BALTIMORE – Earl Weaver penned his own epitaph.
“On my tombstone just write, ‘The sorest loser that ever lived,’ ” he once said.
Weaver, the Orioles’ irascible, chain-smoking, umpire-baiting manager who led the team to four American League pennants and the 1970 world championship in his 17 years here, died Friday night while on a baseball-themed cruise.
The Hall of Famer was 82.
Weaver piloted the Orioles from 1968 to 1982, and in 1985-86, earning nicknames like “the little genius” and “the Earl of Baltimore.” Weaver’s teams won 1,480 games and lost 1,060, and his lifetime winning percentage (.583) ranks ninth all-time and fifth among managers in the modern era who managed 10 years or more.
Five times, Baltimore won at least 100 games for Weaver, who stood 5-feet-7 but was a legend to his players.
“Having Earl gives us a four-game lead on everybody,” pitcher Sammy Stewart once said.
Weaver’s death came on the eve of the team’s annual FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center.
“It’s a sad time, but at the same time, Earl would say I hope it won’t mess up FanFest,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said at the event, where Weaver’s No. 4 hung from behind the stage. “Every time I look at an Oriole now, it’s going to be missing a feather without Earl.”
The Orioles failed to post a winning record under Weaver only once (1986). His career was defined by an affinity for the three-run home run and a long-running, public feud with superstar pitcher Jim Palmer that both men jokingly played to whenever together.
Weaver was always a fan favorite and the Orioles faithful got several opportunities to let him know that during the course of the Orioles’ uplifting 2012 season.
He returned to Baltimore repeatedly to take part in the special series of statue unveilings in the center-field plaza at Oriole Park, including the one that was dedicated to him on June 30.