BALTIMORE -- New Baltimore Orioles Manager Joe Altobelli knows it will be tough fillingthe shoes of Earl Weaver, the fiery skipper who finished third on the all-time victory list among major-league managers.
But Altobelli, the former manager of the San Francisco Giants and a graduate of the Orioles' minor-league system, also knows he is inheriting one of baseball's class acts, a team that has won more than any other in the big leagues since 1957. And he prefers to be the optimist.
A beaming Altobelli told a packed news conference at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium Friday: 'When you have a ballclub that is capable of contending, that is all a manager can really ask for. I will take my chances with this club.'
Altobelli agreed that Weaver will be difficult to succeed, but added, 'There are tougher situations.
'I'd like to say it's like a dream come true, but I'm 50 years old. I know that after this big day I've got a lot of hard work ahead of me.'
Altobelli, who was 225-239 in almost three full seasons with the Giants, succeeded Weaver, who retired last month after 14 seasons and a record of 1,354 wins and 919 losses. Weaver guided the Orioles to six Eastern Division championships, four American League pennants and the 1970 World Series title.
Eight players on the Orioles roster previously played for Altobelli, who managed Baltimore's top farm team, the Rochester Red Wings, to four titles in the International League from 1971 to 1976. Altobelli managed at all levels in the Orioles' farm system from 1966-76, compiling a 787-613 record.
At San Francisco, things went well in Altobelli's second full year when he led the club to an 89-73 record and a close third in the National League West. But in 1979, the Giants fell to 61-79 and Altobelli was replaced by Dave Bristol with less than a month left in the season.
During the last two years, Altobelli has served as a third-base coach for the New York Yankees. In 1980, he managed the Yankees' Triple-A farm team at Columbus to the International League championship.
Altobelli said he will 'just try to keep the show going and win one more game than any other team in the Eastern Division.'
Last season, the Orioles finished one game behind the Milwaukee Brewers, after battling to a tie with one game left.
Altobelli made it clear he is not a 'nice guy' manager and will do what it takes to win.
'I don't think it's a compliment when a guy says, 'He's a nice guy to play for.' That doesn't come out right, somehow,' he said.
Altobelli was chosen over Cal Ripken Sr., the Orioles' third-base coach, and pitching coach Ray Miller. The man chosen said his major-league managerial experience may have given him the edge.
Baltimore general manager Hank Peters said all five Orioles coaches under Weaver, including Ripken and Miller, have been invited back for next season and that all have indicated they will return. Miller, however, is a candidate for the manager's job in Oakland.
Former Cy Young Award-winner Mike Flanagan, who played for Altobelli at Rochester, was elated at the prospect of playing for him.
'My biggest fear about the whole thing is that they were going to get somebody maybe not connected with the Oriole tradition,' Flanagan said. 'Joe was with the Orioles for many years. It's nice having him be the manager because a lot of us played for him and kind of know what to expect.'
The terms of Altobelli's two-year contract were not disclosed.