The history of a fascinating franchise during professional baseball’s colorful 1970s era.
Sports journalist Turbow (co-author: The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls—the Unwritten Rules of America’s Pastime, 2010) focuses on Charlie Finley (1918-1996), the owner of the Oakland Athletics franchise, and the key players on his flamboyant championship teams of the early 1970s. Finley, who earned his fortune in the insurance industry, never won acceptance in the club of wealthy, white male owners of Major League Baseball teams. He was irreverent about the rules and traditions of the game, and, perhaps as shocking to the baseball establishment, he openly exhibited his control-freak nature, narcissism, “hard-edged attitude,” illogical penny-pinching, and a host of other unpleasant traits. Despite his larger-than-life character, Finley often made wise decisions about corralling talented players for his rosters. For a few glory years, the players, many of a rebellious nature, meshed well on and off the field. (Turbow quotes pitcher Blue Moon Odom that to join Finley’s roster, “you have to pass the crazy test. You fill out that application—are you crazy? If the answer is no, we don’t want you.”) The narrative benefits immensely from Turbow’s many interviews with the long-retired players from the Athletics’ dominant stretch. A cast of characters section provides information about the post-baseball careers of the members of this particular dynasty, including such well-known names as Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Rollie Fingers (Reggie Jackson: “We call him ‘buzzard’ because he’s off in his own world. Nothing bothers him. Him and that handlebar mustache of his—he’s cool”). The dismantling of the team by the mercurial and seemingly illogical Finley introduces a down note to this rollicking sports adventure. When Finley died at age 77, few people from professional baseball attended the funeral.
A pleasing slice of baseball nostalgia that offers relevance to today’s game.