national TV with Howard Cosell at the mike, makes me choke up today just as it did back when I watched it live.

He was one of the game's great managers and unique personalities. I usually don't get sentimental but I'll admit it was hard to talk to my son about Earl this morning without some emotion bubbling up. He meant that much to Oriole fans of a certain age. I sometimes shake my head when I see how some people get emotional over the death of a celebrity or star they only knew as a fan. But today I know exactly how they feel.