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Earl Weaver, 82, influential, combative Orioles manager

Earl Weaver disagreed with a call by Steve Palermo during a game in 1979. He also disagreed with being ejected again.

Associated Press

Earl Weaver disagreed with a call by Steve Palermo during a game in 1979. He also disagreed with being ejected again.

NEW YORK — Earl Weaver, the Hall of Fame manager who brought pugnacity and pragmatism to the Baltimore Orioles dugout, leading the team to five 100-win seasons, four American League pennants, and the 1970 World Series championship, and tormenting a generation of umpires along the way, died early Saturday. He was 82.

Dick Gordon, Mr. Weaver’s marketing agent, told the Associated Press that Mr. Weaver had died on a Caribbean cruise sponsored by the team, and that the cause of death had not been determined.

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A bantam in both stature — he was 5 feet 7 inches, maybe — and temperament, Mr. Weaver was among the most influential managers in modern baseball history, and among the most combative as well. His imperiousness as a leader made battles with his players as frequent as those with umpires.

Aware that the outcome of any season might rest on the outcome of any game, and that the outcome of any game on a play, a pitch, or an umpire’s call, he marshaled a scholar’s familiarity with the rule book, a statistician’s data, a psychologist’s motivational skills, and a heckler’s needle into a relentless advocacy for the Orioles.

‘‘On my tombstone just write, ‘The Sorest Loser Who Ever Lived,’ ’’ he said in 1986, his final season.

He managed the Orioles as a pragmatist rather than as a hunch player, drawing on his observations during a two- ­decade career in the minor leagues, first as a good-field-no-hit infielder and later as a manager. Mr. Weaver relished hitters who could get on base and hit the long ball, starting pitchers who could go deep in a game, and fielders who could steal runs.

“Pitching, defense, and the three-run homer,’’ was Mr. Weaver’s stated formula for winning ballgames.

Mr. Weaver’s Orioles featured a number of great players — including the Hall of Famers Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Eddie Murray, and Jim Palmer — but knowing that depth helped win pennants, he was a shrewd roster builder.

His game strategy was built around treasuring each of his team’s allotted 27 outs and protecting them by eschewing conventional gambits like the sacrifice bunt and the hit-and-run. And he is often credited for his pioneering use of statistics in the dugout.

Long before computer analyses and sabermetrics (the study of baseball statistics) became integral to managerial strategy, long before the so-called Moneyball era that championed on-base percentage and slugging percentage as crucial measures of a player’s value, Mr. Weaver recognized that baseball’s traditional measures of success — batting average, earned run average, and the like — were insufficient for his purposes.

He knew, for example, that certain hitters fared better against certain pitchers and that sometimes weak hitters were better against some pitchers than stronger hitters were. So he kept tabs on, among other things, how each of his hitters had performed in the past against individual pitchers on opposing teams.

The weak-hitting shortstop Mark Belanger was often sent in to play when Jim Kern, a fireballing relief pitcher for Cleveland, Texas, and others, was on the mound: Inexplicably, Belanger hit .625 against him in his career.

Mr. Weaver managed the Orioles from 1968 through 1982, then came out of retirement in mid-1985 and managed the team through the end of 1986. His overall record was 1,480 victories and 1,060 losses, a .583 winning percentage, ninth in Major League history, and his only losing season was his last.

With a sandpaper voice, a taste for beer (he was twice charged with drunken driving), and a tense, competitive manner, Mr. Weaver was a crusty personality, though he had a sharp wit and a well-developed sense of mischief.

Once when outfielder Pat Kelly was irritated that Mr. Weaver was not giving him enough time for a pregame prayer meeting, he said, ‘‘Earl, don’t you want us to walk with the Lord?’’ Mr. Weaver replied that he would rather have Kelly walk with the bases loaded.

Most fans will remember Mr. Weaver for his tirades against umpires. He was ejected from nearly 100 games, often after colorful displays of temper with the beak of his cap turned around so he wouldn’t accidentally rap the ump in the forehead with it.

Once, after Mr. Weaver had been ejected and umpire Jim Evans pulled out a stopwatch to give him 60 seconds to leave the field before the Orioles would forfeit the game, Mr. Weaver snatched the stopwatch out of the umpire’s hand and flung it into the dugout.

Earl Sidney Weaver was born on Aug. 14, 1930, in St. Louis, where his father was a dry cleaner whose customers included the Cardinals and the Browns. He immersed himself in baseball from boyhood, playing second base in high school and, in spite of being a weak hitter and a slow runner, he got contract offers from both local professional teams for his good glove and heady play.

He signed with the Cardinals, in 1948, embarking on a minor league career that lasted two decades. By 1956, he was managing as well as playing, and in 1957 he joined the Orioles organization, which was intrigued by his managerial skill. From then on, as he recognized he would not make it to the big leagues as a player, he managed more and played less.

The Orioles promoted him to the big leagues as a first-base coach in April 1968, and in July, with the team in third place, he replaced Hank Bauer as manager; the Orioles finished second, then won the American League pennant the next year, winning 109 games during the regular season.

To the astonishment of all, however, they lost the World Series to a team widely believed to be inferior: the so-called Miracle Mets. In Game 4, won by the Mets, Mr. Weaver was ejected, the first manager to be thrown out of a World Series game in 34 years.

In 1970, the Orioles won 108 games and did win the Series, defeating the Cincinnati Reds. And in 1971, they were American League champions again — but lost the Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Orioles lost to the ­Pirates again in 1979, dropping the Series in seven games after leading by three games to one.

Mr. Weaver’s first marriage ended in divorce. He leaves his wife, the former Marianna Osgood, whom he married in 1964.

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