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Finley entertained and enraged


Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Flamboyant Finley
By Nick Acocella
Special to

Signature Game
Oct. 14, 1973 - Charley Finley was at his most irascible after Game 2 of the World Series. The game between the Athletics and Mets took four hours and 13 minutes, the longest Series game by the clock up to then. It also was the longest day of Oakland second baseman Mike Andrews' life.

After the Mets pulled ahead 7-6 in the 12th inning on the last hit of Willie Mays' career, Andrews' world came tumbling down. With the bases loaded, John Milner's ground ball went through Andrews' legs for two more runs. Jerry Grote hit another grounder to Andrews, who pulled Gene Tenace off first base with his throw, allowing another run to score.

The day after Oakland's 10-7 defeat, Finley made Andrews sign a consent form saying that he had a shoulder injury and then deactivated him in favor of Manny Trillo. But Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ordered Andrews reinstated.

The rest of the A's wore No. 17 on their sleeves in solidarity with Andrews, and manager Dick Williams told the team he was quitting after the Series. Even Mets fans gave Andrews a standing ovation when the Series moved to New York.

Although Oakland won the Series in seven games, the celebrations were muted. "Finley takes all the fun out of winning," Reggie Jackson said.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Finley's first act as Kansas City owner was to stage the burning of a bus to symbolize the end of the KC-New York shuttle that had sent players like Roger Maris and Clete Boyer to the Bronx for spare parts.

  • The first of Finley's numerous feuds with his managers and players took place in July 1962 when he insisted that Manny Jiminez, who was leading the league in batting with a .350 average, wasn't hitting enough home runs. Manager Hank Bauer sided with Jiminez and was fired at the end of the season.

  • Irritated by the small dimensions down the lines at the old Yankee Stadium, Finley constructed what he called his "pennant porch" at Memorial Stadium in Kansas City in 1964. The fence exactly duplicated both the distances and the height of the fence at Yankee Stadium, but league officials forced him to tear it down after only two exhibition games.

  • In Oakland, Finley installed the first computer-activated scoreboard, a 24-foot by 126-foot message board in leftfield that he called Finley's Funboard. In rightfield, he put an exploding scoreboard.

  • During a protracted contract dispute with Jackson after the 1969 season, he threatened to send the slugger back to the minor leagues even though he had hit 47 homers and led the A.L. with 123 RBI.

  • Finley also had a major contract dispute with Vida Blue after the lefthander won the MVP and Cy Young awards by going 24-8 with a league-leading 1.82 ERA in 1971.

  • Finley was responsible for the facial hair grown by the players on his championship teams of the 1970s, paying $300 to each player who wore a mustache.

  • The Sporting News named Finley its "Man of the Year" in 1972.

  • Despite the innovations and the talent, Finley's A's were never a great gate attraction. After winning the 1972 World Series, the club sold only 1,400 season tickets for 1973, when it barely attracted a million fans.

  • His A's were the first modern team to wear uniforms that were any color other than white or gray.

  • Finley introduced the designated runner in 1974. College-sprinter-turned-major-league-baseball-player Herb Washington stole 33 bases (29 in 1974) in 105 games without batting before he was released in 1975.

  • Among Finley's suggestions to enliven baseball were a walk on three balls instead of four and holding Opening Day on a weekend.

  • More successful were his suggestions for 7 p.m. games and, after his departure from baseball, interleague play.

  • When the franchise moved, one Missouri Sen. Stuart Symington called Oakland "the luckiest city since Hiroshima" to get Finley.

  • When Sal Bando was asked if it was hard to leave the A's, he answered, "Was it hard to leave the Titanic?"

  • Finley was enamored of nicknames, so much so that he paid players to adopt them. Catfish Hunter and Blue Moon Odom were two of his more successful monikers. Vida Blue, however, refused to change his given name to True to please his boss.

  • When Jackson and Hunter were inducted into the Hall of Fame, they both invited Finley.

  • Finley, who died in 1996, was buried wearing his championship ring. His bronze casket was surrounded by green-and-gold floral arrangements and pictures from his glory days, including framed issues of Time and The Sporting News with Finley on the covers.

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