Archive for the ‘ 1970’s Oakland A’s ’ Category

Hippy Harry and his Oakland A’s Spring Training report.

hippy harry cardHarry was one of those flower children from the 60’s who hitch-hiked to Height and Ashbury from an Iowa cornfield and never left. The pull of drugs, sex, music and the radical politics of the time were an overwhelming factor for someone who loved people and having a good time. He met a girl named Darlene who was 19, had long blonde hair and was so with it that she could quote Karl Marx and roll a doobie at the same time. Harry and Darlene were on and off for about 5 years until she split with a Hells Angel from Lodi. This turn of event was an eye-opener for Harry and he realized that sub-cultures consummating into capitalistic entities do what they normally do–die off. Charles Manson hadn’t helped matters much with his shenanigans in Los Angeles and the hippies of the 60’s that had survived drugs and prison were blossoming into tax-paying citizens and looking for something else to do. So was Harry.
Harry eventually moved to the much cheaper Oakland side of the Bay and got a square job working at a Co-op grocery store. He also started going to baseball games at the Oakland Coliseum in the 70’s and the timing was perfect to mold him into a life long A’s fan. The A’s won 3 straight World Series and had great players like Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Sal Bando. He liked that these guys were brash, outspoken and had long hair and afros. These were his guys.
Harry is now 67 and lives in Petaluma, California in his “Château Relaxo.” I recently sent him to check out the A’s and the Royals during a Spring Training game in Mesa. Here is his report:
Mesa is an uncultured bubble community with no sense of inspiration–it is flat, hot, dusty and the only thing to do is eat, get drunk or cook meth. I checked into my hotel and decided to eat at “Connie’s” the diner next door. Now I know why I never see dead animals on the roads, they’re all in the restaurants. Talk about the heat. The damn pool water gets as hot as the outside temps. I met a sweet Mexican girl named Lola who was going to the game the next day. We drank rum, listened to the Eagles and talked for most of the night. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and promised to buy me a beer if she saw me the next day. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find someone like me in a crowd of only 5,000 people.
The next day I was a tad bit hung over, yet giddy as I took a couple of puffs off the pipe and downed a few beers in the parking lot. My Prius was gasping for air. Hohokam stadium is a smallish park that seats about 10,000 and has a majestic view of the sky. I live in a part of California that is so lush with greenery and downcast that anything wide open and infinite like this is a bit strange, yet it was pleasant. I have been an A’s fan for the better part of 40 years and had never been to Spring Training. Bucket list.
The vibe and weather were very relaxing and the mixture of baseball, sun and the night before had me falling into a sort of meditative slumber, and then I would jolt awake during every crack of the bat. I imagine it would have been quite hilarious from an outsiders perspective. Around the 4th inning I felt someone shaking me from behind. It was Lola. We went and had a few beers while walking around the stadium. She was a beautiful brown-skinned girl from the 70’s that came from a traditional Catholic family and didn’t look a lick like her age. She had strength, wisdom and a beautiful smile.
Oh, yeah. The A’s won 6-4 as my favorite player Stephen Vogt went yard twice. This vacation was turning out to be quite nice. That is all from my Spring Training report. Harry over and out.

The origins of the “Mustache Gang.”

mustache gang

Rollie Fingers has the most famous mustache in baseball history…although he wasn’t the trend setter.

The following is an excerpt from Bruce Markusen’s amazing and vital book, “A baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s. 

Reggie Jackson reported to spring training in 1972 replete with a fully grown mustache, the origins of which had begun to sprout during the 1971 American League Championship Series. To the surprise of his teammates, Jackson had used part of his off-season to allow the mustache reach a fuller bloom. In addition, Jackson bragged to teammates that he would not only wear the mustache, possibly a full beard, come Opening Day.

wally schang

Wally Schang in 1914

Such pronouncements would have hardly created a ripple in later years, when players would freely make bold fashion statements with mustaches and goatees, and routinely wear previously disdained accessories like earrings. But this was 1972, still a conservative time within the sport, in stark contrast to the rebellious attitudes of younger generations throughout the country.  Given that no major league player had been documented wearing a mustache in the regular season since Wally Schang of the Philadelphia A’s in 1914, Jackson’s pronouncements made major news in 1972.

In the post Schang era, several players had donned mustaches during spring training, yet, in each case the player had shaved off the mustache by Opening Day, either by his own volition or because of a mandate from the team. After all, there existed an unwritten rule within the conservative sport, one that strongly frowned upon facial hair. In addition, several teams had more recently instituted their own formal policies (most notably the Cincinnati Reds in the 1960’s), policies that forbade their players from sporting facial hair.

Baseball’s conservative grooming standards , which had been in place for over 50 years, were now being threatened by one of the game’s most visible players. Not surprisingly, Jackson’s mustachioed look quickly garnered the attention of owner Charlie O. Finley and manager Dick Williams. “The story as I remember it,” says outfielder Mike Hegan, “was that Reggie came into spring training…with a mustache, and Charlie didn’t like it. So he told Dick to tell Reggie to shave it off. And Dick told Reggie to shave it off, and Reggie told Dick what to do. This got to be a real sticking point, and so I guess Charlie and Dick had a meeting and they said ‘well, Reggie’s an individual so maybe we can try some reverse psychology here.’ Charlie told a few other guys to start growing a mustache. Then (Finley figured that if) a couple of other guys did it, Reggie would shave his off, and you know, everything would be OK.

reggie_charlie_0_as

Reggie and Charlie O.

According to Sal Bando, Finley wanted to avoid having a direct confrontation with Jackson over the mustache. For one of the few times in his tenure as the A’s owner, Finley showed a preference for a subtle, more indirect approach. “Finley, to my knowledge,”says Bando, “did not want to go tell Reggie to shave it. So he thought it would be better to have us all grow mustaches. That way Reggie wouldn’t be an ‘individual’ anymore.”

Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Darold Knowles and Bob Locker followed Reggie’s lead, each sprouting their own mustache. Instead of making Jackson feel less individualistic, thus prompting him to adopt his previously clean-shaven look, the strategy had a reverse and unexpected affect on Charles Finley.

“Well, as it turned out, guys started growin’ ’em, and Charlie began to like it,” says Mike Hegan in recalling the origins of baseball’s “Mustache Gang.” Finley offered a cash incentive to any player who had successfully grown a mustache by Father’s Day. “So then we all had to grow mustaches,” says Hegan, “and that’s how all that started.” By the time we got to the (regular) season, almost everybody had mustaches.” Even the manager, Dick Williams, known for his military brush-cut and clan shaven look during his days in Boston, would join the facial brigade by growing a patchy, scraggly mustache of his own. Baseball’s long standing hairless trend had officially come to an end.

 

Al Dark and the summer of 1974.

al dark

Loves the Mercury Cougar.

Alvin Dark was fired by owner Charles O. Finley in 1967 and here he was taking his grief, again, in 1974. The Oakland ball-club had just lost to the Sox, 3-2, and Charlie O. was throwing a tantrum of epic proportion in the manger’s office. Dark knew that the players had heard some of the one-sided conversation and hoped that his embarrassment would light a fire under their asses.

“I’m playing to win!” screamed Charlie, veins protruding from his neck and eyes popped out as if he was being squeezed by an anaconda. This was, after all, the jungle.

“If you don’t start playing aggressive baseball I’ll kick your fucking ass out of here!” “We won the World Series two years in a row without you and we can win again without you!”

Al understood what was going on– Charlie was from Chicago and hated losing to the Sox more than getting a root canal or a coat that wasn’t plaid. Dark was a Christian so he didn’t raise his voice or even curse. He just sat there, eyes staring directly ahead in an omnipresent out-of-body experience that lasted about 30 seconds until he snapped out of it.

“We’re not wrestling with the mysteries of the universe here, Charlie, it’s just a goddamn….”

Dark stopped himself in mid-sentence and privately scolded himself for the blaspheme.

Mr. Alvin Dark walked the parking lot of the Coliseum alone, the primordial universe spread before him. He slowly lowered himself into a green ’74 Mercury Cougar and started flipping through radio stations with impunity. Thoughts began to develop and unfold as he forgave Charlie for his paradigm of curmudgeon behavior. The song “Thankful for what you’ve got” poured out of the speakers as Dark thought, ” It’s not that the celebration becomes less fun as we get older, it’s more purposeful. Our intentions adjust with the weight of responsibilities and existential dread….and the slow erosion of joint cartilage.”

Dark put key to ignition and foot to pedal as he drove away, leaving an empty parking lot…and the primordial stars to themselves.

Nancy Finley talks about the Oakland A’s dynasty of the 70’s.

homer

Homer Simpson’s favorite team of all time–the ’74 Oakland A’s.

Charles O. Finley. Genius. Rabble-Rouser. Inventor. Millionaire. Cheapskate. Many things have been said about the man who was the principal owner of the Oakland Athletics during their World Series championships of 1972, 1973 and 1974, yet one thing is missing in this man’s resume– The Hall of Fame.

 
Finley couldn’t do all this winning alone. He needed his cousin, Carl, to help him out. Carl was the G.M., the Vice President of Operations and the steady hand behind these championship teams.
 
I recently interviewed Carl’s daughter, Nancy, who is writing a book of her own on the subject called Dugout Daughters. Nancy also has an amazing website that you should check out:
I sincerely hope you guys enjoy this one…I know I did.
1.) Your father was the acting GM during the Athletics dynasty years. What past experiences made him successful and were his transactions based on money, admiration for certain players or just gut feelings? 
Yes, dad, Carl A. Finley, was GM of the A’s from the first 1968  (in Oakland) season through 1980.  For the 1981 season until retirement, dad’s sole title was V.P.
During our ‘Era’, dad was in a position of many titles.
When dad accepted Charlie’s offer to join the team in Kansas City, mid to late 1962, he was made a minority owner.  This was the only way Charlie could convince dad to leave his position as a Dallas, TX, High School Principal.
A little about dad’s background–
Dad was born in Dallas, TX, 1924, and received his Bachelor’s from SMU (Dallas, TX) in History.  Dad’s part-time job in college was as a Dallas Juvenile Probation Officer.
Dad attended SMU School of Law.  Soon after, dad decided he wanted a career in higher education.  Dad completed his M.A. in Journalism.

Dad’s goal was to work in the Texas State Dept. of Education.

Carl B&am

Carl Finley.

Dad and Charlie were partners with the team.   Dad ran the team on-site in Oakland.  Charlie worked at his Chicago insurance office most of the time.   Dad and Charlie made the A’s what they became in 1970-1971.  I don’t believe one could do the same without the other.   I discuss my beliefs about this further in my book.
Dad was the “Keyser Soze” (movie The Usual Suspects), in the duo.  Dad preferred to remain in the background.  Very early every morning, (because of the two-hour time difference) Charlie called our residence to brainstorm with dad.  I overheard dad and Charlie discussing new ideas for the team.   I overheard discussions about young MLB players with potential.
Dad had a very good ‘gut’ instinct about others.  It seemed like Charlie had ‘esp’ when it came to reading other people.  This is especially the case with player potential.
2.) Take us back a little bit and talk about the day your uncle took the photo for the cover of Time Magazine, and didn’t you help out in some way?

Regarding Charlie’s 1975 TIME magazine cover shoot–

I remember dad telling me Charlie called to say TIME asked him to pose for a cover shoot.  We were very excited.  The shoot would be in Oakland, near the airport.
Dad and Charlie discussed the background.  They decided it would have our white and orange balls.  The week prior to this shoot, I aaahelped glue white and orange baseballs to a large board that would be the background.
3.) What is the truth behind the Mike Andrews affair? (For readers that don’t know the story I’ll let Wikipedia take it from here: In the second game of the 1973 World Series between the Oakland A’s and the New York Mets, Andrews committed two errors in a four-run twelfth inning, leading to a Mets’ victory. Oakland owner Charlie Finley forced him to sign a false affidavit saying he was disabled, thus making him ineligible to play for the rest of the series. Andrews’ teammates and manager Dick Williams rallied to Andrews’s defense. Finally, commissioner Bowie Kuhn forced Finley to reinstate Andrews for Game 4. He entered Game 4 in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter to a standing ovation from sympathetic Mets fans. He promptly grounded out, and Finley ordered him benched for the remainder of the Series. Andrews never played another major league game, playing baseball in Japan in 1975 before retiring.)
The truth about the Mike Andrews affair…
I have devoted an entire Chapter to this event.  At the time, I had just started Middle school, and remember the uproar.  I was at the 1973 game when this occurred.  I witnessed and felt it with the rest of us.
My father kept documents about this event.  I felt I should tell the rest of the story.  What I have was not in the press.
I believe this additional information should be made available, because of what is out there to date.
It will then be up to the reader to decide.73WS-GM1ticket
4.)You must have met many players through the years, can you talk a bit about your favorites?
My favorite players are Jim ‘Catfish’ Hunter, Sal Bando, Dick Green, Campy and Vida Blue.  The first three were with us in Kansas City.  They are more like more old neighbors.  Vida is plain ‘cool’.
5.) What is the real reason behind the gold and green uniforms?
The real reason for the Green & Gold?  Charlie was a marketing genius; however, I have discovered something else.
It has to do with a genetics.
6.) I read somewhere that your Uncle (Charlie O.) would fire an employee and that your Dad would quietly re-hire them. Can you give us a little insight concerning this rumor?
 Oh yes.  For example, during an A’s Daylight Savings weekend home game, dad and I arrived at the Coliseum early on a Sunday morning.  Our phones were supposed to be answered starting at 9am.  Our switchboard operator had not arrived by 9:00am.  Charlie started to call the main line at 9:00am.  When there wasn’t any answer, Charlie kept calling.  Dad told me I should open the switchboard, which I was trained to do.  I put Charlie through to dad.   Charlie told dad to fire the the switchboard operator, since she wasn’t in on time.
The switchboard operator came running in at about 9:30am.  She told dad she forgot to re-set her clocks for Daylight Savings.  Her clocks showed the wrong time.  Dad appreciated her honesty.  Dad did not fire her.  Charlie never asked if this operator was actually fired.  Charlie needed dad to keep track of our front office.
This is just one of many stories.
NancyMarcysmall

Nancy, (R) taking a ride on Charlie ‘O the mule (circa 1975-76).

7.) What mistake was made on the 1974 World Series trophy?

For this 1974 World Series trophy, it is similar to coin or paper currency having a slight difference, that is not found on any other trophy for the same year.  This is what dad was told by a collector.  There is a small difference on this 1974 W.S. trophy that one doesn’t see at first.  This is rare, although, it has happened on some other collectibles.  I’ve thought about doing a book on a ‘where’s Waldo’ for MLB collectibles with these differences.
8.) I am a proponent of your uncle being in the HOF and think it’s a travesty that he isn’t. What are your feelings…and does it have anything to do with him being rebellious towards the other owners at the time?
The HOF!  Yes!  For Charlie and dad.  Dad should be in the MLB Executive Category.  Both should be in the HOF by now.
  In 2011, I found the HOF with three categories.  These are:
#1 1946 and Prior  (I do not have the name of this Era with me)
#2 1947-1972  Golden Era Committee
#3  1973- Present  Expansion Era Committee
Our 1972, 1973 & 1974 Dynasty years are split down the middle with these HOF time periods.
I have written a letter to the HOF, requesting dad and Charlie be considered for a nomination for ‘both’ committees.
I am glad I have a chance to remind readers about the two HOF committees.
Charlie and dad should definitely have nominations in the HOF.  I’ve wondered if Charlie’s rebellious streak is a reason.  Then, I think of how many of our ideas are still in practice today.
When dad retired, he received an engraved, gold-plated, lifetime AL Coliseum pass.  I have been informed this pass is considered the pinnacle of appreciation.
9.) What sort of relationship to do have with the Athletics today?
Conflicted.