A reader’s comment from last week has spurred some additional research and a follow-up to the loss of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver.
Faithful reader Dennis Bedard asked me to provide some details on Weaver’s ejection from a game in 1969. That prompted a trip to the Hall of Fame Library and a look at some long-ago editions of The Sporting News.
On Aug. 2, 1969, Weaver and the Orioles played the middle game of a weekend series at Metropolitan Stadium against the Twins. In the very first inning, third base umpire Bill Haller, who was working with Jim Honochick, Ron Luciano and Frank Umont, saw something amiss. Haller approached the Baltimore dugout and ejected Weaver. The reason? Haller saw Weaver smoking in the dugout, which is a violation of baseball’s rules but one not often enforced.
Weaver was not pleased with the ejection. According to the report in The Sporting News, he flashed an obscene gesture toward the umpire before exchanging a few words with him. Weaver wasn’t done. During the finale of the series, he walked to home plate sporting a taffy cigarette in his mouth. (Candy cigarettes were all the rage in the late ’60s and early ’70s.) It was a clear mockery of Haller’s decision to eject him from the Friday night game.
Several days after the incident, a fan in the stands drew a sketch of an orange and black bird smoking a cigarette. The fan gave the comical picture to Orioles reliever Pete Richert, who was sitting in the dugout. Richert then passed the picture along to Weaver.
The third game of the weekend series with the Twins brought more controversy. In the first inning, Frank Robinson argued a called strike. Weaver joined him in the conversation. That brought two ejections: Both Weaver and Robinson received sendoffs from home plate umpire Umont. So for the second straight game, Weaver found himself in the clubhouse before the first inning had even ended.
After the second ejection, Umont said that Weaver “must change in a lot of ways” before he would gain the respect of the umpires. Orioles beat writer Doug Brown also criticized Weaver, saying that his constant baiting of the umpires was undermining his otherwise impressive abilities in running a good game and his smart platooning of players.
Weaver didn’t appear to take the incident very seriously. He told a story of an encounter with a young child. “A 10-year-old kid pleaded with me tonight, ‘Earl, please do it again. Please go to the plate with a taffy cigarette.’” To the best of my knowledge, Weaver never repeated the stunt, perhaps out of fear of a suspension from American League president Joe Cronin.
Weaver, however, did not exactly become a shrinking violet after the cigarette incident. He would continue to receive ejections at a near record pace, eventually totaling 94 for his career, which puts him third on the all-time list behind Bobby Cox and John McGraw. So Weaver never really did calm his relationship with the umpires, but it didn’t prevent the Orioles from winning divisions and pennants, nor did it prevent Weaver from taking his place in the Hall of Fame.