Even after they die, great leaders continue to lead.
Earl Weaver, the retired Hall of Fame manager of the Baltimore Orioles, died recently at 82.
He was a winner and a master psychologist whose passing inspired a blizzard of media stories, some superficial and a few that were more than merely informative.
They also were instructive.
Distant from his players and wrathful toward umpires, Weaver appeared to many to be a short — about five feet six — irascible, one-track kind of guy. But Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post wrote that he had seen Weaver ‘s human side, which was deeper than his image would indicate. Boswell called him “a hard, smart man with a Chesapeake crab’s shell, little social polish and a need to overcompensate for his lack of size and ability as a minor league ball player.”
For me Weaver’s death brought sorrow but also the joy of reliving the many outstanding moments produced by his powerhouse teams – the pennants, the World Series championship and the intensity he inculcated in his players. He and his guys possessed a gritty, diamond-hard approach that meshed perfectly with the Charm City psyche.
By coincidence, His passing came during one of the not infrequent periods when I slump at everyday life like a futilely flailing, endlessly struggling baseball slugger. These dips have occurred since my stroke four years ago, and I hate them. I know the solution is to brainstorm a to-do list and begin. Simple chores like making the bed, and simple pleasures, too.
Earl Weaver, the epitome of a human cauldron, took time every summer to grow tomatoes in the Birds’ bullpen. He knew the value of establishing enjoyable routines and letting them carry him over the potholes in life’s roads.
“I’m always going to do the same things,” he told Boswell, at the height of his fame. “I grow all my own vegetables. I stuff my own sausages. Doing that takes time and I enjoy it.”
Fans and writers were endlessly fascinated by Weaver’s facets, including his early use of under- appreciated statistics and his rule book-shredding and umpire-blasting tirades. His players were incredulous that he could retire to Florida in his early 50s, play golf every day, go the horse races and dog races, walk on the beach, take his wife out to dinner and be content.
He had the key, and he used it.
When I retired, I got a job I didn’t need, quit it, sank into a funk and ignored my plans to exercise regularly, follow a healthy diet and do some volunteering.
Blessed with good health and an abundance of time, I abandoned the plan, wasted my days, and could not find satisfaction even in a quiet afternoon at home watching a Netflix movie.
Weaver summed up his philosophy for baseball and life succinctly: “Be brilliant in the basics.”
That’s my new mantra. Not sure it’ll work, but I’ll try it, for me, and the memory of Earl.
– Joe Kennedy