Monday, April 11, 2016

Interview with Nancy Finley

I had the pleasure to speak via email to Nancy Finley, the author of "Finley Ball" and the niece of former Oakland Athletics owner Charlie O. Finley.  Her father Carl Finley was also an important member of the front office and she talks about the book, the team and some of her memories growing up in a baseball family.

Charlie O, the Oakland Athletics mule mascot

1.   Why did you write this book?

I wrote my book to bring attention to our 'Finley Dynasty' of the 1970's, and remind fans of our many contributions to MLB.

2) What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the Finley era?

Where do I begin?


 False- we wanted to leave Kansas City.  True- we had to flee Kansas City because of an unexpected stadium lease increase (annual lease amount).
We expected to be awarded the annual $1.00 the Chiefs enjoyed.  We ran to the only place with a 'ready to move into' stadium-Oakland. 

 False- we forced players to use nicknames.  True- we thought up nicknames for some players, for marketing.  If a player was an awesome athlete, and he would not use a nickname, this was fine.  We would choose a great athlete over any nickname.

 False-  we were cheap.  True- we were frugal.  I believe there is a difference.  If we were 'cheap', we wouldn't have poured $500k into the Kansas City Stadium, when we didn't own that stadium.  

If we were 'cheap', we wouldn't have awarded player’s bonuses after our 1972 World Series.  The MLB Commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, forced the players to return these bonuses.  

If we were 'cheap', we wouldn't have gone overboard on spending $$$ for our World Series rings.  These rings appeared so ostentatious, articles appeared criticizing our 'over the top' spending.   This does not sound 'cheap' to me.

There is a difference between 'cheap' and frugal.  I wish others would put this in the right context.   I am proud to say I am frugal.

3)  What is the REAL reason the A's left Kansas City?

I provide the main reason in my answer to #2 with Misconceptions.

We truly expected a 1967 city vote to renew annual sports stadium leases would bring us down to $1.00, just as the KC Chiefs had enjoyed since moving to KC.
Instead, we learned our lease was being raised to an annual $1.1 million.  I could sense rage whenever dad and Charlie told this story.  I know they were shocked. They couldn't afford this lease amount.  This amount would begin with Jan. 1, 1967, even though this vote was later in 1967.

I have to admit, I'm glad I was in Dallas with mom when this happened.  It sounded like a terrible situation.   
When Charlie bought the team, it was his dream.  This was not purchased as an investment.  Charlie subsidized the A's for several years.  He didn't announce this, because of Finley pride.  This was not something a Finley man did.  They are private. I personally believe he should have said something. Maybe he would be appreciated more.

It boils down to what occurred in August 1961.  Frank Lane's firing started the domino effect. I often refer readers to the June 1961 LIFE magazine article, with the words "Bugs Bunny" in the title.  This article reflects pre-August 1961, and what it was like. This article reflects Frank Lane's personality, and Lane's overall attitude.   This article has comments anyone would never expect to read about us.  This is how things should have stayed.

Then August 1961 happened.

4)  How is Finley Ball different from Moneyball?  

For starters, we won three (3) consecutive World Series, 1972, 1973 & 1974, in addition to reaching the 1971, 1975 and 1981 Play-offs.

We remained in second (2nd) place during the 1976 season.  This is surprising, considering all the distractions in 1976.

We won World Series, three in a row.  This hasn't been achieved since (the Yankees achieved this in the 1950s).  I am still waiting. 

I have heard excuses that it is difficult to win against a monied team like the Yankees.  We won in the 1970's.  In the 1970's, the Yankees had more $$ than us.  

Another excuse for not winning was "it is hard to win games in this coliseum (meaning Oakland)". I was surprised anyone would use this as an excuse.  Our achievement speaks for itself.

Moneyball talks about having a shoe-string front office payroll and staff. I can speak with certainty our front office was smaller in staff and payroll than the Moneyball 'Era'.  No one should make excuses about not winning.  

I could not understand the 'hype' around Moneyball.  I asked others to explain this story to me.  As the story was explained, I could see the person thought the same as me.
I have heard how Moneyball developed.  I'm not able to disclose this now.  I need to be certain of the source.

The title says a lot: Money Ball.  The story about using stats to acquire and trade players in MLB.  If the title was 'Wallstreet Ball', would it be any different?  No.  The writer, Michael Lewis is a great writer for all things 'Economy'.  My husband, Morgan D. King, Esq., has several books by Lewis  about the National Debt and  2008 Recession.   M. Lewis isn't known to write about sports.

In explaining Moneyball, another compared Moneyball to wheeling and dealing on Wall Street.  I finally got it.  Moneyball isn't about cultivating players to create a winning team.  Moneyball seems more like acquiring and trading players like one would with an investment.  I wondered if the income produced from this 'activity' is as good, or better, than having a championship team.

Moneyball's year, 2002, is the same as our 1971, 1975 and 1981 years when we made the AL Play-offs, and lost.   I include the 1981 Play-off, because this was a result of our rebuilding that started in 1977.   I have our late 1970's team rosters.  I enjoy seeing the names that appear on the 1981 roster.    

I can see our rebuilding took us by surprise.  The late 1970's was a low point for us.  The Coliseum Board still hadn't fulfilled its promise to finish our front office.  We refused to pay for this ourselves, after what happened in Kansas City.  

Our late 1970's up to 1981 shows we could rebuild a winning team when we focused.  Sadly, without Charlie, we didn't have a chance to repeat our 1970's.  Dad and Charlie worked as a team.  Charlie couldn't develop the new hockey and basketball teams without dad.  Charlie learned this quickly when dad quit in early 1972.

5) Share a story that wasn’t in the book that you believe the readers would like to hear

One funny incident I've always heard about (I was an infant at the time) is how neighbors of our Kansas City Muni Stadium thought the city was on fire, or a bomb happened, when Charlie started the bus fire to show "no more trades to the Yankee".

We seemed to have bad luck at bridge toll booths in the bay area.
One of the many times dad picked Charlie up from the airport, dad was using a rental car.  
When dad drove up to the Bay Bridge toll booth, the dollar bill dad handed the toll booth operator blew out of his hand.  A storm was on its way to the area. I remember how windy it was that evening.

When dad went to pay again, the money flew out of dad's hand-again.  Dad was not happy.  Charlie was not happy. Charlie opened the passenger side, where he was sitting.  Charlie walked around the front of the car to pay the operator.  Charlie's suit jacket was blowing up around his waist.  

Charlie went to hand the operator a dollar bill, and it started to fly away.  Charlie noticed the dollar bill hit the ground.  Charlie ran over and used his foot to stop this dollar blowing off. By this time, the toll booth operator was in stitches with laughter.  I don't think this operator had any idea who Charlie or dad were.  I was in the back seat laughing too. Charlie picked up the dollar, and slammed it on the counter, until the operator had a firm grasp on it.  Finally, we drove onto the bridge.

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