Though born in Ensley, Finley was raised in Gary and LaPorte, Indiana. He played semi-pro baseball in several Indiana cities but had his career cut short in 1946 by a bout of tuberculosis that nearly killed him. After marrying the daughter of an insurance salesman, Finley went into the insurance business and prospered. He was among the first to write group medical insurance policies for those in the medical profession.
Finley first attempted to buy the Philadelphia Athletics in 1954, but American League owners instead approved the team's sale to Arnold Johnson, who moved them to Kansas City for the 1955 season. He later made an unsuccessful bid to buy the expansion Los Angeles Angels.
On December 19, 1960, after Johnson's death, Finley purchased a controlling interest in the Kansas City Athletics from his estate. He bought out the minority owners a year later. Finley quickly started to turn the franchise around, searching for unheralded talent and investing in the team's farm system. Finley was criticized for micromanaging the team. He served as A's de facto general manager, instructing the team on its style of play and releasing uncooperative players, including batting champion Ken Harrelson. Underscoring his stubbornness, he bought a live mule to serve as the team's mascot. After promising to bring The Beatles to Kansas City in 1964 he made offers of $50,000 and $100,000 before their manager, Brian Epstein, finally accepted $150,000 and scheduled the show.
Finley was an irrepressible innovator and quick to indulge in gimmickry. He changed the team's colors to green, gold and white, with white shoes. He paid players a $300 bonus for growing mustaches, added ball girls to the staff, installed a mechanical rabbit behind home plate to deliver fresh balls to the umpire and experimented with various rules changes such as orange baseballs, designated runners, and two-ball walks.
After flirting with moving the team to various other cities, including Birmingham, Finley relocated the A's to Oakland, California in 1968. It was about this time that Finley's investments in farm teams (including the Birmingham A's) began to yield dividends as Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Bert Campaneris, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers and Vida Blue donned the green and gold. The powerful club won five straight division titles from 1971 to 1975 and won the World Series in 1972, 1973 and 1974.
Despite its successes, even this golden era was fraught with discord. Finley was notoriously tight-fisted with operational expenses and openly feuded with his players, leading to end of Mike Andrews's career and the resignation of manager Dick Williams. The team struggled with attendance and was unmarketable outside of Oakland as it had no radio or television contracts. After the 1976 season Finley began dismantling the team, raising red flags for Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who blocked the sale of several players in the "interest of baseball". Finley filed an unsuccessful $10 million restraint of trade suit against Kuhn and Major League Baseball. Still, with losses to free agency and no new start, the A's quickly became one of the worst teams in baseball.
Just as Finley was beginning to rebuild the A's in 1980, a costly divorce forced him to sell the franchise. His contract with the Oakland Coliseum forced him to find a local buyer. Levi Strauss & Co. president Walter Haas, Jr purchased the team before the 1981 season.
In 1972 he bought the American Basketball Association's Memphis Pros and changed their name to the "Tams" (an acronym for "Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi"). He turned that team over to the league in 1974 also.
- "Charlie Finley." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 3 Dec 2009, 17:47 UTC. 4 Dec 2009 .
- Charlie Finley at Find-A-Grave