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Jim Furtado
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Editor - Baseball Primer


Charlie Finley Newsbeat

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Someone ought to move that team to San Jose!

April 17, 1979, was not exactly the night they hit rock bottom: the A’s would lose 99 more games that year on their way to a 54–108 record, to date the most losses in the franchise’s 114-year history. They would finish with the second-worst record (a game above the 109-loss Blue Jays), lowest whole-season attendance (306,763), most errors, and the lowest batting average in the AL.

But the scene that empty April night drew coverage around the country. 653 tickets sold, but scarcely 250 people walked into the stadium who were not paid to do so; the San Francisco Chronicle’s Herb Caen asked later, “Can you name them?” The 1979 Oakland A’s were a team forsaken by their owner in a city on the verge, it seemed, of being forsaken by its team: these were the Athletics on the brink.

The game was one of the very first regular season games to air on television in Oakland. As the people of Oakland got home from work that day and hung up their coats, they looked out their windows, and checked the sports listings. Better to stay warm at home and see what your ballpark looked like on TV….

The A’s pugilistic owner, Charles O. Finley, once a passionate advocate, now made little effort to disguise his waning interest in Oakland baseball. The advent of free agency in 1976 had players suddenly demanding hefty salaries. The notoriously cheap Finley would have none of it. He slashed his payroll, so that by 1978 the A’s salaries were less than half the league average. He fired most of his staff, at one point maintaining a front office of just six employees, including a frenetic 17-year-old named Stanley Burrell whom Finley had jokingly appointed vice president. (Burrell would release his first album as MC Hammer—a nickname awarded to him by Charlie Finley, who thought he looked like Hank Aaron—several years later.) Finley made noisy overtures to other cities—scheming at one point to replace the White Sox in Chicago, where his insurance business was based, by first having the White Sox move to Seattle—and publicly attempted to finagle his way out of a 20-year Oakland lease.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 16, 2015 at 05:03 PM | 48 comment(s)
  Beats: athletics, charlie finley



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