HOFer Earl Weaver’s Unanswered Mail

He looked too dignified
to be a professional
wrestling manager…
but he would’ve been
GREAT!

I’m glad I wrote to Earl Weaver when I had a chance.

I never asked for an autograph. I had something to give him.

The last game I ever saw at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium was an Orioles-Twins affair. I don’t have the date or the final score right now.

No stat could compare to the image. I sat on the 3rd base side. I loved going to a game before the game. I loved watching players be boys. That’s when they have the most fun.

Well, manager Weaver was walking across the field, chatting up an attentive Lee May. The skipper threw back his head and laughed. May smiled and nodded, hanging on every word.

“Weaver…you son of a bitch!”

Ever hear all the wind sucked out of a place with one collective gasp? It wasn’t me shouting. Some rabid Twins fan wanted to be heard.

Weaver heard. He scanned the stands. May spread his huge arms, ready for battle. He took one purposeful stride toward my section.

I never spotted the screamer. But I swear I can hear the SQUEAK followed by the sound of running.

“The Duke of Earl” grabbed May’s elbow. He looked at his manager, who burst out laughing. They continued to the dugout, unphased by the muttering buzz from the stands.

Did the O’s like Weaver? I sent him proof. I saw one who would have committed a crime for him!

Orioles Manager Earl Weaver Changed Tom Shopay’s Life By Asking Two Questions

Cal Ripken Jr. collected
this card A LOT! I found
this specimen and some
great reading at
the Orioles Card website!

Judge a great leader by words and deeds. Tom Shopay saw the best of both from Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver.

“One thing Weaver said that I remember was…

You have two choices when you step on the field. You can win or lose. Why step on the field if you are going to lose?”

I saw that Shopay had worked twice as a reserve catcher in Baltimore. Sometimes, the smallest statistic can uncover the biggest tale.

“It was his [Weaver’s] idea. I was breaking in a catcher’s mitt during batting practice for weeks. Then, Andy Etchebarren was traded to the Angels and Earl always had three catchers. So he came up to me and asked if I ever caught before. At that point, I knew where he was going.

I said, ‘Hell, Yes!’

The only time I ever put on catcher’s equipment was when two catchers got hurt in college and they asked for a volunteer.

I ended up by catching two full big league games and extended my career two years.”

Shopay grew up in Bristol, Connecticut. See how his hometown honored him. Measure Shopay’s grin to see how much the honor must mean.

Pitcher Dyar Miller Learned a Lesson From Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver

Dyar Miller threw me an off-speed pitch in his kind reply. He answered questions. However, I’m still scratching my head over his first reply. Miller came up with the Orioles. What did he learn under manager Earl Weaver that’s helped him through his years as a pitching coach?

“Never hold a grudge.”

Hmmm…

I liked his recollection of making the most of his first National League at-bat, following years of sitting for designated hitters.

“First time I took a swing, I lined a fastball past Burt Hooton. When I got to first, Steve Garvey said, ‘That was a nice swing!'”

Does Miller have a prize pupil from his year as a minor league instructor/coach? How does he convince young pitchers who’ve succeeded for years in high school and college to try his ideas? He wrote:

“I tried to help all of the pitchers I worked with. Sometimes, a good pitcher needs to fail before they improve.”

Miller’s conclusion sticks with me.

“Thanks for your interest in baseball. I have enjoyed all 43 years of it.”

The way I read this, I just enjoyed a letter not from a former player or current coach, but a fellow fan.

Readers: any guesses how Miller, manager Earl Weaver and holding a grudge fit together?

Fred Valentine’s Comeback


A shoulder injury convinced Tennessee A&I quarterback Fred Valentine to pursue baseball.

Did he ever!

He debuted with Baltimore at age 24 in 1959. The speedy outfielder’s “cup of coffee” wasn’t served again for nearly four years. Valentine returned to Baltimore in 1963, but wouldn’t get the chance at a starting right field job until 1966. His ultimate year came as a Washington Senator, tallying 16 homers, 59 RBI, a .276 average and 22 steals.

How did he battle back from the minors? How does he view his job battle in Baltimore?

Valentine wrote:

“1. The period 1959-63, I had prayer, guts and determination. I felt I had the tools to play in the majors and I realized I had to wait my turn and opportunity. During those years there were many good ball players and few teams. I always believed in practice and good conditioning.

2. Baltimore gave me opportunity to go into pro baseball. The Orioles changed as the league changed. They always had a good farm system.

I felt Earl Weaver (a rookie skipper during Valentine’s last season)was always a good manager. He stood for perfection and supported his players.”

Even though Valentine’s Day is past, I’m glad Fred had his day. He earned it.

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