find a direct payday loan lender get cash advance credit card best credit cards after filing bankruptcy virtual credit card terminal uk payday loans uk same day interest free bad credit cards typical m&s credit card limit visa gift card canada phone number virgin prepaid credit card australia chase credit card minimum payment lawsuit reputable direct cash advance lenders reloadable prepaid visa cards how to get credit card quickly does applying for credit cards affect your credit how can i get credit card with no credit wells fargo credit card fraud alert prepaid visa card canada fees secured credit card with no application fee canadian tire credit card interest rate corporate credit card policy example does applying for too many credit cards hurt your credit virgin credit card ppi phone number visa cards numbers start with best credit cards no credit disney credit card offers 200 visa cards for bad credit no deposit hdfc credit card customer care number for bangalore 0 interest rate credit card transfer preloaded credit cards australia pay new york and company credit card online credit card visa number + security code hdfc bank credit card register and pay login apply for credit cards with bad credit history activate visa credit card phone number best new credit card bonus offers is nab credit card travel insurance good hsbc credit cards visa platinum visa credit card numbers and security codes free maurices credit card contact number anz visa card exchange rate using uk visa debit cards in usa bad credit credit cards instant approval visa natwest transfer credit card balance credit card processing rates explained can you apply for best buy credit card in store square credit card app kindle fire ford motor company credit card application chase online visa card how to transfer money from hdfc master credit card to bank account citibank credit card reviews india what;s the best credit card to get to build credit best credit card to get free flights free visa credit card details 2013 unsecured bad credit loan nz reporting credit card fraud uk how do tesco credit card points work axis bank credit card reward points claim best buy household bank credit card transfer balance credit cards for bad credit bad credit credit card approval fast best small business credit card reader instant cash advance payday loans hbc credit card application form gift visa card uk bank of america credit card payment processing hrsaccount best buy credit card login hyatt credit card offer review how do i sign up for a walmart credit card best first credit card for young adults with no credit what is the best first credit card to have get a credit card instantly with bad credit credit card protection on purchases via paypal payday loans no credit check no upfront fees no guarantor disney rewards credit card application credit card after bankruptcy discharge australia request credit limit increase capital one best credit card for first time users with no credit how to get credit card with bad credit australia firestone auto care credit card login credit card minimum payment law 2011 capital one low interest rate credit cards first credit card for no credit history hdfc credit card application form for change of mobile number as seen on tv credit card protector barclays credit card machine rolls best cashback credit cards 2013 canada best rewards credit cards with no annual fee can you get a chase credit card with bad credit which credit card has the best rewards system go compare credit card amazon credit card reviews 2012 chase freedom visa credit card application capital one balance transfer to bank account lord and taylor credit card contact us how do i sign up for itunes without a credit card barclaycard credit card deals for existing customers southwest airlines premier credit card benefits credit card reward points hdfc best united credit card miles college student mastercard credit cards will opening new credit cards hurt your credit score starwood preferred guest? credit card review can credit card companies garnish your wages in florida hdfc credit card apply online in hyderabad first cash advance hours bank of america virtual credit card debit capital one platinum card rewards does target credit card report to credit bureaus virgin credit cards now mbna 30 000 spg point american express credit card create virtual visa card online 0 interest free credit card on purchases miles and more credit card uk review mastercard careers london military bad credit car loans free credit card authorization form template canada how to use stolen credit card numbers online credit card validator javascript icici credit card bill payment status pay axis bank credit card bill online usaa world mastercard? credit card review what is the best credit card to have with no credit credit card number format in india business credit cards best rewards programs new credit card offers bad credit best bank of america cash back credit card us bank credit card processing charges credit card debt relief act is it better to pay off credit card debt or save for retirement best credit card bad credit unsecured visa card number generator credit card fraud insurance companies which credit card should i get singapore citibank credit card apply kolkata 0 interest credit cards uk credit card information not valid psn credit card approval process malaysia hdfc virtual credit card charges best credit card reader for ipad mini citibank credit card online banking visa card uk customer services chase credit card services pay online walmart credit card a how to accept credit card payments what is the cash advance fee for wells fargo credit card bank of america credit card payment zip code can you get a discover card with bad credit ps3 credit card information hacked best travel rewards points credit card canada best credit card canada for rewards titanium visa prepaid credit card tips on how to get rid of credit card debt legal requirements for storing credit card information get credit card for bad credit rating cpp credit card protection review check my credit card score free quick cash loans for unemployed uk wells fargo student credit card cash advance fee credit card with bad credit canada how do i check the status of my best buy credit card application bad credit credit cards no deposit canada liquid advance payday loans review yatra offers hdfc credit cards best cash advance places online calculate credit card balance transfer calculator hdfc platinum credit card reward points redemption which credit card should i get to build credit iphone credit card processing for mobile payments online direct payday loan lenders no credit check td canada trust student visa application hdfc bank credit card online payment gateway window best payday online loan companies cash loans online south africa hsbc best buy credit card login best credit cards for bad credit rating how to calculate credit card apr formula best free prepaid credit card first usa credit card rewards quick payday loans no credit check uk icici credit card statement online view best credit card company in india halifax credit card minimum payment calculator get real credit card numbers security codes chase credit card promotions 2013 sear credit card offers how to get a best buy credit card with no credit paypal credit card payment php instant online cash advance south africa cash back credit cards no annual fee india best fixed rate credit card deals student credit cards bad credit no cosigner lowes joint credit card application list of credit card companies best credit card rates ireland new online payday loan lenders free cash back credit cards india very bad credit credit cards how to get a us credit card with a us address barclays platinum card travel insurance chase credit cards application status government loans to consolidate credit card debt student visa credit card canada pay advance army american airlines credit card login page no credit check payday loans online uk how to get a nandos black card ebay apply for alaska airlines credit card canada cash advance online no credit check apply for arco gas credit card rewards cards australia how to get hdfc credit card statement commonwealth bank credit cards frequent flyer discover student more card no credit history does applying for credit cards hurt best secured credit card to build credit fast 2013 visa credit card application no credit fnb online loan application visa signature credit card wiki average credit card interest rates australia call gap credit card services low limit credit cards for bad credit australia late on best buy credit card payment easy credit cards canada list of credit card processing companies canada barclays credit card application status india credit card reward tricks discover credit card reviews 2013 how long to wait between applying for credit cards chase credit card settlement 2011 natwest credit card online services co uk amazon uk credit card application how does chase apply credit card payments best buy credit cards online bill pay capital one credit card first statement bankwest balance transfer credit card offers chase credit card 15 months no interest best secured credit cards to rebuild credit 2011 unsecured bad credit personal loans instant decision low interest rate credit card transfers macy credit card review how to check my icici credit card status barclay credit card payment billdesk credit card approval with bad credit in canada 0 interest credit cards purchases tesco credit card 0 balance transfer cibc visa credit card services contact best value credit cards 2012 uk best credit card to have in singapore anz visa card protection visa credit card issuers in canada old navy visa credit card application air miles credit card canada no annual fee online prepaid credit card japan how to negotiate with credit card companies to reduce debt hsbc uk credit card number southwest credit card free flight after first purchase hdfc credit cards payment gateway city bank credit card login singapore jetstar credit card international transaction fees low income credit cards canada low rate credit card offers canada how do you get a credit card with no credit history credit cards with rewards for gas how to get a high limit credit card with no credit chase united credit card foreign transaction fee track sbi credit card application status capital one canada credit card sign in best airmiles credit card canada 2012 does costco accept credit cards alaska usa credit card disney visa rewards card reviews buy prepaid credit card paypal guaranteed bad credit loan uk citi gold credit card uk hbc mastercard points how long does it take to get credit card in the mail paypal accept credit cards on website axis bank credit cards details no fee american express air miles credit card best buy reward credit card makemytrip hdfc credit card offer bad credit no credit loans chevron credit card credit builder credit card reader for small business uk how to apply for credit card in icici nhs black card reviews credit card protection plans complaints courtyard marriott credit card authorization form where to file credit card company complaints low interest rate credit card balance transfer lloyds tsb credit card services address gold cardigan monsoon 0 interest balance transfer credit cards malaysia search bhs co uk credit card does applying for new credit cards hurt your credit score business credit cards with cashback easy credit cards to get approved for bmo credit card air miles best rewards credit card 2013 travel apple credit card reader square navy federal credit union jobs history of growth and development of credit card in india rbs credit cards online payment best business credit card offer 2013 largest credit card issuers in us credit card reward schemes compared cash advance loans no credit check australia standard chartered credit card malaysia contact number does american express gold card build credit can you get business credit card bad credit payday loans online no credit check australia mastercard securecode uk heartland credit card processing reviews business credit cards no credit history pay amazon visa card online santander credit card travelling abroad barclays platinum card benefits best portable credit card scanner credit card application form format compare canadian credit cards travel apply for a credit card with bad credit history in south africa city bank credit card bill payment from other bank hdfc bank credit card helpline no kolkata chase credit card secure login cibc prepaid credit cards canada best canada credit card rewards how much money do credit card companies make per transaction credit card debt help government citibank online apply credit cards bad credit car loans no credit check nordstrom credit card visa signature hsbc credit cards application philippines credit score needed for discover student credit card best credit cards travel rewards canada citibank reward credit card review rewards credit card with no annual fee credit card processing apple credit card interest rate chart long term personal loans online activate new usaa credit card can a credit card company garnish a joint bank account standard chartered credit card online application status credit card settlement process diagram usaa credit card cash advance rate no credit check loans online instant approval australia national city bank credit card offers rewards credit card with no foreign transaction fee ed sheeran nandos black card how to accept credit cards online small business firestone credit card 5 discount credit card processing companies in india citi vs discover student credit cards can you pay walmart credit card with gift card get credit cards no credit check instant credit card temporary number online payday loan guaranteed approval comments amazon credit card review new list of payday lenders best buy business credit card icici credit card with no annual fee in india aqua cashback credit card review where is the credit card number located on an american express credit card poor credit credit cards no deposit instant approval credit card credit limit singapore 0 credit card transfer to current account cheapest wireless credit card machine american express small business credit card processing student credit cards visa mastercard best credit card offer for travel compare low interest rate credit cards accept credit cards on iphone uk best buy credit card protection plan apply online credit card citibank chase mastercard credit card logon icici bank platinum credit card limit credit cards application form canada credit cards compare 0 credit card transfer balance american aadvantage credit card canada credit card for students in india best credit card processing rates canada small business accepting credit cards business credit card with low interest rate cash back rewards credit cards apply for first credit card with no credit history texas business free credit card terminal credit card fraud online orders barclay credit card online registration clark howard best travel rewards credit cards easy approval credit cards unsecured 0 credit cards transfer fee aadvantage credit card offer 2012 us credit card number sample natwest credit card protection refund fee free credit cards nz pnc credit card services login credit card merchant services ireland sallie mae pay loans standard chartered singapore credit card interest rate hsbc credit card rewards heartland credit card processing contact credit card application online for bad credit secured credit card to build credit new york and company rewards credit card login can i transfer credit card balance to someone else westpac credit card insurance contact number free working visa credit card number 2013 make bank of america credit card payment online j.p. morgan chase prepaid credit cards bank of canada credit card debt best credit cards 2011 no foreign transaction fee walmart gift visa card rbc visa cards rewards chase credit card virtual account numbers what is cash advance rate on credit cards nandos black card timeout british airways credit card avios points how to pay barclays credit card payment ge money bank credit card contact information list of online payday lenders guaranteed approval credit cards bad credit top 10 credit card issuers 2012 visa credit card processing charges student credit card uk apply for credit card online payday advance direct lenders no credit check new business credit cards instant approval online loans in south africa shell gas credit cards with cashback canara bank credit card apply online in india best credit card rates canada aspire credit card customer service number unsecured bad credit credit card offers store credit cards on iphone app cash advance usa payday loan store credit cards with instant approval where do i mail my capital one credit card payment canada trust visa gold the best credit card to use in america bank of america cash reward credit cards halifax credit card travelling abroad best business mastercard credit cards mbna credit card offers uk bad credit car finance warrington low interest payday loans no credit check payday advance online chase visa rewards card benefits number activate cibc credit card gas station credit cards for fair credit best buy credit card 6 months no interest create credit card calculator excel westpac credit card rates australia credit card consolidation loan payment calculator anz credit card transfer balance best mortgage loans with bad credit virgin black credit card criteria marks and spencer credit card charges abroad business credit cards visa black sears credit card customer services phone number citibank petro canada credit card best credit card interest rates 2011 national cash advance stockport no fee prepaid visa debit cards pay dillards credit card payment online search best buy credit card pay off credit card debt with 401k loan how to cancel a credit card without hurting your credit score how do credit card companies attract new customers fake credit cards that work online 2013 online payday lenders credit card payments what happens to my credit score if i cancel a credit card secured credit card low interest aventura credit card cibc 0 balance transfer credit union credit cards credit cards for bad credit online application car finance bad credit uk best store credit cards after bankruptcy accepting credit cards over the phone with paypal virgin air miles credit card uk how to apply credit card maybank illegal online payday loan companies credit cards after bankruptcy discharge 2013 credit card fraud uk punishment unsecured visa credit cards rebuild credit when will my capital one credit limit increase payday lenders uk only capital 1 credit card customer service telephone number pay off credit card debt or save money credit card protection act 2009 capital one secured credit card forum uk credit cards 0 interest abroad public bank manchester united credit card first premier credit card login page capital one credit card activation phone number best credit card comparison site apple bank credit card application is there any way to get a credit card under 18 fast online cash loans no credit check hdfc credit card fraud online transaction
Home Maury Brown Ode to the Crazy Maverick, Finley

Like Shoot to Thrill - An AC/DC Tribute on Facebook!

An authentic tribute of AC/DC that covers the best of the Bon Scott era and the best of Brian Johnson's material

Who's Online?

We have 742 guests online

Atom RSS

Ode to the Crazy Maverick, Finley PDF Print E-mail
User Rating: / 3
PoorBest 
Written by Maury Brown   
Saturday, 02 September 2006 06:12

By Maury Brown

I miss Charlie Finley.

There, I said it.

He was vile. He was vulgar. He was a loose cannon. He was reckless. He was brilliant. He was a great evaluator of talent. And, he could throw that talent away if he wanted to make a buck. He was, as Marvin Miller said, “One part P.T. Barnum and one part George Steinbrenner.”

May the baseball gods have mercy on my soul. May Bowie Kuhn put a pox upon my house. May the Lords of Baseball shout, “Bow ye down, as we show you no mercy!”

Yes, I have sinned. Yes, I miss Charles Oscar Finley.

I grew up in the Bay Area taking in the Giants at Candlestick with Mays, and Marichal, and McCovey, and Spahn, and both the Alous – Matty and Jesus. Pardon me as I rub my hands together as I try to warm my still cold hands from those trips.

Then Finley arrived with the A’s and that changed everything.

The drive was shorter, the tickets cheaper, and the ballpark warmer. These things, of course, meant nothing to a kid. What mattered to me were the names on the roster. Names with the likes of  “Blue Moon”, “Catfish”, “Monday”, “Blue”, “Rudi” ,“Tenace” and “Fingers”. The real and the fabricated names blurred in my mind. Those were all their God given names, as far as I knew. I saw the bright white, yellow and green uniforms as something that matched the times. The white shoes were something that made my team stand out from the drabness that permeated the other clubs. They all looked like cold damp mildew by comparison. Ostentatiousness be damned, I loved them.

I also loved the promotions. The yellow and orange balls that were given away. Why not use them for night games? The possibilities were not yet stomped down in a kid’s mind due to my limited understanding of how the Lords of baseball worked.

Most of all, I loved Harvey. Harvey was the mechanical rabbit that popped up out of the ground behind home plate to deliver the umpire fresh balls for the games. It was a magical time to be a kid at the Oakland Coliseum.

Is it any wonder I chose to follow the business end of baseball as I grew up? Is it any wonder I have that solid dose of pretzel logic required to keep any man from going insane when tackling the “upside-down is right-side up” world of the MLB front office? I can blame it all on Charlie. That crazy maverick, Finley.

A salesman, a maverick, and “disreputable character” is born

Charles Oscar Finley was born to sell. As a child growing up in Birmingham Alabama, a young Charlie once won a medal and a bicycle for selling 12,500 subscriptions to the Saturday Evening Post. He played and loved baseball. He had been a batboy for the Birmingham Barons, and played semi-pro ball in his youth.  After his dad had been transferred to Gary, Indiana, he followed in his father’s footsteps and went to work at US Steel after his graduation from High School. Not content with this life, he sold life insurance on the side. He set the company sales record for policy sales in his first year.

He was also unstable physically. He worked himself to the bone, contracted tuberculosis, and spent time in a sanitarium. In classic Finley form, he had broken sales records for life insurance, but he had neglected to take out a policy on himself. 

While recovering from his illness in the hospital, Finley had an epiphany: Doctors. Sell insurance to doctors.

He developed an insurance plan for those in the medical industry. He sold group polices based on the plan  to the likes of the American Medical Association, as well as, the American College of Surgeons. By the time the ‘40s had waxed into the ‘50s, Finley was a multimillionaire and set his eyes back on baseball, and big-league baseball, to be more specific.

He made a run at purchasing the Philadelphia Athletics in 1954, but got beat out by Arnold Johnson. Then he went after the White Sox unsuccessfully. Undaunted, he went after the expansion Angels, even to the point of trying to lure Roy Rogers into the ownership group to offset Gene Autry’s bid. But, he lost on that deal, as well.

Then the unexpected happened. Arnold Johnson dropped dead. Finley leapt at the chance by offering up $2 million to Johnson’s widow for the 52% stake in the Athletics. And while Finley had stalked the Lords in his attempts to purchase a Club, they hadn’t spent the time to really get to know him. The owners sent Orioles chairman, Joe Iglehart to check Finley out. His report to the Lords was, “Under no conditions should this person be allowed into our league.”

There was a slight problem. The team stunk, and Johnson’s moving of the club from Philadelphia to Kansas City hadn’t helped matters. No one – no one but Finley, it seemed – wanted to own the Athletics. Reluctantly, the owners approved the sale on December 19, 1960. Charlie ‘O had prevailed. The starched shirts in the Lodge were in for a rude awakening.

Finley turns the Athletics upside down in Kansas City

Finley set right off into turning the baseball establishment on its preverbal ear. He immediately went to work painting sections of Kansas City Municipal Stadium in colors that would have made the rainbow blush. Box seats were pained citrus yellow. The reserved and bleacher seats became turquoise. The foul poles an eye-shattering florescent pink. Not content with this, he went polar opposite from the rest of the baseball establishment with the uniform colors, as well. Finley came up with a color scheme that required sunglasses to watch. Kelly green, “Fort Knox gold”, “Wedding Gown White” and shoes that were white “kangaroo albino” graced the players.

Charlie then decided to become the P.T. Barnum of the baseball establishment. He opened a zoo beyond the right-field fence with livestock ranging from sheep, to monkeys, to rabbits. The prized livestock addition was the new team mascot, a donkey he named, Charlie O.

On top of this, he did theme days to try and drum up attendance. Everything from Farmers Day, in which an embarrassed Deigo Segui was delivered to the mound by hay wagon, to Shriner nights, and “Bald-headed men” night.

All of this did absolutely nothing to bring up attendance. In fact, it slipped to from 683,817 to 635,675, last in the American League, during the first two years that Finley owned the club. Finley decided that maybe greener pastures would be available elsewhere. He started not so quietly shopping the idea of moving the A’s. He tried moving the team to Dallas-Ft. Worth (voted down by he owners 9-1). He actually signed a contract with the state of Kentucky to move the club to Louisville for the ’64 and ’65 seasons. The writing was on the wall for that attempt, however, when Arthur C. Allyn, the owner of the White Sox was quoted as saying, “Finley is a fool and his action is inexcusable. He has no right whatsoever to attempt such a move. He has an obligation to the to the people of Kansas City and he had better make it good. I don’t have to tell you how the White Sox will be voting on the matter.” The vote to approve that move failed 9-1

Finley remained undaunted. He attempted six-weeks later to move the club to Oakland. That move failed by a 9-1 vote, as well.  He seemed driven to relocate to anywhere to get out of, as he privately said, “this horseshit town” of Kansas City.

Finley wasn’t opposed to promoting the A’s, and more importantly, himself, outside of Kansas City. He shocked the Lords, and created his own private traveling circus when he announced that it was his intention to do a tour in 1965 of every American League city with his mascot, Charlie O. They traveled in a special trailer that was, as the AP reported it a, “plush, air-conditioned, radio equipped trailer” complete with an itinerary of stops. April 21: Detroit. April 25: Cleveland. April 28: Chicago. New York, Baltimore, Boston, Washington and Los Angeles rounded out the tour.

The Lords proceeded to then ignore Finley when he got in the trenches and did actual business with his fellow owners. This reaction infuriated Finley who thought that his fellow owners failed to see his genius.

And he was a genius -- if not in reality, at least it was so in Charlie’s mind. He had hired one of the better baseball minds in Frank Lane as GM of the Athletics when he purchased the Club, and had Joe Gordon as manager. Gordon and Finley clashed. Gordon was shown the door in June of ’61. Finley moved further and further into the decision-making process as far as the players were concerned. Lane was getting shoved out of the way. In August of ’61, Finley canned Lane. Lane’s replacement was F.P. Friday, one who had never worked in baseball, but rather in another area Finley was familiar with: Insurance. The Kansas City press creamed Finley over his front office moves. As Ernie Mehl, the sports editor for the Kansas City Star wrote, “Never has there been a baseball operation so bizarre, so impossible, so incredulous. If an ownership had made a deliberate attempt to sabotage a baseball operation, it could not have succeeded as well.”

While other clubs had moved forward with full-time General Managers, Finley continued to work relentlessly scouting, signing and trading players. This, of course, went against the tenet of the old-guard which was to sit back and let others work for you. Getting in the trenches was for the common man, not the Lords. When John Fetzer of the Tigers approached Finley about hiring a GM, he replied, “When the day comes that I find a GM that can do a better job than Charlie O, I’ll hire the son-of-a-gun.”

Finley moves the A’s to Oakland

Finally, on October 18, 1967 the American League gave in and granted Finley the right to move the Athletics to Oakland for the 1968 season. Senator William Stuart Symington said from the floor of the Missouri Senate, that Finley was "one of the most disreputable characters ever to enter the American sports scene,” and said Oakland was “the luckiest city since Hiroshima.”

Once the team moved to Oakland, Finley continued to work his magic in terms of PR by hiring, of all people, Joe DiMaggio as executive VP of the A’s in March of 1968. The Yankee Clipper, looking odder than odd in the bright yellow and green of the A’s understood how things would be with Charlie. “I’m not exactly the executive type,” DiMaggio said. “Only one man makes decisions for this firm, Charlie Finley.” The position was, of course, nothing more than window dressing. The easy commute and easier paycheck appealed to Joe D. Finley would be allowed to reap the benefits of the name recognition without the worry of anyone meddling with direction of the club.

The change of scenery, Lane and Finley’s signings, and those that were coming up through the system started to pay dividends. The franchise went from 62-99 in 1967 in KC, to 82-80 for the ’68 season in Oakland. And while the attendance didn’t look much different than it had in Kansas City, the winning became contagious.

In 1971 they won the AL West, but got swept by the Orioles in 3 games during the AL Championship. In ’72, they didn’t falter beating the Tigers 3-2 in the AL Championship and then beating the Reds 4-3 in the World Series.

Dick Williams, the manager of the A’s at the time, was recently interviewed by Jeff Angus about that World Series, and a particularly interesting tale involving a suitcase.

The team was in Cincinnati and there’s this suitcase that came with the team but they can't figure out who it belongs to. No one claims it, and it's really locked up.  So a couple of clubhouse guys take it out on the field to try to open it to see what the contents are. No luck. Finally they decide to use a gun to open it. With the suitcase now open, the contents were revealed.

It's a whole suitcase filled with Charlie’s shoes. One suitcase for nothing but shoes. No need to see a tag; the contents told the story. It was pure Finley.

1973 rolls around and the team repeats as World Series Champions… and again in ’74.  The players became stars, and the stars wanted more money. Finley being Finley danced around the details of following through with some of those contract agreements.  In 1974, however, Finley would meet the enemy, and the enemy was him.

Finley screws Catfish and Catfish shows the world what kind of salaries players could make in free agency

Finley had continued to sign great players that had made the run possible. Not content with just signing them, they had to have colorful nicknames. Johnny Lee Odom had become “Blue Moon” Odom. When it came time to sign another pitcher, who haled from Hertford, NC, Finley came up with another one.

“Do you have a nickname?” he asked.
“No sir,” replied the pitcher.
“Well, to play baseball you have to have a nickname. What do you like to do?”
“Hunt and fish,” was the reply.
“Fine,” Finley said. “When you were six years old you ran away from home and went fishing. Your mom and dad have been looking for you all day. When they finally found you about, ah, four o’clock in the afternoon, you’d caught two big fish…. Ahh… catfish… and were reeling in a third. And that’s how you got your nickname.”

So was christened, “Catfish” Hunter.

James Augustus Hunter may have grown up on a farm in North Carolina, but he was far from dumb hick. As he grew into one of the best pitchers in the game, he also began to understand how Charlie Finley worked. This was partially due to a massive shift in the landscape of the players when Marvin Miller arrived as Executive Director of the Players Association in 1965, and ensuing education of the players on how the business of baseball was supposed to work.

In 1974 Hunter signed a two-year contract with Finley. Finley, being Charlie O’ Finley, had acted as his own attorney in many cases, regardless of his lack of education in law, even to the extent that he suggested parts of the language within the contracts. In the case of Jim Hunter’s contract, there was a provision that required one-half of his salary was to be paid to an insurance company, named by Hunter, for the purchase of an annuity; the money was to be paid during the season. That is, it was to be paid in installments each payday during the season.

Shortly after the ’74 season began, Hunter supplied Finley with the name of the insurance company that the installments were to be sent to. There was a problem, however. Finley never made a single payment to the insurance company in the name of Hunter during all of 1974. The reason was simple: Finley discovered that the $50,000 wasn’t tax-deductible, like current salaries. He wouldn’t be able to take the deduction until years later. Hunter’s lawyer pressed Finley for the $50,000. Finley started making up a variety of excuses as to why the money wasn’t being deposited. First it was that he couldn’t meet up with his tax consultant. Then it was that he couldn’t get his estranged wife, who was also the club’s corporate secretary to sign off on the deal. With Finley and the A’s now in default, Dick Moss and the Players Association sent written notice to the club to remedy the default within 10 days.

It should be noted that he timeframe to remedy the default was not arbitrary. A clause in the Uniform Players Contract that had been placed there by the owners, long before the union came into existence, read as follows in regards to being in default and not remedying the default within 10 days: “[T]he player may terminate this contract upon written notice to the Club, if the Club shall default in the payments to the Player provided for.”

Finley called Hunter to his office at the Coliseum. When Hunter arrived, not only was Finley in the office, but American League President, Lee McPhail, as well.

Charlie, at this point, must have underestimated Hunter’s intelligence. He held up a check for $50,000 and said he would pay the sum now, but refused to sign the application to the insurance company. Hunter replied that he didn’t want the money paid to him, but rather as had been agreed to: Deferred payments to the insurance company he had selected. Hunter then turned around and walked out the door.

The Lords knew they were in a pickle with Finley. The case would go to arbitration. Finley, being Finley couldn’t get the story straight when he and the labor-relations members of management prepared to make the case. When it got to arbitration, arbitrator Peter Seitz was dealing with the same problem. Finley was now denying to Seitz that he ever received notification from Hunter’s lawyer that Finley was in danger of going into default. The case was weighing heavily in Hunter’s favor.

On December 13th, the decision was rendered by Seitz. “Mr. Hunter’s contract for service to be performed during the 1975 season no longer binds him and he is a free agent,” read part of the ruling. Charlie O had screwed over Hunter, and now Hunter was going to benefit from it. He was going to benefit from it in numbers that seemed cartoonish by the days’ standards.

After Bowie Kuhn tried to get the owners to not bid on Hunter, and Miller threatening they’d sue if they did collude to not allow bidding, the derby for Hunter began on December 19th. The derby was unlike anything that had ever happened before, and it set the stage for the kind of contracts would become available to the players if the Reserve Clause were revoked. The frenzy for Hunter by the owners from December 19th to New Years Eve Day showed just how much money the owners had, and more correctly, how much they were willing to spend on talent when the constraints of the Reserve Clause were removed.

The two-year contract that Hunter had signed with Finley had been for $100,000 a year with the deferments. By the time twenty-four clubs had jockeyed for the rights to Hunter and Gabe Paul of the New York Yankees had finished negotiations, Hunter had agreed to a deal worth $3.5 million.

Finley hadn’t just screwed himself over, but the Lords, as well. The seed that had been growing slowly in the back of Marvin Miller’s mind about breaking the Reserve Clause now sprouted like Jack’s beanstalk.

The Seitz Ruling and Finley’s ability to see through it

At the beginning of the 1975 season, Miller decided to test the Reserve Clause by seeing if he could get Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers to hold out for the season without agreeing to a contract. Messersmith had been at loggerheads with the Dodgers on his contract, and had shown up to Spring Training without one. To play it safe, Miller looked to Dave McNally of the Expos as back-up in case Messersmith buckled over the course of the season, when the ever increasing dollars being offered to him would surely arrive from the Dodgers.

That was the test. Miller had read the Reserve Clause and latched onto Paragraph 10(a) of the Uniform Players Contract which said, “The Club shall have the right to renew this contract for the period of one year on the same team.” Miller’s interpretation was clear:  If a player were not re-signed within one year of his contract not being renewed, he would be eligible for free agency.

Andy Messersmith never buckled. In October of 1975, the Players Association filed the Messersmith and McNally grievances. The arbitration case weaved through the off-season and set baseball on edge. Finally, on December 23, 1975, arbitrator, Peter Seitz ruled, “The grievances of Messersmith and McNally are sustained. There is no contractual bond between these players and the Los Angeles and Montreal clubs, respectively.” The Reserve Clause had been revoked.

The Lords were incensed. First thing they did was fire Seitz as an arbitrator. Secondly, they all tried to take stock of how the new landscape would alter business. Clark Griffith could only muster, “Oh, shit” when the news came on the radio.

Free agency would be available, but how would Miller negotiate the terms? As Miller wrote in his book, A Whole Different Ballgame, “In the wake of the Messersmith decision it dawned on me as a terrifying possibility, that the owners might suddenly wake up one day and realize that yearly free agency was the best possible thing for them; that is, if all players became free agents at the end of each year, the market would be flooded, and salaries would be held down.”

Charlie Finley saw this advantage while the others failed to grasp the significance. “Hey what’s the problem?” Finley said. “Make ‘em all free agents!” Miller waited to see if anyone would actually listen to the maverick. “My main worry was that someone would actually listen to him,” Miller said. “It would have been an impossible box. You could not have said you were opposed to freedom.”

The result? No one listened. It was, after all, Finley. The Players Relations Committee proposed a ten-year free agency threshold, which Miller got to six years. Once Kuhn and the Lords had exhausted all the appeal processes in the courts, a new basic agreement was negotiated in 1976.

Finley had said how the owners could actually benefit from the ruling. The owners, through their own collective stupidity, balked at Finley’s suggestion and have been paying for it since.

Finley sees his fate. Vida Blue, and Bowie too

Finley had always worked on the edge. When free agency became part of the new landscape of Major League Baseball, he knew his days as an owner were numbered. The star players on the A’s staff started to negotiate for higher numbers. If it wasn’t Joe Rudi looking to jump from $84,000 to a three-year, $375,000 deal, it was Rollie Fingers who had been making $93,000 and wanted to leap to $435,000 for three years. In both cases, the players were also looking for no-trade guarantees.

In early ’76, Finley decided that he was going to get something out of this new deal.

Just before Opening Day, Finley traded Reggie Jackson, Ken Holtzman, and a minor-leaguer for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez, and Paul Mitchell of the Orioles.

Then, Finley really went to work.

He started by calling up the Red Sox. The blockbuster trade proposed be Joe Rudi, Rollie Fingers, Vida Blue, Gene Tenace, and Sal Bando for Fred Lynn, Carlton Fisk and a couple of minor leaguers.

Not content with just the Red Sox, he got the Yankees on the horn and offered up Blue for Thurman Munson and one of the Yankee starting outfielders – either Roy White or Elliot Maddox. Finley tinkered with offers and counter-offers, and not just with the Red Sox and the Yankees. He tossed out a deal for Rudi for Munson straight across. He got a hold of Milwaukee and floated a possible deal for Rudi for Darrell Porter. By the time he was through, Finley had negotiated with every American League franchise, with Kansas City the exception.

With one day left before the June 15th trading deadline, Finley still hadn’t signed his star players. Then Charlie made the shift: If owners were willing to pay through the nose for star players, Finley would offer them up and do some profit making. “Trade” was shelved for “cash.”

He also started playing the Red Sox against the Yankees. When Dick O’Connell of the Red Sox got a hold of Finley on the phone, Finley said, “I’m with Gabe.” Gabe, of course, was Yankees president, Gabe Paul. Finley threw out players and attached numbers. “I’m offering Rudi, Blue, Baylor, or Tenace for a million apiece and Bando for a half a million. Are you interested?” O’Connell would have to get back to Finley.

The Red Sox mulled options and scenarios. Finally they opted for Rudi and Fingers.

O’Connell phoned Finley and asked, “Are Rudi and Fingers still available at a million dollars apiece?”
“Yes, they are,” replied Finley.
“How do you want your money?” O’Connell asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Send you the cash immediately, or paid to you over a period of time?”
“Do you mind giving me a few hours to think it over?” was Finley’s reply.
“No problem,” said O’Connell, and hung up.

The Red Sox now had Rudi and Fingers.

The problem was Finley was still working with Gabe Paul on a deal for Vida Blue. As O’Connell got off the phone, he realized that if Blue were to land in New York, the Red Sox deal would be a wash; that is, the Red Sox wouldn’t get significantly better than their chief rivals.

O’Connell also worried about how Commissioner Kuhn might react to a deal for such large sums involving Steinbrenner. Kuhn had already suspended him once before. Would Kuhn nix both the Yankees and Red Sox deals involving Finley, who didn’t exactly rub Kuhn right to begin with?

To get around this problem, O’Connell got the Tigers in the mix. By getting Jim Campbell of the Tigers in on the negotiations for Blue, maybe the Red Sox could at least get Blue out of the Yankees hands and into Tigers where, more importantly, Blue wouldn’t be in the AL East.

Campbell made the same offer to Finley of a million dollars for Blue. Finley relayed the news to Paul. “The meat has aged today. It’s better meat.” Paul countered Campbell’s offer with a deal for $1.5 million and landed Blue.

There was that small problem that Finley had started with, however. Blue was still not signed with the A’s. Paul had swung the deal, but on the conditions that Blue was signed.

Finley called up Chris Daniels, Blue’s agent and said he wanted to work a contract up. Daniel’s said he would have to get a hold of Blue, but would get back to him. When Daniel’s called back they had a proposal of $200,000 for three years. Finley’s response? “Astronomical.”

Finley and Daniels negotiated back and forth over the terms for the three years, never mind the fact that Finley was not really using his money, but rather Steinbrenner’s. The deal finally brokered by Daniels and Finley came to $135,000 for 1976, $145,000 for 1977, and $205,000 for 1978.

It wasn’t until later in the day that Blue and Daniels got the news about the Yankees. Finley would make more on the deal to New York than Blue.

Finley then lied through his teeth. When he called up Blue to give him the news, the one side of the conversation went like this, “Vida? This is Charlie Finley. I know how you feel. The damn Yanks jumped the time on me. They promised they wouldn’t make an announcement and then we all heard it on the news… What do you mean, what announcement? I traded you to the Yankees… just you. For money.”

The fire sale news was spreading quickly, and finally made its way to Commissioner Kuhn. Kuhn told AL president, Lee McPhail that he’d better talk Charlie out of it. McPhail told Kuhn that he had tried, but the Finley had hung up on him. Now, Kuhn was in the mix.

Kuhn and Finley had been at odds since Day One. They were polar opposites in nearly every manner. When it came to their relationship over baseball business, Kuhn had reprimanded Finley on more than one occasion. If it wasn’t over Finley for punishing Jackson by sending him to the minors, it was Kuhn slapping Finley with fines for handing out illegal bonuses to the his players after winning the ’72 World Series. Finley disliked Kuhn so much, that when he was up for re-election in 1975, he headed up a group of owners called the “Dump Bowie Club.” It was more of a challenge with the new owners in the AL against the establishment, which had their champion in Kuhn. Such had been their relationship.

When Finley and Kuhn met face-to-face over the fire sale, Finley started off on Kuhn. “Don’t butt into this,” Finley said.

Finley then went into a long diatribe about how free agency and poor attendance was killing any chances for Finley and the A’s to be competitive. He projected that he’d have $700,000 in losses for the year. With the sale of Blue alone, he could start to rebuild and be competitive.

By the end of the conversation, nothing had swayed Kuhn on the matter. This was in, “the best interests of the game.” Kuhn was protecting competitive balance and the fans of Oakland.

The next day, Kuhn forbid the Yankees and the Red Sox not to play their newly acquired players. Kuhn called a meeting of the executive council to get their advice. All were in agreement; it was a bad deal for baseball. It would send a signal that pennants could be bought outright, and that was something that would create a travesty of the game. Kuhn ruled that the sales be voided.

Finley went off the handle. He called Kuhn, “the village idiot.” He then ramped that up to “the nation’s idiot“, and finally, “his honor, the idiot in charge.” He then tried to sue Kuhn for $10 million, which he promptly lost. Marvin Miller never filed a grievance for the players. Wisely, he understood that if the players came up for free agency they stood to make more than they would have in Finley’s fire sale. Charlie had done a bit of a revisit of the Hunter case. He had shown the other owners just how valuable the star players had been worth, and they garnered more in salary when they did come up for free agency.

Finley bows out

Charlie never got the memo. He continued to unload players, but was at least wise enough to not do wholesale transactions. He got his front office staff down to six. One of whom was a fourteen-year-old  teenager, who was listed on the A’s organizational chart as vice-president. The teen, by the name of Stanley Burrell would grow up, change his name, and break into entertainment with the name of “M.C. Hammer.”

Total team payroll numbers dropped, as did attendance. The A’s looked and acted more like a AAA  team than a big-league club. The Lords desperately pushed to get Finley out of the Lodge. At one point a scheme was proposed that would have each club kick in $50,000 a piece, with Bob Lurie of the Giants providing $1 million, Finley would kick in $1 million to get out from underneath the $4 million lease agreement he had with the Oakland Coliseum Authority, and Denver oil magnate, Marvin Davis would kick in $1 million and move the beleaguered club to Denver. That deal fell through when Finley started to waffle on his end of the deal.

Finally, Walter Hass, Jr. arrived on the scene and offered to purchase the club. He and his son-in-law, Roy Eisenhart, as well as Hass’s son, Wally would like to purchase the team. The deal was more than acceptable to Charlie O. After all, it was in cash, to the tune of $12.75 million.

At Finley’s farewell press conference he said, “[It] is no longer a battle of wits but how much you can have on the hip. I can no longer compete.”

My Ode to Charlie

As I said, I miss Charlie. I can see him with his Kelly green jacket and matching cowboy hat. He’s just the thing the starched shirts need today. David Stern has Mark Cuban; baseball could use a good dose of Finley-like entertainment like in the Lodge today.

Finley wasn’t just some kook. On top of owning the Athletics, he owned the NHL Oakland Seals for a bit, another team I grew up loving while watching the likes of Carol Vadnais and Gary Smith.

In 1972 Finley purchased the Memphis Pros, of the American Basketball Association. In ’74, the ABA took over the club.

The idea of using orange balls for night games was actually tried in several exhibition games, but hitters complained that they couldn’t pick up the spin on the ball.

He toyed with the “designated runner” in 1974. He hired a sprinter exclusively for the purpose of pinch running and stealing bases.

Yes, this is my ode to Charlie O. May the baseball gods, once again have mercy on my soul.

SOURCES

Lords of the Realm – John Helyar
A Whole Different Game – Marvin Miller
Numerous newspaper articles culled from ProQuest
Wikipedia
Baseball-Reference

 
 
Banner

Poll

Should MLB Force Jeffery Loria to Sell the Marlins?