An unnumbered uniform jersey hangs on the right field wall of the Coliseum. The name “HAAS” is inscribed along the shoulders as a memoriam to Walter A. Haas Jr., owner of the Oakland Athletics from 1980 until the time of his death in 1995.
Unfortunately, the same tribute does not apply to Charles O. Finley; the former owner of the A’s who brought the team to Oakland in 1968 after acquiring the Kansas City team in 1960.
After taking ownership of a floundering franchise, the dynamic and intriguing owner changed the colors of his newly acquired team to green and gold in 1963 – the only team in baseball with those colors – and had the players dawn “kangaroo white shoes” in 1967.
Just prior to moving the team to Oakland he began phasing out the team name “Athletics” in favor of “A’s” and replaced the original elephant mascot with “Charlie-O,” a live mule that was paraded about the outfield before the start of games. He went against tradition of team uniforms solely of home whites and road grays and brought in bright-colored jerseys and allowed his players to grow their hair.
With a team of future Hall of Famers of Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, and Reggie Jackson managed by Dick Williams – all whose names are recognized at the Coliseum with retired uniform numbers – as well as star players of Sal Bando, Joe Rudi, Bert Campeneris, Gene Tenace, Vida Blue, et. al, in Finley’s 20 years as owner of the A’s, his up-and-coming squad of mustachioed players won five straight division titles and three consecutive World Series Championships, from 1972-1974. The World Series Championships were the first championships in all of sports for the Bay Area.
Finley was also one of the main advocates for the American League’s adoption of designated hitter in 1973 and was instrumental in bringing in World Series night games.
All these changes – with the exception of the mule (the A’s brought back the elephant logo in 1987) – are still with the A’s and baseball today. No one can mitigate the transformations Finley made to the game.
So Oakland fans, where is Charlie Finley’s recognition for these accomplishments?
Finley, who died in 1996, is nameless in the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame which honors sports figures who have made a significant impact in the San Francisco Bay Area. BASHOF allows team owners to be enshrined with the “Distinguished Achievement Award” honoring those who made great contributions to sports in the Bay Area off the field – ala honorees 49ers’ past owner Eddie DeBartolo and Haas.
In Cooperstown, the Baseball Hall of Fame has inducted 33 baseball executives including many owners such as the Dodgers’ Walter O’Malley, Bill Veeck of the White Sox, and past Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey. Many other team owners are on the list of inductees but not Finley.
Finley was on the ballot in 2011 in the “Golden Era” (1947 -1972) category but did not receive the necessary 75 percent of the vote. He would also be eligible for the “Expansion Era” of 1973 to present if nominated. (He has been recognized by his home state when he was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1980)
Locally, Charles O. Finley is just as deserving of a uniform depiction with his name on it on an outfield wall just like Haas. He’s worthy of a BASHOF plaque inside the stadium, and is overdue to be honored in Cooperstown.
Simply put to all the Oakland A’s fans out there: Remember there would never have been the A’s for us here in OAKLAND without Charlie Finley.