BALTIMORE -- The No. 4 banner hung to the right of the main stage at the Baltimore Convention Center, a solemn salute front and center to a man whose passing struck a chord in the heart of the city, the Orioles organization and the collective baseball world.
"I had a No. 4 in the dugout every day," manager Buck Showalter reflected on Saturday afternoon, just hours after learning of Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver's passing late Friday night of a heart attack. "Before every game, I had a little thing where I would just kind of look at it, sometimes I'd rub it if we needed an extra out or a big hit. He didn't let us down too much. ... I got a four-run [inning] out of it one night."
Weaver came to Orioles Spring Training last year and spoke with the players and coaches, riding around in a golf cart with Showalter, talking baseball and reminding the O's skipper of baseball's simplicity.
"I'll never forget we went to a drill and he said, 'Oh, we were doing this 40 years ago. You guys just got more fungos and more coaches, maybe a different machine. But we are all trying to accomplish the same thing,'" Showalter said. "He gave me time, and that's the most precious thing.
"He meant so much to so many people. There's a reason why they called him 'The Earl of Baltimore', there was such a connection with the way he went about his business."
On Saturday, Orioles Fanfest saw more than 18,500 pack the Convention Center to celebrate the monumental success of 2012 and give hope for '13. Orioles players, wives and front-office personnel were treated Friday night to a special screening of the DVD "The BUCKle Up Birds: An Underdog Story", which chronicles last season, with a cameo from all of six of the Legends Series statue celebrations.
"You see Earl up there [on the screen] for his statue unveiling and, I love Buck, but he's still the manager you think of when you think of the Orioles," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "His fire, his intensity, his passion for the game, his passion for this city, his passion for doing things the Oriole way and doing it the right way, I think it's something that everything in this city can relate to. He will certainly sorely be missed by this organization and this city."
Weaver, who managed only the Orioles in his 17 big league seasons, produced a .583 winning percentage and 1,480 victories, the 22nd-highest total in history. Baltimore won four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series in a sequence of 11 seasons that began in 1969. Weaver's teams won six AL East championships, 219 games from 1969-70 and at least 100 games five times.
"I've been a fan since '83, and Weaver was one of the most popular managers they ever had," said Rockville, Md., resident Frank Walsh, who attended all of the statue ceremonies. "I'm glad he was able to be there just to see his own unveiling."
It was a thought echoed by many, including executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who said the Orioles current club follows several of "Weaver's tenets," including doing whatever you can to win today's game and worry about tomorrow tomorrow.
"That was a hallmark of this past year's team and will be part of the Orioles' tradition," Duquette said. "And of course, his passion, unfailing passion to do everything he could to win a ballgame. That, to me, is what Earl Weaver was all about."
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones reflected fondly on getting to talk to Weaver last spring and reminded the reporters assembled that Weaver's life should be celebrated.
"I started to look at things in a bigger picture, the man lived 82 years," Jones said. "Think about what he's seen, think about -- besides the championships -- think about all the things he's seen in his life. You come to appreciate, the man lived to be 82 years old.
"[Weaver] said he loves the way I play. He said it reminded him of the way they played back in the day. And I said, 'I really appreciate that because that's how I play the game.'"
Weaver's winning percentage is the ninth highest in history and third highest among those who managed at least 2,500 games. He was a no-nonsense manager, known for being blunt, but straightforward.
"There's no doubt. In my era, he was the best manager in baseball," former Orioles catcher and current broadcaster Rick Dempsey said. "Not the easiest guy to get along with ever, but that's what made us as good as we really were."
"I was just so glad that we honored him again," added Showalter. "Obviously, we are still trying to get our arms around the different ways we can honor Earl's memory."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less