Sitting in the visitor's dugout of Anaheim Stadium recently, Baltimore manager Earl Weaver, whose Orioles lost the 1979 World Series in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates, seemed to be on another planet.
Instead of expressing concern for his team, which has not been all that wonderful this season, Earl was worrying out loud about the coming All-Star Game scheduled for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 8.
"if the American League is going to have a workout the day before the All-Star Game, where am I going to get some coaches who can throw batting practices?" Weaver spouted.
"I know I'm not going out there on the mound and get my head knocked off," Earl continued. "I'm sure not going to ask George Bamberge [the Milwaukee Brewers' manager], and you know Jim Fregosi [the California Angels' manager, who is also an All-Star coach] won't do it. Maybe I'll have to let my players pitch to each other -- only some of the owners might get upset if I did."
After two reporters standing next to Weaver got through laughing, one of them turned to the Baltimore skipper and, baiting his literary hook, said, "Earl, you sound like you've given up on the Orioles."
Weaver bit, except he knew exactly what kind of a situation he was getting his teeth and his quotes into.
"Listen, we're still one of the best-balanced teams in baseball, and if it weren't for all the injuries we've had we wouldn't be just hovering around the . 500 mark," Earl explained. "I mean we've had people out right and left, and often our pitching hasn't been all it should be."
"You know what wins ball games?" Earl asked. "It's dept, and having your extra people ready when you need them, and not having to be concerned with injuries. Last year we were winning the one-run games and this year we're not -- only I expect that to change."
By now Weaver was up and pacing.
"A week ago, in a game in which we were trailing, I needed an experienced pinch hitter in the ninth inning who could get just one run home from third for me with a fly ball," Earl said. "Then I remembered that John Lowenstein in hurt and all I've got left is a kid who has maybe five big league games under his belt. I went with what I had and I lost. Look, I kind of expected it and I don't blame the kid.
"The other night I'm in practically the same situation and this time the only guy who is ready is a singles hitter," he continued. "I go with him because I don't have any choice. So you know what my banjo hitter does, he hits a home run. I get lucky, right? Only it's probably going to be a long time in a situation like that before I get lucky again."
What did Weaver think about the race in the American League East, where the Orioles, Yankees, Brewers, Red Sox, Tigers, Indians, and Blue Jays reside?
"Any team in that group could win it," Earl said, acting as though he meant it. "Look how well Cleveland has played in the last couple of weeks; look at what their rookie outfielder, Joe Charboneau, has been doing for them at the platE."
Now it was time for the writers to get cute.
"Wait a minute, Earl," one of them said. "Are you trying to tell us that the Indians might win the pennant? There are only three teams in this division that could win it, and you know who they are as well as we do."
Right here Weaver pauses and buys some time by waving to a television cameraman he knows.
"OK, OK, you're probably right," Earl admits. "But suppose the favorites all get hit with a lot of injuries and the other teams don't. I'm not going to win unless I get all my players back."
What about the Yankees' chances?
"Right now New York is playing like they're the best team in the American League," he replied. "Their pitching has been good. They brought up some kids who have helped them and, like us, they have good balance when everybody is healthy.
"But that ain't saying the Yankees are going to be the best at the end of the year," Earl continued. "You've gotta think about Milwaukee and all the power they got. Their pitching, like ours, hasn't been that good yet, but it will come.
"Last year, we won 102 games. Right now it doesn't look like we're going to win that many again. But who says we have to win that many to take it all? I'd have to say that the team with the fewest injuries [presumably he was referring to the Yankees, Brewers, and Orioles] will win it."
Anyway, going into the current campaign Weaver had 1,946 career wins as manager of the Orioles and, as Casey Stengel used to say, you could look it up.