- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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"If I knew then what I know now," he said, getting out of the cab, "well, let me put it this way. I was eager to get into baseball, but I didn't realize baseball was as sick as it is I would be doubly eager to get in now, because I love a challenge. But if you know anybody who is interested in getting into baseball as an owner, and he wants to get along with the other owners, then here is my advice for him: do not go into any league meeting looking alert and awake; slump down like you've been out all night and keep your eyes half closed, and when it is time to vote you ask to pass. Then you wait and see how the others vote, and you vote the same way. Suggest no innovations. Make no efforts at change. That way you will be very popular with your fellow owners."
Waving and smiling at the fans and pointing out the paint job and new light poles he had paid for, Finley went into the stadium. "See that long extension of the press box?" he said, gesturing toward an overhang that blocks the view of people high up in the lower deck along the right-field line. "The football team wanted that, so the city built it and paid for it. All it does for us is ruin a lot of our seats and louse up our public address system. You think the city would buy us a new public address system? Naw, we don't play football. Look at these seats. Too cramped to sit in. Considering the handicap of this stadium, the fans are wonderful and we've made a tremendous effort to make this place livable." Finley ran down the steps, through a gate and up into the One-Half Pennant Porch, which at the moment, shortly before game time, held a couple of hundred kids. "Hey, boys, don't knock a hole in my roof," he yelled at them as he signed autographs.
"Mr. Finley," said one small boy, "I've come 200 miles to see Charlie O."
"Son, we weren't going to get him out today because of the rabbits," Finley said.
"I don't care about rabbits," said the boy.
"Then out comes Charlie O.," Finley said. Charlie O. is a mule, an extraordinary mule. "People love Charlie O. He is a genuine Missouri mule donated by Governor Warren Hearnes of Missouri after the greatest mule search in history. Everybody's got to see this mule."
Finley began a tour of the stadium. He has planted ivy on the walls and last year had sheep grazing on the hill in right field. Near the left-field bleachers is his zoo, with six capuchin monkeys named after Finley's father and uncles, six China golden pheasants, a German short-haired pointer, the six German checker rabbits with litters, and two peafowl. "Come on," Finley said, going down a concrete walk and out the left-field gate, where he picked up a handful of the rabbits' feet that were being passed out to fans that day. He had asked Jim Schaaf, his public relations director, to phone for Charlie O. There, on the street behind the stadium, was Charlie O.'s trailer. Finley was as excited as a child. "Come on, come on," he said.
They got Charlie O. out of the trailer, which is air-conditioned and equipped with a record player that plays what Finley calls "mule music"—songs like Mule Train. Charlie O. is a handsome sorrel animal that wears a green-and-gold blanket and bridle and a green baseball cap. Charlie O., as the A's mascot, goes on road trips. In New York, Charlie O. stayed at the Americana Hotel and Finley rode the animal through the lobby. At an impromptu press conference after Frank Lane had said Finley planned to move the A's to Milwaukee, Finley announced: "Charlie O. is the one to answer a man like Lane." Finley asked questions and Charlie O. answered by nodding or shaking his head. "It was a trick," Finley said, "but Charlie O. is the smartest mule that ever lived." Then: "Come on, there's more to see."
Finley went down through the maintenance shed and untwisted a wire that held shut a gate in center field. He stepped through the gate onto a gravel track. Standing a few feet to Finley's left and looking rather startled was Jim Landis, the A's center fielder. A voice began yelling, "Get the hell off the field!'-The voice belonged to the second-base umpire, who was running madly in Finley's direction and flailing his arms. There was a great shout from the crowd. "Wups," Finley said, realizing the game had begun and he had become part of baseball in a way he had never intended. Finley raced back through the gate and twisted the wire again. "First time I ever got eaten out by an umpire," he said.
Back up in the stands, Finley kept being stopped by fans and congratulated for one thing or another. One man offered to donate a green-and-gold hay baler for a Farmers' Day promotion. "Despite all the bad things that have been written about me, I have never been abused by a fan," Finley said. He peered down at the field, where Gabby Hartnett and Luke Appling were coaching on the baselines. "Now, there's something," he said. "Two Hall of Famers coaching for us. Appling gave me my first ticket for a White Sox game when I was young. But baseball doesn't handle the Hall of Fame right. We should put Mantle, Mays, Spahn, Musial into the Hall of Fame right now and make them walking ambassadors for the game. Instead, in January they voted in a guy named Galvin who died in 1902. You want to know something? Galvin played ball in 1872! I sent word to the Hall of Fame that it was too bad my great-grandfather wasn't living so I could find out how good Galvin was. The idea, they told me, was to wait five years after retirement before voting a guy into the Hall of Fame because the guy might rob a gas station or something! In war you don't wait five years to hand out a medal. Last March in Bradenton, at a Hall of Fame dinner, one of the members came up to me with tears in his eyes after my speech. 'Charlie, would you do something for us old-timers?' he said. 'Could you see if you can get us included in your hospitalization program?' We spend $200,000 on one bonus kid who'll never make the big leagues, and we can't include a Hall of Famer in a lousy, cheap hospitalization program. Well, if baseball doesn't do it, I'll buy every one of those old Hall of Famers a policy myself."