Here we go into the second straight baseball season without Earl Weaver on the scene as a manager, a state of affairs that leaves the Baltimore Orioles, the American League and baseball in general a little poorer. This isn't to disparage the considerable abilities of Joe Altobelli, Weaver's successor, who deftly guided the Orioles to the American League pennant and victory in the World Series last season, but Earl was something special, a man of skill, imagination and mouth who lit up the baseball scene. Fortunately for the avid fan, there are books to turn to that bring Weaver back to baseball life, even as he languishes in the television booth wearing a tailored jacket and a tailored hairdo as color man on ABC's baseball telecasts.
Two years ago, during Weaver's last season as manager of the Orioles, the first of a triptych of Weaver books appeared: The Earl of Baltimore (New Century, $10.95). Written by Terry Pluto, who covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Evening Sun before moving on to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, it's a lively account of the truculent little manager's turbulent, successful career. While Pluto is obviously a Weaver fan, he pulls no punches in recounting not-so-endearing aspects of Earl's volatile personality. Then came It's What You Learn After You Know It All That Counts (Double-day, $14.95), the official autobiography, written by Weaver with Berry Stainback. It adds material not found in the earlier book, although it's less pungent than Pluto's version and, for all of Weaver's well-publicized bluntness, gives a slightly sugarcoated picture of the man. While Weaver concedes he made a mistake now and then, he doesn't concede very many—and when it comes to the well-publicized showdowns with his antagonists (umpires, other teams, his own players), Weaver makes it pretty clear that he was right most of the time. Come to think of it, maybe he was. After all, he did finish first or second 13 times in the 15 seasons he managed the Orioles.
Still, after reading Pluto's saltier renditions of such things as Weaver's famous shin-guard-throwing squabble in the dugout with Oriole catcher Rick Dempsey, his longstanding Odd Couple feud with pitching star Jim Palmer and the hilariously childish ("You're lying." "You're lying." "No, you are.") dialogue between Weaver and umpire Bill Haller during an onfield rhubarb (recorded by a microphone the umpire was wearing at the behest of a television show), Earl's toned-down versions of the same incidents are disappointingly mild.
Nonetheless, the book is fun to read. And now we have the third panel of the triptych—a work called Weaver on Strategy (Macmillan, $12.95, paper). This one is also written by the man himself, with, not Stainback but, coming full circle, Pluto. While the pseudoscholarly title makes it clear that this volume is being presented as a treatise on the art of managing (which it is, and it's a good one), it inevitably echoes some of what was said in the two earlier books. But that's fine, because Weaver talking about baseball is worth listening to twice, or even three times. Here's a quick sampler, in slightly edited form, from Weaver on Strategy.
April 23, 1984
"The way to win is with pitching and three-run homers."
"Pitching is the most important, the most delicate and most challenging part of the game."
"The home run makes managing simple. Nothing can go wrong. The power of the home run is so elementary that I fail to comprehend why people try to outsmart the game in other ways."
"Forget about the bunt unless there is no other choice. There are only three outs an inning. Give one away and you're making everything harder for yourself."
"I don't have a hit-and-run sign. The hit and run is the worst play in baseball. It puts everyone at a disadvantage."
"In theory, the stolen base is a good weapon, but the failed stolen base can be destructive."
"There is no such thing as a winning player or a losing player. It comes down to a player's ability. A good clutch player is usually a good player to begin with."
"People always say the Orioles had great fundamentals. That's true, but a lot of what they consider fundamentals is really just players having great talent."
"Baseball is so elementary and people want to make it so complicated."
And that's Earl, folks.