Orioles honor Weaver's career, unveil statue

Orioles honor Weaver's career, unveil statue

BALTIMORE -- Earl Weaver was a character. There's no other way to say it. He didn't hesitate to battle with umpires, opponents and even his own players from time to time during his 17 seasons managing the Orioles.

All of that can be traced to Weaver's competitive fire. He wanted to win, and he wanted to win all the time. And his Orioles teams sure won a lot.

Weaver won 1,480 games, and his teams made the World Series four times -- winning once -- and captured the division in six seasons. His Orioles were always among the best, and Weaver was a big reason for that. The 81-year-old former skipper was still in rare form Saturday when the Orioles honored him by unveiling a 7-foot statue at Camden Yards before a game with Cleveland.

The Orioles placed the statue in the Garden of the Greats picnic area behind center field. It stands next to a statue of Frank Robinson, unveiled in April, something that's fitting in Weaver's eyes, since the former skipper repeatedly credited his former players for helping him find success.

"If they weren't there, I probably wouldn't be there," Weaver said. "I had some pretty good ballplayers."

The Orioles also are going to be unveiling similar statues of Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken and Brooks Robinson later this season as part of a 20th anniversary celebration of Oriole Park.

The fans still love Weaver as he drew huge ovations at two pregame ceremonies on a hot afternoon. He clearly was touched that the fans still remembered what he did and afterward offered his opinions on the state of baseball today.

Weaver's thoughts -- the nine-inning pitcher is gone, which is sad because it's going back to a pitcher's league; he loves what manager Buck Showalter has done with the Orioles this season, something that surprised him. Weaver also laughed when asked if he's following former second baseman Davey Johnson's success in Washington.

The skipper said he's happy for Johnson and added that when the Nationals used a bit of a trick play to help Bryce Harper steal home against the Phillies, it caught his attention. There were runners on first and third, and the runner on first broke to steal second and got caught in a rundown, which opened the door for the other baserunner to steal home.

"That was one of my plays we worked on all the time," Weaver said. "So Davey still remembers some of the stuff he learned here."

Weaver hasn't managed the team since 1986 but when asked his opinion on why the fans still cheered loudly for him, Weaver said it could be traced to longevity and success.

"They had a lot of good times," Weaver said. "They saw a lot of good ballplayers come through here."

And some of them showed up for the ceremony. Frank Robinson, Murray, Palmer and Ripken were some of Weaver's former players who came to watch.

"The impact Earl had on my career has been well documented," Ripken said. "He had faith in me when I was a young and struggling player and stuck with me. Earl had a fantastic relationship with my dad and close ties to my family. He is a legendary manager and a large part of Orioles history."

Weaver said this honor stands together with his election to the Hall of Fame. But again, he credited his players for making both honors possible -- and also thanked owner Peter Angelos for the statue and ceremony.

He managed great players like Johnson, Mark Belanger, Paul Blair and Boog Powell in the Minors and then again later in the Major Leagues. So he wasn't shocked at what they did with the Orioles.

"I had to turn reports in on them," Weaver said. "I guess a lot of those predictions came true or [general manager] Harry [Dalton] wouldn't have given me a shot to manage the Major Leagues."

Weaver had managed his way through the Minors before Dalton asked him to take over the team midway through the 1968 season. He was the first-base coach then and more concerned about getting in the necessary five years for his pension. But everything changed. He managed the team through 1982 and came back for part of 1985 and all of 1986. But nowadays, Showalter will talk to Weaver about managing and said he loved how No. 4 did his job.

He truly was one of a kind.

"He just never gave in," Showalter said. "Never. I think because of how he got where he got, he was not going to leave any stone unturned. He didn't want to let people down. He was ... [constantly] striving for perfection in an imperfect game."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.