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Thanks for the Memories, Earl
Note: Here's our 2010 interview with Earl Weaver, conducted by David Simon.
Just got the word that Earl Weaver died. I was going to describe him in that sentence as “legendary Orioles manager Earl Weaver,” but if you live around Baltimore and didn’t already know that, someone probably already told you.
Every generation has its sports heroes, but the ones you watch rise to glory when you are an adult will never compare to the ones who were mythic to you as a child. When I was a kid, how Earl Weaver did his job could literally affect my day—the excitement in the air as my friends and I played pepper in someone’s back yard, the moods of the people in my house.
Landmarks like these—ones that connect to your earliest childhood memories—can make you take stock, make you follow the narrative arc of your life back much farther than you usually think to do. When Cal Ripken retired, I was 26. I considered myself an adult by that point, but I still felt an ember of my childhood catch a little wind when I watched his last at-bat, and I felt it expire when the game ended.
I was too young to see Earl Weaver win a World Series with the Orioles. But when Joe Altobelli did it in 1983—I was eight—I still considered it Weaver’s victory, as he had left the Orioles just the year before.
A World Series win—like a Super Bowl win—creates much more community and togetherness than it deserves to. Nine guys sitting on a bench chewing tobacco and occasionally strolling onto a field to swing a stick? Of course I’d rather our collective fascination and moments of shared purpose were elicited by, say, a municipal election, or something longer lasting than the short adrenaline rush that follows a three-hour athletic competition whose ultimate result is driven as much by cynical business decisions as by the loyalty of a team’s fans.
But that’s what we’ve got. It’s why I ran out and high-fived my neighbors the other night when the Ravens beat the Broncos. It’s why I have something to talk about with the strangers on the 27 bus. It’s better than nothing—and sometimes it feels better than just about anything.
Thanks for that feeling, Earl Weaver.
- Lawrence Lanahan