Finley threw around compliments as if they were manhole covers. With money, he could sometimes be generous-lending Hunter the six figures for his farm, paying Odom a $75,000 signing bonus at age 19, investing second baseman Dick Green's money in the stock market to great profit. More often, though, he was tighter than the A's double knits. When Reggie hustled through DFW with that hot dog on a string, it was to catch a commercial flight, where he, world champion and MVP, sat in 4B, in front of some salesman from Topeka. Finley was too cheap to charter regularly, even though some teams had begun to do so. That season, Finley also cut off the players' franking privilege: The club would no longer pay the postage on their responses to fan mail.
In spring training for the '74 season, the '73 World Series rings were presented to the players—not in an elaborate ring ceremony, but by traveling secretary Jim Bank on a practice field in Mesa, Ariz. Fingers said the rings looked "like something out of a Cracker Jack box." Ron Bergman of the Oakland Tribune, the only beat writer to travel with the A's, speculated in print that the green glass in the ring's centerpiece was cut from 7-Up bottles. Hunter, who to this day thinks Finley didn't spend even the small subsidy the league office pays any World Series champion toward its ring costs, told reporters that his owner was "a cheap son of a bitch."
When Finley read that quote, he called Hunter from his insurance office at 310 South Michigan Avenue in Chicago, where he worked during most of the baseball season. "Tell me you didn't say that," said Finley, who had suffered two heart attacks in the past two years. "Tell me you didn't call me a cheap son of a bitch."
"Mr. Finley," replied Hunter, "you are a cheap son of a bitch."
Hunter heard what sounded like a telephone falling to a desk and then Finley calling for his secretary: "Roberta! Bring me my pill! I think I'm having the big one!"
"Cat could get away with that," says Bando. "Cat had a special relationship with Finley going back to the day he signed."
On the day in 1964 that the 18-year-old Jim Hunter became a Kansas City Athletic, Finley asked him if he had a nickname. Hunter told him that he did not. "Well, you've got to have one," said Finley. "What do you like to do?"
"I hunt and fish," replied Hunter.
"Mr. Finley kind of hesitated on the phone," recalls Hunter. "Then he said, 'You were six years old when you ran away from home. You went fishing. Your mom and dad looked for you all day. About three o'clock your mom and dad found you. You had caught two catfish and were bringing in a third, and from that day on you were Catfish. Now repeat the story to me.' " When Hunter did, Finley said, "Anybody ever asks you anything, that's how you tell it."
When Finley died in 1996, Hunter and Jackson were the only players at his funeral. Then-acting commissioner Bud Selig came, but no other team owners came. "That surprised me," says Hunter. "I know Mr. Finley was different, but he was still the owner. He had his own ways, but everybody's taken up his ways now. He was the one that brought night baseball to the World Series, the buyin' and sellin' of ballplayers, the different-colored uniforms that all the teams wear today, different-colored shoes, different-colored bats, everything. Only thing is, he never got his different-colored ball."