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Sports


Terry Pluto says Earl Weaver helped him see "baseball through his eyes"
The Orioles manager was a mix of calculation, emotion and audacity ... and a winner.

by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
Terry Pluto has written two books about Earl Weaver. In 1984, he published 'Weaver on Strategy,' in which he co-authored with Weaver.
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Baseball fans are remembering Hall of Famer Earl Weaver as the dirt-kicking, umpire-baiting, legendary manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Weaver died this past weekend at age 82.

To WKSU sports commentator Terry Pluto, the memories of Weaver are more personal. Pluto was 24-years-old when he was hired as the Orioles beat reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun. Later, Pluto wrote two books about Weaver’s life. Terry Pluto talks to Amanda Rabinowitz about the time he spent with Weaver and the lessons he learned.

Terry Pluto on Earl Weaver audio commentary

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Terry Pluto shares extra Earl Weaver memories

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Terry Pluto talks about the Browns new GM, Mike Lombardi

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Baseball graduate school
Terry Pluto says learning the game from Earl Weaver “was like going to baseball graduate school,” beginning with how to curse like a pro. “He put together cuss words in ways I’d never heard them put together before or probably since.”

But Pluto also learned that everything Weaver did – as emotional as it may have seemed -- was carefully thought out. “He would be calculating even in his ejections.”

Of which there were many. Most involved Weaver kicking dirt over the umps’ shoes.  Other times, the 5-foot-7 Weaver bobbed forward to make his argument, the bill of his cap pecking the umps’ chest as if he were a chicken.

Ripping up the rule book
But the standout ejection for Pluto came during a midseason game versus Cleveland in 1979.

The writers spotted Weaver with a rule book. “He had been telling us all year that these bleeping umpires don’t know the bleeping rules, … and he was one day going to get out there and take the rule book.”

This turned out to be the day.

“Suddenly he’s on the mound, waving the rule book around, then he just starts tearing it up and throwing it in the air, and these pieces of paper are fluttering down, and of course he gets ejected and he just stalks off,” Pluto recalls. “And afterwards he says, ‘Those guys never knew the rules anyway, so I told them to forget the rule book, you might as well just tear it up.’”

'Moneyball' before it existed
The game was meaningless, and Pluto thinks that Weaver had just decided to inject some energy into the Orioles, who were “sort of dead” that day. But he says Weaver relied on much more than emotion to notch wins.

“He was the most calculating baseball person; he was ‘Moneyball’ or numbers before there were numbers,” says Pluto. In the days before laptops, Weaver kept index cards with matchups of pitchers and hitters and other calculations in a cigar box.  When Pluto came to Cleveland a few years later, he tried to tip the Indians off to Weaver’s methods. “They weren’t interested. (It was  like going) from graduate school to kindergarten.”

Lucky pens 
But Weaver also had room for plenty of emotion, even superstition. Pluto recalls crawling across the floor with Weaver and another writer, hunting for a lucky pen to make out his lineup card.

Lessons learned
And he remembers how much time Weaver generously – and smartly – gave to young writers like him.  “He taught you to see the game through his eyes. ... He would just sit in the dugout for 30-40 minutes” talking to writers.

“He could have totally intimidated me and worked me over,” Pluto says, and though, “he made fun of me a lot, but he never did that.”

“Also,” he adds, “I was a set of fresh ears for old stories of him growing up.”

And to hear Weaver’s advice, one bit of which Pluto remembers especially well: “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

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