Major League Baseball lost two of its legends this past weekend — famed Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver and St. Louis Cardinals icon Stan “The Man” Musial.
My main focus here will be on Weaver because he had a connection to the Midwest League — he managed and briefly played for the Fox Cities Foxes, a predecessor team to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers — but I’ll also share a short story about Musial before I’m done.
Weaver managed the Fox Cities Foxes in 1960 and 1961. The Orioles farm team was part of the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League, commonly referred to as the Three-I League. That league disbanded in January 1962, and the Appleton-based Foxes were one of three teams that moved to the Midwest League.
Weaver led the 1960 team to the league championship, and even played in 28 games that year. He batted a paltry .233 (7-for-30). Besides Weaver, the team included Dean Chance, Boog Powell, Pat Gillick and Cal Ripken Sr. (I wrote about that team in a previous post, which you can read here.)
For more about Weaver’s Foxes tenure, read this article by Timber Rattlers broadcaster Chris Mehring. It includes notes about all the Foxes players I mentioned, but my favorite part is the reference to Weaver as the “Leo Durocher of the Three-I League.” (He was ejected four times.)
Now my Musial story: I attended several baseball card shows in the late 1980s and early 1990s, at the height of the collecting craze. I usually didn’t want to pay for autographs — I was a teenager with limited funds. But twice my dad convinced me to get baseballs signed by Hall of Fame players. One of those players was Musial. The other was Mickey Mantle, who died a few years later. I still have those baseballs, which I count among my prized possessions.
A Hall of Fame find
Speaking of autographs, I added to my collection while in Naperville on Saturday. I was there for a book-related seminar. After the event concluded, I found a new bookstore — at least it was new to me — called BookHunters. (For those of you who also live in Illinois, it’s located in Naperwest Plaza along Route 59 near Aurora Avenue in Naperville.) I bought several books, including my find of the day: an autographed copy of “Play Baseball the Ripken Way” for only $6!
I usually don’t name-drop the bookstores I visit because I go to so many, but the owner, Vicki, was very nice to me and other customers, so she earned a free plug. You can read more about the independent bookstore in this article that ran in the Naperville Sun last April.