The death of Hall of Fame baseball manager Earl Weaver was felt profoundly in South Dakota, which played a role in his rise.
The legendary former Baltimore Orioles skipper, known for his feisty temper and winning ways, died late Friday night at age 82 on a Caribbean cruise associated with the team.
Weaver guided Baltimore to the World Series four times over 17 seasons, winning the title in 1970 and establishing one of the best winning percentages (.583) in modern baseball history.
Like most managers, though, he had to work his way through the minors, and one of those stops for Weaver was with the Aberdeen Pheasants of the Northern League in 1959.
As a Class C farm team for the Orioles, the Pheasants also helped launch the career of Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer as well as Tito Francona (father of Terry Francona), Mark Belanger and Cal Ripken Sr.
Playing at the Municipal Ball Park in Aberdeen, Weaver’s 1959 Pheasants went 69-55 to finish second in the Northern League, losing in the league finals to Winnipeg.
His trademark temper, which led the 5-foot-7 Weaver to rack up 98 career ejections in the majors, flared during a home game against the Minot Mallards that season.
As recalled in Ken Kaiser’s book, “Planet of the Umps: a Baseball Life from Behind Home Plate,” Weaver had a disagreement with umpire Frank Dezelan over a ground rule before the game started and didn’t get his way.
“Weaver probably leaped three feet off the ground,” Kaiser wrote. “Okay, maybe six inches. But then he started screaming at Dezelan that he was supposed to make the ground rules, and no umpire had the right to tell him what the ground rules should be.”
“Dezelan waited until Weaver had finished screaming and asked, ‘Who’s your manager?’”
“Weaver hesitated. He was standing right there with his lineup cards. ‘What do you mean?’ he asked. ‘I’m the manager.’”
“Dezelan told him: ‘No, no, no. You’re scratched. You’re gone. I mean, who’s your new manager?’”