Fun With Earl Weaver

Sunday, June 30 2019 @ 12:25 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

I miss Earl Weaver, and I do wonder from time to time what he'd make of where the game has gone these days.

Consider this. It's just a mid-season game from 1982, with Billy Martin and his Oakland A's visiting Baltimore. The Orioles are in third place, four games back of the Brewers. Oakland, on the other hand has completely collapsed in Martin's third year. Hey, what else is new? Oakland had gone 64-45 and played the Yankees in the weird 1981 post-season. But on this 24th of July, they're sitting at 40-56.

Rick Langford is starting for Oakland against Scott McGregor. Here's the Orioles lineup:

Al Bumbry, cf
Glenn Gulliver, 3b
Ken Singleton, dh
Eddie Murray, 1b
John Lowenstein, lf
Cal Ripken, ss
Dan Ford, rf
Joe Nolan, c
Lenn Sakata, 2b

We are, by the way, barely three weeks into Weaver's crazy experiment: Cal Ripken is playing shortstop. This was Ripken's rookie season, and he spent the first three months of the year playing third base. That's where he was supposed to play - the Orioles had actually traded Doug DeCinces to the Angels for the express purpose of clearing third base for Ripken. And the very concept of a 6-4, 200 pound shortstop was something outside anyone's experience in 1982. Crazy, I tell you.

Anyway, on to the game. Nothing happens for four innings - the only hit is a two out double by Cliff Johnson in the fourth. In the top of the fifth, Davey Lopes hits a solo homer. The Orioles had been held hitless by Langford through four innings, but they put together three singles in the bottom half of the fifth. But the threat ends when Oakland CF Dwayne Murphy guns down Ripken at home plate, ending the inning. A Murphy sac fly after singles by Jimmy Sexton and Rickey Henderson puts the A's up 2-0; Henderson steals 2b, then 3b, and then is caught stealing home. With one out and Cliff Johnson at the plate. Oh, Rickey.

The Orioles tie the game in the sixth on a Bumbry single and a Singleton homer, but McGregor instantly gives up the lead in the seventh, allowing a homer to Tony Armas. He then walked Jeff Burroughs and Weaver called on Sammy Stewart. Stewart walks Lopes and gives an RBI single to Mike Heath. Stewart  then catches a break when Heath is thrown out trying to steal third (Heath, incidentally, was Oakland's catcher), but the Orioles are now down 4-2 heading to their half of the seventh. Langford set them down in order, and Stewart survived Henderson's leadoff double in the eighth, largely because Rickey was immediately thrown out trying to steal third.

Bottom of the eighth. Martin sends in Fred "Chicken" Stanley as a defensive replacement at shortstop, replacing Sexton. Lenn Sakata leads off the inning with a home run. It's now 4-3 Oakland. Langford strikes out Al Bumbry, and Martin comes to get him. We don't have pitch counts - Langford had faced 28 batters, he'd walked 2 and struck out 2. It probably wasn't much above 100, if at all. Anyway, Martin calls on former Jay Tom Underwood to face Gulliver. This is Gulliver's seventh game in the major leagues, and he was not bound for glory as it turns out. Weaver has Rich Dauer pinch hit. Dauer hits a ground ball to short, and is safe on Stanley's error. (I can just see Billy cursing in the dugout.) Singleton draws a walk, but Eddie Murray flies out to right. Gary Roenicke comes in to pinch hit for Lowenstein - naturally,  the Roenicke/Lowenstein LF platoon was one of the more productive platoon arrangements ever. Roenicke walks to load the bases. So Martin calls on RH Dave Beard, who gets Ripken to pop out to end the threat. It's still 4-3 Oakland. Dauer replaces Gulliver at 3b, Roenicke takes over for Lowenstein in LF. Stewart sets down Oakland in order in the top of the ninth.

Dan Ford, the outfielder acquired from the Angels in the DeCinces trade, is due to lead off the bottom of the ninth. Weaver sends up Jim Dwyer to pinch hit. Dwyer draws a walk, and moves to second on Nolan's ground out. Terry Crowley pinch hits for Sakata - he grounds out as well, with Dwyer going to third. Al Bumbry ties the game with a single, steals second, but is left there after Dauer grounds out.

Extra innings! Dwyer replaces Ford in RF, but Terry Crowley obviously can't play second base. Rich Dauer moves from 3b to 2b, and Floyd Rayford comes off the bench to play third. Stewart works through the Oakland 10th, and Singleton leads off the bottom of the inning with a single. Now Ken Singleton was slow when he was a young player, ten years earlier. So Weaver sends Rick Dempsey, normally his starting catcher, in to pinch run. Eddie Murray walks, and Weaver - are you all sitting down? - asks Gary Roenicke to lay down a sac bunt. Which he does, because... Orioles fundamentals! Ripken is given an intentional walk to load the bases, and Martin goes to his pen, bringing in LH Bob Owchinko to face Dwyer. Weaver, naturally, has a counter-move - Benny Ayala pinch hits for Dwyer. But Owchinko fans Ayala and Nolan to end the inning.  Ayala stays in the game, playing LF, with Roenicke moving across the outfield to RF.

Sammy Stewart allows a walk in the 11th, and the Oaklands actually manage to successfully steal a base. The thief is, naturally, Cliff Johnson. Presumably the Baltimore players all fainted in disbelief, who knows. Maybe it was a busted hit and run and the ball got away from the catcher, although I can't imagine anyone crazy enough to put on a hit and run with Tony Armas at the plate. Well, Billy Martin was probably exactly that crazy, and he did love the hit and run. (Weaver, famously, didn't even have a sign for the hit and run.) Anyway, Stewart made it through the top of the 11th and Owchinko through the bottom of the 11th. They did likewise in the 12th inning. In the top of the 13th, Tippy Martinez relieved Stewart, who had provided four scoreless innings of relief, striking out 7. Martinez retired the A's in order in the top of the 13th. Floyd Rayford led off the bottom of the inning against Owchinko, and ended the game with a walk-off home run.

Rayford had been on the active roster all season long, and had accumulated exactly 8 ABs through the first three months. Weaver loved the idea of having a guy like Rayford around - a third-baseman/catcher? What a concept! - he just hadn't actually needed to use him much, until Ripken moved to short and he tried out a Gulliver-Rayford platoon at third base for a while.

But here's the thing. Along with his nine starters, Weaver used five more guys to pinch hit. They went 0-3, but with two walks and one of those walks came around to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. He used yet another guy to pinch run, and yet another guy went into the game as a defensive replacement. Naturally, that's the guy who delivered the game winning hit.  Anyway, that's no less than 16 different position players, used in this one mid-season game.

Yup. He had a nine man pitching staff. They went 94-68, by the way.

So... what would Earl make of today's roster construction. I do wonder.