MAYNARD “MO” WEBER, “THE LEGEND OF THE VALLEY,” HAS PASSED ON
Maynard “Mo” Weber, fondly known as “The Legend of the Valley,” passed on July 26, 2019 at his residence in Luray, Virginia, across Massanutten Mountain from his beloved Rebel Park, home of the Valley Baseball League New Market Rebels.
Mo was born June 24, 1923, in Trenton, NJ and grew up in Great Neck, NY. His father was Max Weber, a highly regarded cubist and American modernist artist.
In 1930, the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective of his work, the first solo exhibition at that museum of an American artist. He was praised as a “pioneer of modern art in America” in a 1945 Life magazine article. (Wikipedia)
He was a World War II veteran, having served with the U.S. Army in Europe.
Mo used his G.I. Bill benefits to earn a bachelor’s degree at Winona State Teacher’s College, now Winona State University, Minnesota. He was baseball coach and manager for the Warriors 1946-1950 and was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2008.
Mo coached in Colorado, South Dakota and Missouri before taking the head coach position at the College iof William and Mary.
A couple of day’s after his last game as a Rebels assistant coach, June 23, 2010, Mo was the subject of an article by Jeremy Stafford in the Northern Virginia Daily, which included:
“I was fortunate to get a job that I love in a place I love, and I’m just sorry I have to leave,” Weber said. “I guess I thought I could do it this year and I didn’t give it any consideration till the year began to roll on.”…
The assistant coach tried to speak to each player in the dugout during a game, whether they were playing well or not. He admitted he had a soft spot for those players who didn’t excel.
Mo was inducted into the Valley Baseball League Hall of Fame, class of 2017, with this citation:
MAYNARD “MO” WEBER (Elected as Coach)
Coached baseball for over 65 years, including the final 17 as hitting coach, for the New Market Rebels… Served as the head coach at The College of William and Mary in 1965 and again from 1978-1981… Was later the
General Manager of the Peninsula Pilots, a White Sox affiliate in the Carolina League… The VBL Coach of the Year award was named after him in 2008… His #1 jersey has been retired by the New Market Rebels.
Mo had a witty sense of humor. Among the jokes he liked tell were: “You know how I stay sharp? I live on the edge of town;” and “When I played in the minor leagues I told them ‘I’m a low ball hitter and a high ball drinker’”.
Mo was married to his wife, the former Dorothy Babbitt, for 52 years. She passed in December, 2017.
In his book, Safe At Home: A Season in the Valley Leagueii, an account of the New Market Rebels’ 2009 season,Austin Gisriel devotes Chapter 3 to Mo Weber. Some excerpts, used with permission:
[At a dinner with Mo] After 20 minutes, I finally get to the first question that I wanted to ask, which is “Why baseball?’’ “I don’t know,” answers Mo immediately, “I’ve often asked myself that same question.” There is a long pause, and he tries to come up with an answer, noting that being little didn’t preclude him from playing baseball, as it did other sports. “When I was in high school, I wrestled. They used to call me ‘Rembrandt’ because I was always on the canvas,” he deadpans. “For some reason, I liked baseball better than other sports.” (p.23)
…I asked Mo for a hitting lesson for my friend Al Smith and me… We’ve already spent 45 minutes in the dugout listening to Mo discuss the most difficult art of hitting a baseball. Mo discusses the .4 seconds that a batter, on average, has to see the pitch, recognize it and its location, and then swing the bat. Calling it the “simultaneous moment of truth,” Mo is adamant about the necessity to be quick, and with an almost evangelical fervor, he tells us to eliminate “any extraneous motion that inhibits the acceleration of the bat.” Listening to Mo discuss hitting is like listening to Sir Isaac Newton and Billy Graham at the same time. (pp. 19-20)
“I’ve been a big fish in some very small ponds. Never made any money at the game. But I’ve been fortunate to just be around the game. I’ve been fortunate to have a good mentor from the start, and I’ve been fortunate to end up in New Market. They’ve been good to me,” says Mo, citing as an example the fact that, largely at the urging of Bruce Alger, the VBL created the Coach of the Year Award and named it in Mo’s honor. (p.30)
In a newspaper article about Mo’s passing, Rebels President and VBL Commissioner Bruce Alger said:
“Anybody that knows Mo or spent five minutes with him, the relationship or the talk always went straight baseball, and not only to baseball but the hitting as well. That was his specialty,” Alger said on Monday. “And the number of young men that he touched far exceeded even the numbers that I thought, because the emails and text messages and phone calls that I’ve received from coaches that he coached with here and throughout his college coaching career, I mean it’s just been enormous. They just keep coming and keep coming and keep coming.”iii
It has been a New Market Rebels tradition to celebrate Mo’s birthday during the home game closest to his birthday, serving cake to all in attendance. The Rebels will continue this tradition to honor Mo.
■ Dennis Atwood and Austin Gisriel
ii Safe At Home: A Season in the Valley, Austin Gisriel, © 2010 by Austin Gisriel, August Free Press, Waynesboro, VA.
Memories from Mo’s former Rebels
In 2015 when Mo was elected onto the New Market Rebels “Wall of Fame”, I spoke to several former coaches and players who reflected on their memories of Mo. I put these memories into a book for Mo at that time, but we will also share some of them here for you:
” I will never forget his wit and sense of humor. One of the many memorable moments I had with him was when he accompanied Spencer Clifft and I to McDonalds for a pre-game snack (don’t know what we were thinking haha). Well Spencer got a large sweet tea and noticed there was a fly in it, so the first thing Mo says is “Look, that fly is doing the backstroke!” We all laughed for the next several minutes and whenever I think of Mo, I think of that story. I will also never forget his sayings, such as “that’s as reliable as a screen door on a submarine”. I thoroughly enjoyed my 3 years with Mo in New Market!” Jake Geungerich 2009-20011
“I’ll always remember Mo’s love for baseball, love for people, and amazing sense of humor. He has a new joke to tell in every conversation. 2 years after I played at New Market when I was playing in Harrisonburg, I was so excited to see that Mo was still coming out for the games. He remembered me right away and we talked again about that summer in New Market. God has blessed him with a long life full of baseball and laughs, and I’m just happy I could be a small part of it. ” Ryan Brown 2010
“Mo always told us to hit it on the “sweet” part of the wood, being the barrel. He always took such good care of his convertible car too. He was the happiest man alive when he was around the ball diamond. I will always remember him.” Ryley Westman 2006
” My best memory of Mo Weber would be how after every practice he’d put the top down on his little Sebring and go get a milk shake at Burger King” Ben Crowell 2004-2005
“Coach Weber taught me how to belly hit. I don’t know how many else got this guidance but it definitely made me better. Mo is the best! ” Kevin White 2003
“Manny being Manny was a phrase stolen from Mo Being Mo. What can you say about a guy that has literally seen it all in baseball. What I will remember about my time with Mo will certainly be all the stories he tells and times he has encountered but for me it’s Mo the person. He is so kind and genuine. There is never a moment where it is not ALL about the players and their experience when you are with Mo. He has helped me realize that through my career. He also helped me loosen up by his laughter and love for the game. I owe Mo so much, he doesn’t even realize the impact Mo Being Mo had on me. I love his passion and I love him.” Coach Lucas Jones 2009
“I started off my summer in the Valley very poorly and it was really the first time I struggled so bad. When I wasn’t playing in the games Mo was always there sitting next to me in the dugout and telling me an amazing story. I learned a ton from Mo and I would like to share my favorite Mo Weber story…
It must have been about the sixth inning at Rebel Park and I wasn’t playing. Instead of sulking on the bench and thinking about how I missed home and why the heck I wasn’t in the game, I decided to make the most of my night and pick the brain of the “Legend of the Valley”. I asked him everything from the best players he had seen, the worst places he played at, every school he ever coached at….and there were a lot. We were having a great conversation and I got to be honest with you I nearly lost track that there was a ballgame going on until I heard that cracking sound of a hard foul ball and the alarming hissing of the ball coming towards us. Instinctually I knew I had to help this old man so I lunged myself between Mo and the incoming ball but the ball was moving too fast and hit just above us, and like a pinball it ricocheted off of the bat rack, the ceiling, and the back wall of the dugout, before it magically landed in the open hands and lap of a sitting Mo Weber. Everyone in the dugout was shaken up making sure nobody had been hit and without hesitation Mo turned to me and said in his slow drawn out tone, “These are the fastest hands in the Valley.”
I am thankful I was a Rebel and I am grateful to have met and learned from Mo Weber. He is a great man with a wealth of knowledge. Thank you for every thing Mo, the best coach I ever played for!” Kevin Brown 2010
“One memory I have of Mo is his great sense of humor. I’m sure it hasn’t changed. I was never sure if he was serious or not, but he pronounced the “Jose” in “San Jose State” as “Josie” like the English phonetic. It always made me laugh” Tim Adinolfi 1999
“Coach Mo Weber in my mind had the heart of a 21 year old baseball player who was upbeat and full of positive feedback. I remember my first encounter with him like yesterday. When I arrived to meet staff and coaches he was decked out in his full gear with those gleaming half-Sunday-slippers-half-cleats. The first thing he said was “Welcome Sandy”. I mean really this guy already knew my name, which made me feel he took time to know each players name before we even met. To say the least Mo has had an everlasting effect on my life knowing the importance of living like you are young and building relationships with others. This guy is the full package and has touched many lives along the way. Here is to you Mo. I know your still dancing away like it was yesterday in the dugout while we played extra innings against Luray at 11:30pm. Love you Mo!” Sandy Jacobs 2004
“I’ll always remember several of the “Mo-isms”. “I was a boxer once, now I’m a cocker spaniel” and “When I started to struggle they sent me down to the salt and pepper league for a little more seasoning.” Coach Corey Paluga 2009-2011
“I vividly remember Coach Weber talking to us about partying. He said that every night you go out and party, you waste two days of training to get back to where you were. That stuck with me over ten years later.” Matt Keller 2005
“The memory that stands out for me the most from Coach Weber was the time I walked out of the locker room wearing nothing but a jock strap. He looked at me and said “I got a peanut shell and a rubber band if that one breaks.” Of course I’ll also always remember Coach Weber for his kindness and positivity. He is always on the brightest side of the ball park.” Gerard Haran 2006
“The things I will always remember is that he was a very positive coach who was great to have around the field and was always able to put smiles on peoples’ faces.” Michael Mooney 2008
“Besides the basic awesomeness that Mo Weber epitomizes, here’s what he did for me: My first season with the Rebels was a good one, but I didn’t make the all-star team even though I was hitting .345 at the break. So my next season I was obviously counting on making it. Unfortunately, I was hitting something like .115 and didn’t have a chance. I was trying everything to get a hit, but I just kept digging myself deeper and deeper into a hole. Finally Coach Weber came up to me and said “Do you want to hit?” and by that point I felt like I was at rock bottom. I was willing to try anything. So I did! Coach Weber hung around as I took batting practice and he implemented some small changes (bat on my shoulder without moving until I made contact). At first I didn’t trust it because it felt so weird, but I remember him telling me to stick with it.
I remember what became the first of many hits; a line drive over third. I went on to lead the Rebels that season with a .302 batting average. Mo saw that I wanted to help the team, and it wasn’t my work ethic that was the problem. He saw that I didn’t trust myself, and he moved the accountability from myself to him and helped me gain confidence. It really was an awesome swing adjustment!” Chris Beck 2005-2006
“We were taking batting practice on the field one day and in between the pitches Dan Rollins was hitting grounders to the shortstops. Mo starts walking out towards center in the middle of BP (still don’t know why he did that) and was not even paying attention. It somehow came up that he was a ball magnet and always has been. It seemed almost immediately after someone had said that Dan went to hit a grounder to shortstop and accidentally hit a line drive. DRILLS Mo right in the arm. All he does is say “damnit” and kept walking. Like nothing even happened! Like someone bumped into him and it was as common as him filling up his gas tank. Couldn’t believe it. Then we just continued with batting practice and acted like it never happened.” Jay Lively 2009
“Mo Weber, I bring your story to the top of the Freedom Tower! I tip my cap to you! I am a carpenter now and attached is a photo I took before Freedom tower opened to the public” Mike Roth 2009
“Mo, 1st of all I think it was awesome that you wore spikes everyday. You are a genuine baseball person and you taught us the difference between being a “prospect” and a “suspect” and how to be a grinder and how to play hard and how to play the right way. Way back in 2001 I told you I was studying to be a teacher. You yourself were an educator and you gave me a great piece of advice once that I think about very often. You told me to teach my heart out and to love my students and care about them, but you also said something baffling to me that makes a lot of sense now. You told me “always keep your hands in your pockets when standing near a student”. I didn’t understand that advice then, but now as an educator of 12 years, I understand what you were saying and I always remember and abide by what has become known in my mind as “Mo’s rules”. Thank you! You are a great man!” Chris Turco 2001
“Favorite memory of Mo was when we were talking baseball at a post game dinner and I asked what he was most proud of in his baseball career. His response was that he enjoyed all of the wins, never the losses. Also “I hold one record that has never been beaten. I stole the most gloves in a single season.” I thought that was one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard around a baseball field.” Derek Peterson 2013
“It was the usual pregame batting practice and Mo was always on top of his game with jokes and stories from early last century. During BP, he was always trying to get me to hit home runs to my pull side. I preferred to work on my opposite field hitting. Mo was asking why I always hit the ball to right field (as a RH batter). “You got power, you don’t need to hit the ball to that side”, he said. I told him I still pull the balls in the game. He still didn’t like it. After batting practice and about an hour before first pitch, he ordered me out beyond the left field wall to conduct an unusual drill to “get the most out of my power”. I grab my bat and head past the wall with “The Legend” to the open field with trees and shrubbery in the distance. He says “take a swing as hard as you can and let go of the bat”. I did this for 15 minutes: just hurling my bat, fetching it, and hurling it again. Until finally, I launched the bat deep into shrubbery. After laughing for a minute, I told Mo, half-jokingly, that was my favorite game bat. Boy did he feel bad! He was on a mission to get that bat buried deep in the shrubs. He entered the tangled trees, constantly getting poked with thorn and tree branches. I was entertained to say the least. After a bit, I told Mo that the game starts in 20 minutes and not to worry about it. He told me to go get ready and he’ll bring the bat when he finds it. After the first half-inning, Mo finally comes back, my bat in hand. He had worked to get that bat for over 45 minutes!! I appreciated his perseverance, especially of a man at his age. Mo was complaining and itching and scratching his body the whole game (…kinda funny to watch). Sure enough, the next game day he shows up with poison ivy type rash on his arms and neck. This story still makes me laugh when I think of it, and it is one of the many memories I have from that summer in 2006.
Mo was one of my favorite coaches and people I’ve been around in baseball. He made it fun to show up to the park every day. ” Bryan Shaughnessy 2006
It is no doubt that Mo will be missed by us all, but I know that we will continue to treasure his memory! Feel free to share your own memories as we will continue to love hearing them!
■ Anna Lawrence.
Additional Photo Credits: Melissa Dodge, Anna Lawrence, Austin Gisriel