Before the "Bronx Zoo" of George Steinbrenner and Billy Martin, there were the Oakland Athletics of the early 1970s, one of the most successful, most colorful - and most chaotic - baseball teams of all time. They were all of those things because of Charlie Finley. Not only the A's owner, he was also the general manager, personally assembling his team, deciding his players' salaries, and making player moves during theseason - a level of involvement no other owner, not even Steinbrenner, engaged in.
Drawing on interviews with dozens of Finley's players, family members, and colleagues, G. Michael Green and Roger D. Launius present "Baseball's Super Showman" (Time magazine's description of Finleyon the cover of an August 1975 issue) in all his contradictions: generous yet vengeful, inventive yet destructive. The stories surrounding him are as colorful as the life he led, the chronicle of which fills an important gap in baseball's literature.
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What a man, what a story
My family moved back to the states from Brussels in 1972, when I was 10. Being from Detroit originally, I listened to the '68 WS with my parents on Armed Forces Radio. In '72, as a 10 year old and able to watch baseball on TV for the first time in my life, I fell in love with the Oakland A's while they beat my Tigers in the playoffs. Their swagger. Their facial hair. Their being the hippies of baseball (and having a couple older cousins who were hippies-on in San Francisco), I was enamored with them, their great uniforms, the great characters etc. No matter if you loved or hated Charlie O, you had to respect him for assembling this great team. Their love/hate relationship with him helped them be great. As you should learn, if you listen.
My father pulled me out of school to attend a business luncheon in Chicago where Charlie O was the guest speaker. Charlie O loved that I was the only kid in the room (11 or 12) and signed the back of my ticket stub. We used to drive past his barn near LaPorte IN, with his Swinging A's logo painted 20 ft high on the side, on our trips back to see family in Detroit. Still love the A's and my decade old, sweat stained, sun faded A's cap.
- John J. Elert