Mehring Monday: Earl Weaver in Appleton

The 1960 Fox Cities Foxes. (Appleton Professional Baseball)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | January 20, 2013 6:08 PM ET

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Earl Weaver was the manager of the Fox Cities Foxes in 1960 and 1961.  He was 29 years old when the Baltimore Orioles became the parent club of the Foxes and sent him to Appleton.

Weaver's time at Goodland Field wasn't his first step on the road to managing the Orioles for seventeen years.  But, it was one of the steps he took on the path to enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Weaver passed away this past weekend.  He was 82.

Now seems an appropriate time to look back Weaver and the1960 Foxes.

This is from Mike Drew's Time Out column in The Appleton Post-Crescent for April 15, 1960.  It reads as follows:

Confirmation of a report that the Fox Cities Foxes' 1960 manager Earl Weaver is a "livewire" comes from Menasha's Fritz Heiss.

Heiss, now employed in customer service at Marathon Division, played about half of last season with Duluth-Superior in the Class C Northern League.  Weaver managed the rival Aberdeen club.

"Weaver is a real firepot who keeps the club 'up' all the time," said Heiss.  "He really has 'em moving and with some breaks he would have won the league playoffs.  I understand he's a good man to play for."

There is also this quote from Weaver about John Powell from the 1960 Welcome Home Banquet.

"I was afraid for awhile I wasn't going to get him the way he was hitting major league pitching in exhibitions.  I'll let him (6-foot-4, 240 pounds) do my fighting for me.

You may know John Powell better by his nickname of Boog. 

There was also this interesting note from just before the season opener at Sioux City. 

From a managerial viewpoint, the game has a sentimental touch.  Earl Weaver of the Foxes and Bobby Hoffman of the Soo were high school baseball teammates in the middle 40's in St. Louis.

The Foxes opened their 1960 season by getting swept at Sioux City.  The final scores were 21-2, 11-3, and 18-14. 

Fox Cities opened 0-4 when they lost 5-4 in fourteen innings at Cedar Rapids on April 27.  Then, they had their next two games rained out in Cedar Rapids.

The 1960 home opener was scheduled for April 30 against Burlington.  It was snowed out.  The doubleheader scheduled for May 1 was also postponed.

May 2, 1960 was the date of Earl Weaver's first win as the manager of the Foxes.  Fox Cities beat Burlington 5-4 behind a complete game by Dean Chance and a pair of home runs by Charlie Johnson.  There were 1,853 fans in attendance at Goodland Field.  The Post-Crescent notes that: Four live, baby foxes - secured by Ray McClone - were among the prizes distributed to fans last night.

It took until the eleventh game of the season.  It would be the first time Earl Weaver was ejected from a game as Foxes manager.  The team was in Des Moines and trailed the Demons 6-4 in the ninth inning.  Photi Anthony tripled with the bases loaded to put the Foxes up 7-6.  Ray Youngdahl followed with an RBI double.  Pat Gillick got out of a jam in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win.  The story does not note when Weaver was ejected, only that he was given the thumb for "heckling base umpire Fred Blandford." 

The Foxes won their seventh straight game on June 1 to put their record at 17-11.  They were in second place in the Three-I League and just a half game behind Cedar Rapids.

The second time Weaver was ejected as manager of the Foxes occurred on June 5 in game one of a doubleheader against Topeka. 

"Weaver was tossed out of the game by plate umpire Emil Cote in the seventh after Earl renewed an earlier dispute.  Before he left, Weaver walked over to home plate and kicked dirt all over it.

Field umpire George Sosnak threw out pitcher Pat Gillick a bit later.  He accused Gillick of going into the clubhouse to get strategy from Weaver."

The Foxes won the game 6-4.  They also won the nightcap7-2.

Gillick shutout Lincoln 6-0 with 13 strikeouts on June 6 and the Foxes were tied with Cedar Rapids for first place at 20-13.  John L. Paustian captures the atmosphere: 

"The Schuler Schack Band, Fox Cities' answer to the old Brooklyn Dodgers "Sym-pho-ny", made Monday night's occasion even more gala.  The musicians too the customers' minds off the unseasonably cold weather with hot musical licks whenever Gillick or any of his three Lincoln mound foes weren't propelling a baseball.

Schuler's Schack Band not only whooped it up during the game, but crowded into the team's dressing room after the game to serenade the delighted Foxes."

Imagine Earl Weaver in the clubhouse.

Mid-June clicked by with the following notes:

*-Dutch Rennert was the plate umpire on June 7
*-Mike Weaver, Earl's son, joined the Foxes as a batboy on June 8
*-Three straight rainouts (Two in Des Moines and one in Burlington)

Then - on June 20, Earl was ejected for the third time as the Foxes manager.  It sounds like it was a beauty.

"Fox Cities' manager Earl Weaver was ejected after a big hassle in the fourth inning.  The umpires had called batter Johnson out when they ruled that Weaver - coaching at third - interfered with the Demons' Walters while Fred was chasing Johnson's pop foul.

Weaver objected strenuously, to both Rene Cote and George Sosnak, and was ejected.  The Foxes then announced that they were playing the game under protest.  Gillick took over Weaver's coaching duties at third."

Another note from the game story might show that the fiery Weaver was affecting the radio announcer:

"Youngdahl hit a ball a mile over the barrier in the fifth but the umpires ruled it foul...Whereupon sportscaster Bill Kiss hit a fibreboard wall in the radio booth with his fist so hard that it went right through the wall."

The Foxes won that game 6-4 over Des Moines for their second straight victory.  This put them at 25-20.  They would not lose again until they had reeled off ten straight wins.

The streak ended on June 27 in game one of a doubleheader against Burlington.  Before the loss, the Foxes were 33-20 and 3-1/2 games ahead of Sioux City.

Also on June 27, the Foxes were so shorthanded that Weaver suited up in game one.

"Manager Earl Weaver played second base for the short-handed Foxes in the first contest.  Making his first playing appearance of the season, Weaver walked, flew to center, and popped to the shortstop  He broke up a double play attempt nicely, was pivot man on a fast double play, and turned in an errorless job in the field."

A few days later - June 30 to be exact - the Foxes trailed Cedar Rapids 4-3 late in game one of a doubleheader.  Weaver called his own number.  He pinch hit.  The game story notes that Weaver reached base, took second on a sacrifice bunt, and went to third on a grounder.

Weaver scored the tying run on a wild pitch with a head first dive.  This is awesome.

Even more awesome was that the Foxes won the game and went on to beat Cedar Rapids 5-1 in the nightcap to run their record to 38-21.

By July 10, the Foxes were 42-28 and in first place, but only three games ahead of Sioux City.  Injuries to the team also forced Weaver to start in left field the second game of a doubleheader on July 11 at Lincoln.  He went 2-for-3 with an RBI in that game, but the Foxes lost 12-3.

Boog Powell hit two homers in his first 72 game of the 1960 season.  Then, he homered in both games of a doubleheader on July 13 and again on July 14.

On July 16 at Sioux City, Powell hit two homers - and Weaver drove in three runs, too - in an 8-3 win.  That put the Foxes at 47-30 and six games clear of the second place Soo.

Powell hit his first Goodland Field home run on July 24 in a 6-1 loss to Topeka.  But, that main item to catch my eye during the original research.  Here's the Cal Ripken, Sr. note from that game:

Ripken tore the nail loose from the little finger on his throwing hand.  The nail was taped back down and the gritty Ripken - who is driving the Foxes' bus during the current road trip - will probably catch both games tonight.

The month of July ended with the Foxes sweeping a doubleheader from Burlington at Goodland Field on July 31.  Pat Gillick, in what turned out to be his final start for the Foxes before his promotion, struck out 13 in a three-hit 1-0 shutout of the Bees.  The Foxes were still in first place, but despite a 56-39 record they were just 2-1/2 games up on second place Sioux City.

Weaver would get back in action in game two of a doubleheader on August 1.  He walked and scored in the 8-2 win over the Bees.

The Foxes strung together a seven game winning streak from August 4 through August 8 and their lead over Sioux City grew to 8-1/2 games.

That winning streak ended on August 9.  Weaver's ejectionless streak ended on August 10.

"Manager Earl Weaver was not around to see the Foxes rally for their eighth win in their last nine games and fourteenth success in their last 16 tries.  The 'Leo Durocher of the Three-I League' was thumbed out of the game in the fourth inning for arguing vociferously on a Foxes pickoff attempt that was ruled unsuccessful."

The rally on August 10 was against Sioux City and the lead - which had shrunk to 5-/12 games - climbed back up to 6-1/2.  A doubleheader sweep of the Soo on August 10 made it an 8-1/2 game lead.  An 8-3 Foxes win over Sioux City on August 12 made that a 9-1/2 game lead.  The Post-Crescent noted that achievement by posting the Foxes Magic Number - 21 - in the paper.

That lead never dropped below seven games over the rest of the season and on August 31 - in front of 3,369 fans at Goodland Field - the Foxes clinched the Three-I League pennant with a 7-2 win over Topeka.

Post-Crescent Sports Editor John L. Paustian had his seer's hat on as he wrote up his column that night.  This is what Paustian had to say about Weaver as he summed up the championship in the September 1, 1960 edition of The PC:

"One of the most gratifying aspects of the pennant success is that the Three-I League's premier club is young and essentially populated with players who should still go a long way in baseball.  Not only are many of the youthful stars potential major leaguers but the manager, Earl Weaver, himself has demonstrated a number of the qualities that could eventually elevate him to the big time.  The talent unquestionably is good, it's true, but Weaver handled it astutely and developed it to an even higher degree of efficiency as the season wore on.

Weaver also circumvented the potential personality dangers inherent in a club that carries so many "big bonus" youths as the Foxes.  He had them all thinking in terms of team success rather than individual glory.  And, most important of all, he instilled the victory complex in his players.  The fiery skipper loses hard, and he soon had his charges following suit.

Emphasis added.

I wonder how Weaver took the five-game losing streak after the Foxes had clinched the pennant.

The last game of the 1960 season was scheduled to be a contest at Green Bay against the Dodgers on September 8.  That game was rained out.

There were no playoffs in the Three-I League.  Fox Cities ended the season with an 82-56 record and that was more than enough to claim the 1960 crown. 

For all you did for baseball - especially here in Northeast Wisconsin, Earl Weaver, we remember you.   Thank you.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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