Stan the Man and the Earl of Baltimore

| January 21, 2013

A pair of giants of yesteryear from our National Pastime passed last weekend.  Earl Weaver and Stan Musial both died Saturday.

Both are members of the MLB Hall of Fame.  Both were IMO deserving of Cooperstown.

They were as different as chalk and cheese.

Stan the Man

Musial was an amazing player; his career statistics speak for themselves.  Musial retired in 1963, yet still ranks 4th all-time in hits.  He had a career batting average of .331, a career on-base percentage of .417, and a career slugging percentage of .559; his career spanned 22 seasons.  Had he not missed the 1945 season due to wartime service in the Navy, Musial would almost certainly have joined Ruth and Aaron as the only 500 HR/2,000 RBI/2,000 runs scored players in baseball history (he finished with 475 HR, 1951 RBI, and 1949 runs scored).  He might also be 3rd in career hits – Musial’s less than 150 hits behind Aaron, and averaged 199+ hits per year from 1943-1957.

Musial was indeed a great player.  But by all accounts, Musial was an even better man.  There are many anecdotes; two will suffice to show his character.

Joe Black, an African-American, was pitching for the visiting Brooklyn Dodgers during the early part of baseball’s integrated era.  At the time, Black was racially taunted by players in the St. Louis dugout during a game.

Musial, batting at the time, stepped out and angrily kicked the dirt to convey his disapproval. Stan waited for Black after the game, shook his hand and said, “I’m sorry that happened. But don’t you worry about it. You’re a great pitcher. You will win a lot of games.” Black said Musial’s support helped him gain the confidence he needed to become a top pitcher.

Willie Mays had a similar story concerning an All-Star Game in the late 1950s.  That year, the National League squad had seven black players.  Race relations were still somewhat tense.

“We were in the back of the clubhouse playing poker and none of the white guys had come back or said, ‘Hi,’ or ‘How’s it going?’ or ‘How you guys doing?’ or ‘Welcome to the All-Star Game.’ Nothing,” Mays said. “We’re playing poker and all of a sudden I look up and here comes Stan toward us. He grabs a chair, sits down and starts playing cards with us. And Stan didn’t know how to play poker! But that was his way of welcoming us, of making us feel a part of it. I never forgot that. We never forgot that.”

Stan Musial has been referred to as “baseball’s perfect knight”.  From all accounts, he deserved that accolade.

Stan Musial died at his home late in the day on January 19, 2013, aged 92.  He was preceded in death by his wife Lillian last year.  At the time of her death, they’d been married over 71 years.

Rest in peace, Mr. Musial.  It’s said you had no enemies.  I can believe that.

The Earl of Baltimore

If Musial was chalk, then Earl Weaver was cheese – an extra sharp cheddar, or perhaps a spicy pepper jack.  His career in MLB began a few years after Musial’s ended.

Weaver never reached the majors as a player; he bounced around the minors for years before realizing he simply didn’t have the talent.  But he had a keen, analytical mind; an excellent eye for talent, including determining strengths and shortcomings; and an in-depth understanding of the game.

Weaver was no saint and no gentleman.  He grew up during the depression in Saint Louis – hard times.  He was a short man, and often acted as if he had a chip on his shoulder.  He had a volcanic temper, and was profane.  He still holds the AL record for total number of times ejected from a game during a career (various sources give the number of Weaver’s ejections as being from 91 to 97).

Some of his eruptions and grudges are legendary.  Like this Weaver blowup – caught on video because the umpire involved, Bill Haller, was participating in a documentary project and wearing a microphone that day. (WARNING – LINK IS ABSOLUTELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR CHILDREN)  Weaver’s running feud with one umpire, Ron Luciano, was so well-known that his own team reputedly ran a betting pool on what inning Weaver would get tossed from the game by Luciano. And Weaver’s gag “Manager’s Corner” tape from 1980 – done as a joke after a flubbed take for an episode of the program – has become an Internet classic (AGAIN, WARNING – LINK IS ABSOLUTELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK OR CHILDREN).

Yet Weaver was far from merely a profane clown.  He was a truly great manager and baseball strategist.  For his career, his teams won nearly 60% of their games (.583 winning percentage).  Weaver was a pioneer of the use of statistics to govern in-game match-ups and replacements.  He also was one of the first (if not the first) to use radar guns to track the speed of pitches during spring training.

His philosophy was that talented players made the manager, not the other way around – and that it was the manager’s job to put his players into situations where they could excel.  Weaver did.

Regardless of whether he was loved or hated by others, his team produced.  During his 17 years as manager, Weaver’s teams won 100 games five times; won six division titles and four AL pennants; and won the 1970 World Series.  He was selected as Manager of the Year three times.

His only losing season was his last one – after he’d come out of retirement to manage a second time.  He then retired for good.

Weaver simply hated to lose.  On his second retirement, he was quoted as saying, “On my tombstone, just write: ‘The sorest loser that ever lived.’ “

Baltimore loved Weaver and his fiery ways.  He was often referred to as the Earl of Baltimore.

Earl Weaver collapsed and died at about 2AM on January 19, 2013.  He was 82 years old. His wife of 49 years, Marianna, was with him when he died.  They were returning to Florida on the last leg of this year’s Orioles’ Cruise.

Rest in peace, feisty one.  Rest in peace.

Category: Baseball

Comments (18)

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  1. OWB says:

    Grew up with Stan Musial as a hero, role model, and all the good stuff. Never got to meet him, beyond a quick hand shake, but did hear more of his history later in life through a few friends of friends kinda deal. He was all that and then some.

    RIP Stan.

  2. David says:

    Grew up with Stan the Man as THE Cardinal hero. A true gentleman all his life, and I can only hope my grandsons grow up to be half the man he was. Even after he lived in St. Louis something like 70 years, I’d be willing to bet you won’t find another man about whom NO ONE has anything bad to say. Anyone who knows about baseball, and the finer qualities the game teaches, knows that Musial exemplified all that was best about it. God bless!

  3. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    I had the pleasure of watching Earl in action many a day at the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore. He was a pip. During a game he used to disappear for 30-60-90 seconds at a time. The dugout had a tunnel at one end. He would slip into the tunnel to pull on a smoke and, voila!, out he’d come again. He and pitching ace Jim Palmer used to have some fine go-arounds in that dugout and, sometimes, on the mound. They pissed each other off like you wouldn’t believe but never took it to the press. Earl was a helluva manager and, man, he hated to lose. With his fondness for the drink and his tobacco, not to mention his volcanic temper, I honestly thought he’d be ouutahere much sooner than this. I’m glad he got to enjoy many retirement years and that he is now where the sun never sets on a ballfield and the umpires never miss a call.

  4. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    I must say, Hondo, that’s as good a piece of writing on Musial and Weaver as I’ve read. You must be a baseball fan. You can’t write what you did simply by looking stuff up in the Baseball Encyclopedia. Red Smith would be proud.

    Willie Mays is one of my idols. He is atill kicking around and I hope that he is well. I met him once many, many years ago and was struck by his size. Programs always listed him at 5’11” but my guess is that he was 5’9″ wearing cleats. A helluva nice fellow and a whale of a ballplayer.

  5. Hondo says:

    2/17 Air Cav: baseball fan? Yes indeed. One of my great regrets is not catching the Big Unit’s 300th win in person in 2009, bad weather and the need to be on-duty relatively early the next morning be damned (I was temporarily in the DC area at the time). I still kick myself about that from time to time.

    Twice in my life, some 20+ years apart, I’ve had the great pleasure to tune into history being made on the diamond – though I didn’t get a chance to see either in person. The first was Ryan’s 5th no-hitter in 1981 (broke his tie with Koufax for 4 career no-no’s). I tuned into that game in the 5th inning and caught the last half of the game.

    The second occurred 22+ years later. I was TDY, got back to my hotel, and turned on the tube. Randy Johnson was pitching that night for Arizona. I nearly flipped to the next channel (Arizona was really bad that year).

    Then I noticed that it was the top of the 5th. The Unit was facing the 4-5-6 hitters for the Braves and had yet to give up a hit or a walk. There had been no errors, either.

    Let’s just say I didn’t even think about changing the channel after that.

    History is rare, and is worth watching even if you can’t be there in person. Perfection is even rarer.

  6. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Unlike other sports, no one can appreciate the art and science of baseball without some knowledge of its history. Love and respect for the game is still taught in the Little Leagues where I am, I am happy to say. I hope that the same is true all over. Ask a 16 year-old football player to name two players who were in the NFL before, oh, 1980. Best of luck. Ask a 16-year old baseball player to name two MLB players who played before, oh, 1970 and he’s likely to ask, “You want ONLY two?”

  7. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    There seems to be something very right about talking baseball on a military blog.

  8. Twist says:

    Some of my fondest memories is my Father taking me to watch Whitesox games. If memory serves me right he played for their farm team. Part of my inheritance is a baseball that is supposedly signed by the ’57 Sox. I’ve never had it checked out, but sometime I’m going to get off my rear and pull it off the shelf and checked out. My brother-in-law is a huge Cubs fan. Try to picture haw talks at family gatherings turned out when it went to baseball.

  9. James says:

    Cav@3, I remember Weaver had a pitcher who he called either full or one pack, for the number of cigs he’d smoke in the tunnel while he pitched.

  10. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    @8. If you find any baseball cards in a shoebox, let us know. I still daydream about happening upon a dusty box, opening it, and finding treasures not of the precious metal or gem variety, but of cardboard, small rectangles of cardboard bearing pictures of men holding a bat or glove.

  11. Hondo says:

    Twist: White Sox – Cubs? Lame. Try growing up in the state of Alabama when you’re dad’s an Auburn fan and you root for ‘Bama. (smile)

  12. OWB says:

    Baseball – indeed the All American game. I managed to keep up fathfully through the first strike, but lost interest during the second one. Must admit that even so, the sound of that crack of a bat still stirs the heart strings.

    Good to hear that Little League is instilling the history of baseball (and the US) in your neck of the woods, AC. Great news.

    (Many years ago I was a Little League ump. It was a very short career – not because of the kids but because of the parents.)

  13. Andy Kravetz says:

    I grew up loving Stan the Man. I am too young to have seen him play but being from St. Louis, he was a fixture. His place, Stan and Biggies’s was the place to go if you could afford it. And he was always around at games. I remember being a kid, under 10, and he was there signing balls and playing his harmonica. He was one of the good guys.

  14. Fran says:

    Nothing compares to the feeling in Busch Stadium when Stan appeared at a ball game. Nothing. You could absolutely feel the love and respect the town has for Stan, and there unfortunately will never be another like him.

    Stan, you will be missed.

  15. Twist says:

    @10, I didn’t find any cards, but I did find a couple of game programs from the ’50s. I found some stuff that isn’t baseball related. I found maps and other memerobilia from when my Dad was a juror on the Ford Pinto trial.

  16. LittleRed1 says:

    2/17 Air Cav, my grandfather played in the original Texas-Louisiana League. Among the various baseball things that passed through his life was a Honus Wagner card. He passed it along to a coworker in the oil patch who was a bigger fan of Honus than Papa was.

  17. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    @16. Ouch! That hurts. I’m talking writhing-around-on-the-floor type of hurt. Gave away a Wagner card? Man.

    @15. Programs are very cool. They freeze that particular day in baseball. Check the weather for the dates, the standings, and who was doing what. That information fills in the day beautifully. And then there’s the rosters!

  18. Hondo says:

    Two final bits of Musial trivia I ran across while writing this article, but didn’t include because the didn’t seem to fit.

    First: Musial and Ken Griffy, Jr. share some pretty . . . interesting connections, bordering on eerie.

    They had the same birth date (Nov 21). Both were born in Donora, PA. Both were left-handed; both were outfielders (though Musial also had significant time at 1B). And Musial and Griffey’s grandfather, Buddy Griffey, were teammates on their high school’s baseball team.

    Second: Musial’s final hit, number 3,630, was a single past a young kid named Pete Rose – who would later go on to break Musial’s National league record (as well as Cobb’s MLB record) for career hits.