Category Archives: Charlie Finley

Gibberish, Nonsense, and Baseball Cards

Every night, around 10:00, I swallow melatonin and then turn off my phone. Soon after, I jump in the shower so the melatonin has some time to set in. After the shower, I lay in bed and do some light reading–nothing that requires active thought or making difficult conceptual connections (in this case it was Stephen King’s son who goes by the nom de plume Joe Hill) as the goal is to wind down. Yet despite this fickle routine, sleep eluded me and I tossed and turned all night before finally deciding that it just wasn’t going to work out. I resolved to watch some Japanese baseball and it was a moment of perfection as the Chunichi Dragons and the Yomiuri Giants were headed into extra innings. Watching baseball seems to liberate me from the emotional tangle of subdued melancholy and the long-ago forgotten past that is so scratched up that it skips when played, always materializing to haunt me in the witching hour when one should be dead to the world and swimming in the abstract. Ultimately, the Dragons pulled it out 3-2 in 10 innings as the players felt compelled to run choreograph routines while clutching stuffed animals and bowing to the fans in a light-hearted and victorious fashion. What’s the point of all this? Nothing. Just….nothing.

My buddy Mark over at the impeccable Retro Simba sent me a bunch of 1970s Oakland A’s baseball cards in the mail, and I had the right mind to send one out to Darold Knowles to be autographed before receiving the cardboard beauty back 3 weeks later. The highlight of Mr. Knowles’ career would probably be the World Series in 1973 against the Queens borough Mutts (I can still hear the echo of esteemed baseball writer Roger Angell in my head, resentful about Willie Mays’ exit from the Giants and condemning him in a NY pinstriped, double-knit polyester uni) in which he became the first pitcher to appear in all 7 games and had a sparkling ERA of zero. That’s pretty good stuff right there.

Knowles was on the mound for the last out, (retiring Wayne Garrett on a looper to Campaneris–his only batter–with the tying runners on) relieving Rollie Fingers and earning the save. Other notables: Clint Eastwood threw out the first pitch, Lou Rawls sang the National Anthem, and the number one hit was Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia.” In another strange twist– while researching this piece, I was jolted into remembering that I met the loser of this game, John Matlack, 30 years earlier when he was a pitching coach for the now-defunct Las Vegas Stars. I still have that autograph, permanently pressed onto a flimsy 1981 Fleer, stashed away somewhere.

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.

Charlie O. the mule.

Charlie 'O 1965 yearbookCharlie-O the Mule was the mascot used by the Kansas City Athletics and Oakland A’s from 1963 to 1976. The mule was named after Charles O. Finley, the team’s flamboyant owner at the time.When the A’s moved to then heavily Democratic Missouri, where the official state animal is the mule, Governor Warren Hearnes gave a mule to Finley for his barnyard menagerie at Municipal Stadium which also included sheep and goats that scampered up the hill behind right field. The Municipal Stadium menagerie also included Warpaint, the horse mascot of the Kansas City Chiefs. As questions swirled about whether Finley would be loyal to Missouri, he embraced the mule and removed the elephant from the A’s logo and changed the A’s colors from blue, red and white to green, gold, and white.When the Athletics left Kansas City after the 1967 season, there was debate about whether Charlie O should stay behind in Missouri, but Finley decided that the mule had been a gift and took him with him to Oakland in 1968. The mule died in 1976 at age 20. He was cremated, and the location of the remains is secret.  (Wikipedia)