<
>

Weaver: Men in blue 'were tremendous'

On the March day in 1996 when Earl Weaver was elected to the Hall of Fame, his wife, Marianna, rushed out of their home, borrowed a ride on a golf cart and rushed to the ninth hole to give him the news.

For a moment, Earl said, his knees grew weak and his hands shook, and he bogeyed the hole. But he rallied, he said, to win the round against the rest of his foursome.

"I'm 65, I got my Medicare card, and I shot 80 today," Weaver told me later that day.

I was working for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel at the time, and Weaver was a long-time resident of nearby Pembroke Pines -- coincidentally, the same town in which new Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli went to high school.

I thought back on my conversation with Weaver that day upon hearing Saturday that he had died at the age of 82. Weaver, of course, was famous for battling umpires, earning 91 ejections over the course of his 17-year career.

"The last thing my mother used to say to me before I'd go to the ballpark was 'Please, don't get thrown out,'" Weaver said that day. "Every time I did, I called and said I was sorry."

And for that day, at least, he was willing to pay tribute to the men in blue.

"While I was manager, they made about 20,000 calls, including balls and strikes," he said. "And I only thought they got about 90 of 'em wrong.

"And the greatest thing is, when I walked up to home plate [the game after an ejection], their minds were clear, like yesterday never happened. That's my tribute to them. They were tremendous."