Saturday, June 30, 2012

All Hail the Earl of Baltimore!

President Reagan was the guest speaker at Fort McHenry on Flag Day, 1985.  He opened his remarks with greetings to the assembled dignitaries -- Mayor Schaefer, Governor Hughes, Senator Mathias, members of Congress -- but paused to acknowledge the real powerhouse in town. 

"Don Schaefer, I know you're the mayor," he said. "But I understand that just the other day the Earl of Baltimore returned to the city."

His quip got the biggest applause of the day, as well it should. The Great Communicator knew how to connect, and with this audience, it was through their own hero, the scrappy skipper retaking the helm of their beloved O's.

Today, the Earl of Baltimore is back again.  This time for the unveiling of his statue in the Garden of Greats, where he takes his place with Frank Robinson as the second of six Oriole Hall of Famers. 

The big mystery, of course, is how the Earl of Baltimore will be depicted in bronze.We all have our mental images of him, usually growling at someone in blue. 

Among his noteworthy distinctions is that of the first manager ever tossed from a World Series game, as he was here in 1969 against the Pirates.

Because the granite pedestal has room for only one statue, we have to believe there will be no tormented umpire to complete the tableau.  So it is somewhat a mystery how the sculptor will capture the Earl in a likeness we can relate to.

Perhaps it will depict him pursuing his other great passion, tending to the tomato patch beyond the outfield at Memorial Stadium. 

He grew some bumper crops out there.  Rumor has it he got special fertilizer from the elephants when the circus was in town.

True, our Earl of Baltimore is not exactly your Downton Abbey-esque aristocrat.  At 5'7", he didn't tower over his charges or wither them with a haughty air and lofty speeches. 

In fact, he was probably a reality TV personality even before there was reality TV.  We can only imagine what kind of "Hard Knocks" show he could have starred in.

But after 4:00 pm today, he will forever be 8 feet tall in the eyes of Baltimore and Oriole fans of the past, present and future.  Look forward to sharing it with you here.

4:45 pm, June 30th.

My dad had an apt description for days like this.  He'd say it's "hotter than the hinges of h*ll."  While it certainly feels like that now, it's no deterrent to the thousands here to pay homage to the Earl of Baltimore.

Long before the ceremonies began, fans crowded the picnic grounds, jockeying for good seats. 
Cheers went up for Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken, Jr. Jim Palmer, and Frank Robinson, who also attended.  You might be able to spot them on the left of the canopy.  You can see Earl, seated in the shade, just before the program began.

Of course, there were great anecdotes shared about Earl's relentless drive to win everything he competed in (even shuffleboard on cruises) and attention to detail and execution.  Naturally, his scuffles with the Boys in Blue came up more than once.

But his bronze likeness captures him in a more pensive mood.  One onlooker observed that he wasn't kicking anything.  Her husband rejoined that he expected to see him waving his hat or tearing up the rulebook.

But this is Earl Weaver, scholar of baseball.  One of the best minds there ever was for appreciating the fundamentals of the game and exhorting his players to achieve them.  And it fits perfectly in the setting.

Despite the heat, the stands are again full.  Yes, folks from Cleveland are here to support the Indians and they appreciate being a part of the tribute to Earl as well.  But the outpouring of enthusiasm for the Orioles is indeed heartwarming.

We have four more statues to unveil before the end of the season.  Each one has brought together old teammates, unforgettable memories, and an unquenchable thirst to relive the winning days of old.

The 20th Anniversary Year at Oriole Park has been magical so far.  Hard to believe it is almost half over.  But we know the best is yet to come.  Stay tuned.

Or better yet, join us for some of that Oriole Magic.

No comments:

Post a Comment