Many years ago, long before I came along, my dad ran a string of gas stations in Los Angeles. He was very good at his job. He ran a tight ship.
That laser-like attention to detail and exacting perfection didn’t change over the years. He demanded a lot of himself, and, by turn, everyone else.
One day during those gas station years, late ’50s or so, Mickey Rooney – yes, that Mickey Rooney – came to my dad’s station. And, apparently, Mickey Rooney didn’t adhere to the “good customer” rules that my dad expected.
A “Do you know who I am?” led to a “I don’t care who you are.” Rooney, the story goes, expected free service on his car, simply because he was famous.
A scrap of some kind ensued. (I’m biased, but I’m gonna go with my dad on this one. Because really … a Hollywood star kicks up a stink with a gas station guy? I’m just going to assume the Average Joe was the good guy.)
From then on, Mickey Rooney was not spoken of in our home.
So, it was with a bit of sadness – no, sadness isn’t right; let’s call it You MUST be kidding eye-rolling – when I read a tribute to the legendary Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who passed away on January 19 at age 82, that described him as “Mickey Rooney in a uniform.”
You’re comparing a baseball legend to this guy who picked a fight with my dad because he was expected to pay for service like everyone else?
The Earl of Baltimore was a baseball genius.
But, he was also a scrappy, crabby, cranky, irascible, chain-smoking, argumentative firecracker, who might be best known for all the times he tangled with umpires, kicking dirt and getting ejected from 98 games.
He was a tough-as-nails perfectionist who demanded a lot of himself, and, by turn, everyone else. Kinda like my dad.
Earl Weaver is, on the one hand, a big ball of everything I usually find unpleasant about the game.
Crabby, loud, vulgar. Extremely vulgar. Did I mention the chain-smoking? (He was ejected at least once for smoking in the dugout.)
But, he is also a lot of what I find wonderful about baseball.