ANOTHER BRIGHT IDEA
As the world series opened in Oakland, former Athletics owner Charlie Finley was at his La Porte, Ind., farm, watching on TV. The man who brought to baseball nighttime Series games, the designated hitter, colorful uniforms and white shoes would have loved to be in the Bay Area for the Giants-A's matchup, but, as he put it, "Nobody invited me." Finley didn't mention that if he hadn't moved the A's from Kansas City to Oakland in 1968, this year's Series wouldn't be the Battle of the Bay.
Since selling the Athletics in 1980, Finley, 71, has been working at his insurance business—he has Oakland's World Series trophies from 1972, '73 and '74 in his office—and applying his creative mind to a different sport: football. Just as Finley once tried to get the major leagues to use high-visibility orange baseballs—he struck out—he's now offering high schools and colleges another bright idea: the fluorescent football. "It could be the football of the future," he says.
The "visually enhanced prolate spheroidal sports ball," as the ball is referred to in Finley's patent application, is a standard football with eight yellow glow-in-the-dark stripes painted lengthwise on it. "In high school stadiums in particular, the lighting is often very bad," says Finley. "This will make the ball easier to see for everyone—players, officials and especially fans."
The ball made its debut in an Aug. 25 game between two Indiana high schools, Shelbyville and Greenfield Central, and since then it has been tried in high school and college games in five other states. Reaction has been positive. Notre Dame's Lou Holtz, one of several coaches to whom Finley has sent balls, wrote back saying he hopes Finley can get it approved by the NCAA.
"I just want to contribute something to the sport that will make it more enjoyable to the fan," says Finley, who next month will try to persuade the joint ad hoc football rules committee of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHSA) and the NCAA to approve his creation. Says NFSHSA assistant director Dick Schindler, neatly summing up Finley's entire career, "Sometimes what might appear kooky may be a good idea."