You are not ambivalent about Earl Weaver, who died early this morning while on an Orioles fantasy cruise. You either have no idea who I'm talking about, or you didn't care about baseball at the time, or you loved him, or you were an American League umpire, or you're a fucking Yankees fan or a Sox hump and I have no further use for you (with two notable exceptions).
I left the church of baseball in 1996, the day Peter Angelos fired Jon Miller, and didn't go to another ball game until about two years ago, when I went to see Nationals Park. I've since found that baseball is too fucking slow for me to really enjoy, though I credit the leisure of it, the opportunity to talk for hours while the game unfolds, the relaxation and submission to the spectacle. I personally do better standing for two hours, leaning forward, yelling spasmodically at whichever outfield player is not shooting the fucking ball, and cracking wise with BFF and Ilse. But that's me, and I don't judge those who love the game and the church.
Before my apostasy, though, I spent an awful lot of time on 33rd Street, and was an Oriole fan for the last two years of Earl's reign, and his out-of-retirement year. This was also no small thing; I had been a Senators fan as they flamed out of existence, and childhood bitterness is hard. But places to go get stoned and slam brews weren't, and Memorial Stadium was a fine such place. I was there.
I can no longer sort out what happened while Earl was managing and what didn't, in terms of the big picture, or, for the most part, what happened while I was there and wasn't. I know I was there the night Tippy Martinez picked off three guys in one inning. I was there for a three-homer Floyd Rayford night, and I remember that as being on my birthday. It was on the ride home from Memorial on a bus that my brother, 32-Ounce, got his name.
And it doesn't matter that I'm pretty sure that all three of those things happened in 1983, so Earl wasn't managing; it was Earl who symbolized the era, whether or not he was the club's active manager. Earl is the manager I associate with those things (there was always a suspicion that Altobelli, who guided what was essentially Weaver's team to a World Series win, was just a puppet anyway). What, you thought this was about you? Or Earl?
Earl Weaver: King of the three-run homer, pioneer of matchup statistics, defiler of umpires' shoes (and on another shoe note, say the words "Earl" and "shoe polish" to any O's fan of the time, and you will get a broad smile), battler for the common fan, a man who recognized that by 1982, Jim Palmer dressed better than he pitched, Hall of Fame manager, and the last great thing about the Baltimore Orioles. Until Peter Fucking Angelos drops.