Earl Weaver was ejected from up to 98 games over the course of his 17-year career, although accounts vary about the precise figure. Stan Musial was never ejected in any of the 3,026 games he played, and nobody doubts that number.
They found an unfortunate commonality this past weekend when they died within 24 hours of each other. Weaver was 82; Musial 92.
But their characters, disparate as they are, allowed them to be the best ever at their jobs, and the flood of obituaries and other recollections give us a great sense of what made them tick -- or in Weaver's case, ticked them off.
We'll start with Weaver, who most people associate first and foremost with his legendary tirades (lots of language):
But there are a few articles that go beyond the audio/visual assualt and explore how Weaver built a Hall of Fame resume.
- Earl Weaver: Words from a baseball master - The Washington Post
- Earl Weaver quotes to Thomas Boswell - The Washington Post
Tom Boswell's column about what drove Weaver as a manager and a person offers a lot to think about. A couple excerpts:
"We are all on speaking terms. We have a little rapport. Not too much," Weaver told me, regarding his relationships with his players. "You learn the lesson the first day in Class D [what the lowest rung of the minor leagues was once called]. You’re always going to be a rotten bastard, or in my case, a little bastard, as long as you manage. That’s the rule. To keep your job, you fire others or bench them or trade them. You have to do the thinking for 25 guys and you can’t be too close to any of them."
I've seen a few people -- Keith Law, in particular -- wonder why teams don't use their farm systems to cultivate managers. Weaver certainly learned how to deal hard truths that way.
Then there's this one:
For Weaver, the strain of the game was his certainty that he was often one of the few adults in the room. "You must remember that anyone under 30 — especially a ballplayer — is an adolescent," he once told me. "I never got close to being an adult until I was 32. Even though I was married and had a son at 20, I was a kid at 32, living at home with my parents. Sure, I was a manager then. That doesn’t mean you’re grown up."
New problems are never new.
Like Boswell, Tim Kurkjian spent a lot of time with Weaver, and shares a lot of stories about his baseball mind:
In the eighth inning of Game 1 of the 1979 American League Championship Series, the Angels brought in reliever John Montague. He had been acquired late in the season, so Weaver didn't have a white card on him. So Weaver breathlessly called the press box looking for 20-year-old intern Dr. Charles Steinberg, who was responsible for, among other things, the data for the white cards.
"I don't have Montague!" Earl yelled.
A panicked Steinberg worked quickly to look up the Montague numbers, then gave the white card to Earl's daughter Kim, who was an Oriole BaseBell, a person who, among other duties, helped deliver things, such as soft drinks, during games. She had never delivered a key piece of information to her father during a game. So she rushed down from the press box, through the Orioles clubhouse, where she'd never been allowed, past Jim Palmer, who was wearing only a towel, and into the dugout. Weaver saw it: The guy to use against Montague was John Lowenstein, who was 3-for-4 against him with two homers.
When the spot came up, Lowenstein pinch hit, and he hit a three-run homer to win the game.
There is a great photo on the top of this story, and it was turned into art:
Weaver had a warm side, too. Palermo remembered that a classic photo of him and Weaver pointing fingers at each at a Royals-Orioles game was published in People magazine. The next spring, Palermo was told that Weaver had something for him. It turned out to be an oil painting of that finger-pointing incident.
The painting, apparently given to Weaver by a fan, went up in Palermo's room.
"So every morning when I wake up, I see it," Palermo said. "It was hilarious. It was a real fond remembrance of how it was with us."
And there has also been a lot of talk about how Weaver played a Moneyball style before that was even a word -- pitching, defense and the three-run homer. By the time I started digging into baseball philosophy, that idea had been repackaged in a few different ways, so I didn't associate it with Weaver, specifically.
The way he organized and deployed 25 players is what stands out to me. He was into hyper-platooning and situational substitutions that would maximize whatever talent his players had (while minimizing the gaps in their games). Weaver is fascinating for the players he didn't use. Bill James wrote about him in The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers:
"What Weaver never used were the guys who didn't do anything specific, but looked good in the uniform, the .260 hitters with 10 to 15 homers, a little speed and so-so defense."
That came to mind when the Sox committed to Mark Teahen, and ... yeah.
Unlike Weaver, who confronted pretty much every baseball player, umpire and philosophy and demanded that it hold up to his scrutiny, Musial was all about constants. He turned in MVP performances year after year, he signed every autograph he could, he was married to his high school sweetheart for 72 years.
Weaver's legacy is somewhat interactive, because while I may not possess Weaver's mental acuity, I can certainly roll those concepts around in my head and glean lessons from it. With Musial, you look at his swing and his baseball card and you can't do anything with it except marvel in a slack-jawed stupor at the consistent excellence and excellent consistency.
And then you read about Musial as a citizen, and ... gawk at that, too.
- Stan Musial lived to make people happy -- Sports on Earth
- Where are they now: Stan Musial -- Sports Illustrated
Joe Posnanski's tribute to Stan Musial borrows some of the stories he relayed in his "Where Are They Now?" article he wrote about Musial in Sports Illustrated back in 2010. But read both of them if you have the time.
Rick Hummel's obituary for Musial shares some of its own specific insights. For instance, if you look at Musial's Baseball-Reference.com page, you'll see some form of "black ink" in every year of his prime except for 1947, because he battled appendicitis. He still hit .312 with 30 doubles, 13 triples and 19 homers.
One of the best parts of Posnanski's Sports Illustrated piece was the Joe Black anecdote. Along the same lines, George Vecsey elaborated on Musial's attitude toward integration:
He was a lodge member, who acknowledged black players. At All-Star Games, he would see Aaron, Mays, Banks, et al, sitting in a corner, maybe playing a hand or two of cards before batting practice. Deal me in, Musial would say. His place was with the hitters, and they loved him for that.
He had played on a mixed basketball team back in Donora, Pa. Once in Pittsburgh, the hotel put up a screen between the players and other diners. The boys — eight white, two black, including Buddy Griffey of the Donora Griffeys — walked out. In 1947, he declined to strike when some teammates babbled about not taking the field against Jackie Robinson.
Revisionist thought is that Musial did not do enough to force the Cardinals to hire a black player before 1954. He was not Martin Luther King Jr., let’s put it that way. He saw Robinson, Roy Campanella and Don Newcombe and told people close to him that the Cardinals were done. They would not win a pennant from 1947 until 1964, the year after he retired.
Here on Friday, Rob wrote about how sports fans are wired to selective edit their perspective of their players, downplaying their dark sides and/or playing up their virtues. Viva El Birdos says that none of this was necessary with Musial, because he basically lived his whole live beyond reproach:
But it's also hard to say anything about Stan Musial because there wasn't much, after he was through with it, left to say. I think that's why he was so anonymous, nationally, for so long—there was no need for golden-age myth-making, the full DiMaggio treatment, so nobody bothered. He had the numbers—all those doubles and triples, the 20 years of stinging base hits—to tell us about how he played, and his decades as St. Louis's quiet baseball ambassador to tell us about who he was.
He wasn't superhuman, and couldn't be contorted into superhumanity by eager fans or writers; he just lived his exceptionally long life as we wish sometimes we could, and always hope we might. So all of us—usually so complicit, so necessary in building up legends—were left without anything to do; he'd taken care of it.