BALTIMORE, MD – Only three more columns from Baltimore. I’m retiring from Mattsville after the Super Bowl, and none to soon. Charm City is crumbling fast, and I need to devote my energies to gathering supplies and strengthening the bunker.
The zombie apocalypse begins here, bitches.
The first omen came on Saturday morning when I awoke to headlines of Earl Weaver’s demise. If anyone could come back from the grave and start eating human brains, it’s the Birds’ feisty former skipper.
Weaver is perhaps best remembered for flipping his hat backwards and going toe-to-toe with many an ump. Yelling, kicking dirt, and tossing the occasional base were staples of his repertoire. And he paid the price for it. Not only was he ejected nearly a hundred times, but Hall of Fame voters made him wait a decade before admitting him into Coopertown’s hallowed halls.
It’s a shame, because when he retired the first time in 1982 (he had a brief return stint a few years later), it was with a career record of 1354-919.
That’s a .594 winning percentage for those of you keeping track at home. It’s also the fourth best of all time, a notch ahead of the fabled John McGraw, and trailing only Joe McCarthy (.615) Billy Southworth (.598), and Frank Seley (.597).
But he did spend the better part of two years back at the helm just as the O’s were beginning to slide, and it brought his percentage down to .583, slipping behind McGraw and Al Lopez.
Still, .583 is sixth best ever, and the decade of waiting was yet another black mark on the herd of mad-cow stumblers who make these decisions.
Seriously. Can you believe that some of these cretins left entire ballots blank this year as part of some misguided protest? Anyone who did should lose voting privileges.
Anyway, Weaver eventually got in, though he was too old to scream at anyone by then, which is a real shame. Talk about missed opportunities.
But if you want to know the real impact of Earl Weaver’s nearly eighteen years patrolling the dugout at old Memorial Stadium, then put aside for a moment the gaudy winning percentage, the six division titles, the four pennants, the 1970 World Series championship, and the nearly 1,500 wins.
Instead, think about the Duke of Earl, as he was affectionately known down here, the next time you watch someone crank a three run homer. Or, for that matter, the next time you wonder why no one other than senior circuit pitchers lays down bunts anymore.
Because it Earl Weaver who blazed the trail of ditching small ball for the big inning. Even during the pitching dominant era of the late 1960s and 1970s, he committed to have his team put up the occasional crooked number instead of chipping away one run at a time. And once the A.L. add the D.H. in 1973, he quickly eschewed small ball altogether, thumbed his nose to the purists, and patiently waited for his teams to rack up runs.
This, while running a club that featured Mark Belanger at shortstop, a lifetime .228 hitter who averaged all of 21 RBIs per season.
Now that’s commitment.
Anyway, ole’ Earl cashed it in on a team-sponsored Caribbean cruise barely 36 hours before the Ravens took the field in New England.
The Baltimoreans, they got each others’ backs, which will come in handy once the zombies bust out. Ravens went up into Fuxboro and punched Tom Brady in the face. Punched Bill Belichick in the face. Punched Wes Welker in the face. Just about crippled Stevan Ridley. And Dick of the Year Jim Harbaugh is next.
They’re doing it for Art. They’re doing it for Earl.