Today marks a sad day in sports history. On February 19th, 1996, America lost one of its most iconic sports owners in Charlie Finley. Finley’s ownership outreach touched nearly every major sport in the United States. At one point or another from 1960 to 1980, Finley owned a baseball team (the Kansas City/Oakland A’s), a basketball team (the Memphis Pros/Tams) and/or a hockey team (the Oakland Seals/California Golden Seals). He even attempted to create his own football league and merge it with the Canadian Football League, but the league never took off.
Despite owning multiple teams, Charlie Finley was most well known for his ownership of the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics. He bought the Kansas City A’s in December of 1960. There was an immediate turn around in the organization under Finley’s regime. Uniforms were changed to have the team’s city name on the jersey. The “A’s” logo was changed to have “KC” interlocked with the “A”. Most importantly, Finley put an emphasis on rebuilding the team’s farm system and re-structuring the franchise from the ground up. These new changes, all be it small to some, did not go unnoticed by the city or the team’s fan base and the result was a renewed vigor for the hometown team.
Finley gained his notoriety as an owner for never being one to shy away from off the cuff ideas. He paid players $300 bonuses if they grew mustaches. Finley hired thirteen year old Stanley Burrell (who would later be known as MC Hammer) to be his Executive Vice President and “eyes and ears” of the team. He proposed a designated runner/batter rule to the league, and in '74 signed a college sprinter to his roster in order to test his idea. Finley even installed a mechanical rabbit (R.I.P. Harvey) behind home plate with it’s sole purpose being to deliver new baseballs to the umpires. Love him or hate him, you have to appreciate that man’s innovation and originality.
Aside from his quirky antics, Finley cultivated some of the league’s most talented players of all time. Players like Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers (look for all 3 players in Mitchell & Ness’ Spring MLB jersey release later this year!) all got their start under Finley’s ownership of the A’s. Finley also put together the team that won back to back to back World Series Championships from ’72-’74.
Charlie Finley passed away 14 years ago at the age of 77, only three days shy of his 78th birthday.