Inside Stories From A Major-League Locker Room
by Jim Ksicinski
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He stomped into the clubhouse, growled and snorted for a while, then got on the phone to the dugout. He started running the game from the clubhouse. He’d ask a question like, “Where’s the third baseman playing?” I always had the radio tuned to the broadcast of the game, and moments later, I heard on the radio, “ . . . a bunt down the third-base line. . . .” It was fascinating.
A few innings later, I heard Weaver call an unusual play. I don’t remember what it was, but I wanted to see the guy do it and hustled out into the stands to watch. The guy didn’t do it. That puzzled me. I came back into the clubhouse, wondering if the hitter had missed a sign or what, but I was too scared to ask Earl about it. He could see I was confused.
“You think I’m that nuts that I’m going to let you tell them what I’m going to do?” he growled. He must have thought I had a signal to the Brewers, so he changed the call when I left the clubhouse. That’s how intense he was. He had everything covered.
Earl was well prepared when he left the clubhouse, too. He was a dapper little guy who always dressed fashionably, from the toes of his highly buffed shoes to his tailored jackets. I’ve never seen anyone spend so much time in front of the mirror, blow-drying and applying hair spray to his silver hair, as Earl.
I learned a lot watching Earl over the years, but we never became friends. His last trip to Milwaukee before he retired occurred when there was a little less than two weeks remaining in the 1982 season. Milwaukee had a comfortable lead in the American League East at the time, but the Orioles charged back and the Brewers had to beat them in Baltimore on the last day of the season to win the division by one game and keep Weaver from winning yet another championship.
When Earl left my clubhouse for what I thought would be the last time, I shook his hand.
“Earl, I wish I could say it’s been a pleasure,” I said. “But it hasn’t.”
I thought Earl was out of my life, but he wasn’t. He came back to manage the Orioles in the middle of the 1985 season and stayed through 1986 before retiring for good. When he came back, I came to understand him—at least a little bit more than I had before—and I realized that he was one of the greatest managers in the history of the game.
Of course, Earl had changed. Oh, sure, he would still make his snide comments, but he didn’t stomp around all the time after a loss. I remember one game in the final week of the 1986 season. The Orioles lost a well-pitched game, 2–0, and Earl walked into the clubhouse. Instead of stomping around, he shook his head.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said. “I don’t. What the heck can I say.”
Then he stomped around.
It was a tough year for him. The Orioles won only seventy-three games, the only losing season in his major-league career. After his last game in Milwaukee, I really wanted to shake his hand this time and tell him that it had been a pleasure working with him. Unfortunately, I was busy getting equipment ready to be loaded on the truck, and he left before I got a chance to say good-bye. I still feel bad about that.
From Jocks and Socks by Jim Ksicinski and Tom Flaherty.
Copyright © 2001 by Jim Ksicinski and Tom Flaherty. Reprinted by permission of the McGraw-Hill Companies. All rights reserved.