Saturday, March 26, 2016

Review of "Finley Ball"

The Oakland A's teams of the mid 1970's are considered to be one of the best baseball dynasties by a team not called the New York Yankees. They won five consecutive division titles and three consecutive World Series championships.  The owner made just as many headlines as the players did and his niece, who grew up with the team, has written a book about the era when her uncle owned the club and her dad did a lot of work for the team behind the scenes.  Here is my review of "Finley Ball."

“Finley Ball: How Two Outsiders Turned the Oakland A’s Into a Dynasty and Changed the Game Forever” by Nancy Finley

Baseball, Athletics, history, memoir

Publish date:
March 28, 2016

253 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

Charley O. Finley was one of the most colorful, innovative and controversial owners in baseball history. From the moment he outbid a Kansas City sportswriter to purchase the Kansas City Athletics to the day he sold the franchise to Walter Haas, he was continually working on improving the team despite rubbing some people in baseball and the media the wrong way.

One person who played a very important role in the operations of the franchise was Finley’s brother Carl. Often Charlie would call Carl in the wee hours of the morning, waking Carl and his daughter Nancy. Nancy would often listen to her father’s side of the conversation. Stories about these conversations and other tidbits that only an insider would know make up this book written by Nancy Finley about the time that her family owned the Kansas City/Oakland team.

Nancy Finley was allowed access to the team’s offices and clubhouse from the time she was a young girl until her uncle sold the team.This allowed her to witness some of the inside work done by her family to improve the team and everything associated with it. These items included the improvements made to Municipal Stadium in Kansas City, the wild celebrations when the Oakland A’s won three consecutive World Series titles from 1972 to 1974 and later, the “Billy Ball” years when her uncle hired Billy Martin as the manager to groom the young talent signed to replace the starts from the championship teams that mostly left for more money from other teams.

Throughout the book, it is clear that Nancy wants to ensure that readers get a complete picture of some of the more controversial aspects of the era in which her uncle owned the team. This includes revealing documents about incident involving Mike Andrews during the 1973 World Series, the inside story about the 1967 incident aboard a team flight that resulted in the firing of manager Alvin Dark, the failed negotiations with the City Council in Kansas City that ultimately paved the way for the move to Oakland and even a few stories about the beloved mascot mule Charlie O.

Through memories she had of her and her dad working for her uncle at the Oakland Coliseum and meticulous research, the reader will learn much about the team that was not written in the media. She writes with a sense of pride about what her father and uncle accomplished with the team, not only for the championship teams in the 1970’s but also about what her family endured in Kansas City from the writer who failed to purchase the team and from the city of Oakland, who sued the Finleys in 1980 for putting a poor team on the field.  (While the team’s record in 1979 was only 54-108, they had a lot of good young players who two years later made it to the postseason.)

This is a very entertaining and fun book to read that any baseball fan, especially fans of the Athletics, will want to include in his or her library.  It is an excellent collection of stories from one of the more colorful owners in baseball history.

I wish to thank Ms. Finley for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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1 comment:

  1. The book is a much needed piece of revisionist history writing about the Finley era. One that doesn't swing the pendulum too far back by making Charley a hero in all things but one that provides some missing nuance and context to certain events, especially the Mike Andrews incident. The preservation of the court documents and what they reveal about how Andrews concealed the nature of his injuries before the A's acquired him and how Dick Williams was foolishly wasting a roster spot for someone who was no longer of much help to the team means we can't look at the story quite the same way again.