Catfish shakes his head at the terrible injustice of it all: "Never got that."
Heaven knows Finley tried. He even had his team play some spring training exhibition games with the orange balls. "The pitchers couldn't grip the orange ball," Dark remembers. "If Finley could have found a hide that wasn't so slippery—or if another owner had thought of it first—the orange ball would be in today, I guarantee it. You could definitely see it a lot better. It really stuck out. But the other owners just didn't like Finley."
The other owners could ignore Finley, but Dark had to listen to him. A week before spring training for the '74 season began, Finley hired Dark to replace Dick Williams, who'd had enough of Charlie O.'s meddling. So Dark suddenly found himself in Mesa, managing the world champions. "The owner makes the rules," says Dark. "He's got the money." One of Finley's epiphanies that spring was to sign former Michigan State sprinter Herb Washington as a designated runner.
Dark says he was never ordered to play Washington or anybody else. "Charlie would try to influence you," he says. "If you were strong in your opinion, he'd say go ahead and do it your way. If you weren't strong, you did it his way. He didn't demand. He was just very... vocal." Washington would appear in 92 games in 1974, steal 29 bases in 45 attempts and never once appear at the plate. In Game 2 of the World Series, he would pinch-run for Joe Rudi and, before a single pitch was thrown, get picked off first base. No matter. It's remarkable enough that he appeared in a World Series, one more Finley first.
Finley's Cracker Jack rings lit a fire under the A's even before they left Arizona. "I predict a third world championship," Jackson said after receiving his 7-Up souvenir. "We got the turmoil going already."
Turmoil was their oxygen, and most of the A's produced it like trees. "There were a lot of guys on our team who talked a lot of smack," says Billy North, the Oakland centerfielder. "And sometimes somebody would talk it at what somebody else considered the wrong time, and there would be a flare-up or two. There's always somebody in a locker room who has the gift of gab. Sometimes I didn't know whether it was a gift or not."
Hunter had the gift. He could talk smack like Mozart could play piano. Still can. Hunter remembers a game in which Bando walked to the pitcher's mound bearing a ball he'd just fielded that had three broken stitches. Bando handed the ball to Fingers, called his attention to the damage and said, "You can throw at least two good sinkers with this before the ump checks the ball."
"So Rollie takes the ball," says Hunter, laughing preemptively, "looks in for the sign and then straightens up and says, 'Oh! Time out, Mr. Ump! There's some-thin' wrong with this ball!' Man, he was the dumbest damn pitcher I ever seen in my life."
"Those guys had some truly vicious tongues," says North, a quiet, studious player who's now a financial planner in Kirkland, Wash. "When they'd start talking about each other, it was something to behold."
"Dick Williams always let us get on each other," says Hunter. "He called it corrective criticism. Bando and I'd get on 'em on the bus rides, and we'd get on 'em good. Every once in a while it would almost come to a fight. Sal and I would always get on each other just to get things goin'. Campaneris"—Bert, the A's great bantamweight shortstop—"would go to the front of the bus and tell Williams, 'You better get back there—Sal and Catfish are gonna fight!' And Williams would always tell Campy, 'Aw, let 'em fight.' "