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The Charlie O. Finley Follies
Brent Musburger
September 04, 1967
Everything's up to date in Kansas City, even avant-garde. The A's fired, hired and fired a manager and gave away a $75,000 player
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September 04, 1967

The Charlie O. Finley Follies

Everything's up to date in Kansas City, even avant-garde. The A's fired, hired and fired a manager and gave away a $75,000 player

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At 6:45 on the night of Aug. 3 TWA flight 85 roared down the concrete runway of Boston's Logan Airport and took off on a curious voyage from Boston to Kansas City, with stops along the way in Baltimore and St. Louis. Scattered in seats throughout the jetliner were Alvin Dark and his Kansas City Athletics and other members of the club's party, which included a traveling secretary, two radio broadcasters and a newspaper reporter. The trip to Kansas City would take five hours. What transpired during those five hours triggered the most bizarre baseball story of the year—the fining and suspension of Pitcher Lew Krausse, the firing of Manager Dark, the outright release of First Baseman Ken Harrelson, and a small-scale rebellion by a baseball team against its controversial owner, Charlie Finley.

For the first leg of the journey, from Boston to Baltimore, there was no liquor aboard the plane, but Ed Hurley, Finley's traveling secretary, had been assured by TWA officials that an ample supply of assorted spirits would be wheeled aboard when the jet touched down at Baltimore. Most managers permit only beer to be served on airplanes, but Dark, a teetotaler himself, did not object to his players drinking liquor, although he expected them to exercise moderation.

Back in the air, the stewardesses served the Athletics their allotted two drinks and began serving dinner. Dark, Hurley and the A's coaches were in the first-class section, the players in the coach section. Jack Aker, the club's player representative and its best relief pitcher, sat beside Harrelson and discussed a few pitching problems he had had during the road trip. Harrelson suggested to Aker that he change speeds more often on his sinker. He also made another suggestion: "Have a couple of Scotches and forget about it."

Sitting a few seats in front of Aker and Harrelson were Lew Krausse and Mike Hershberger, and in front of them was Monte Moore, the A's broadcaster, who is known among the players as "Monte the Ripper," an unaffectionate description of his broadcasting style. One of the Kansas City players stuffed a piece of paper into the air-conditioning vent behind Moore, causing an irritating, clattering noise similar to that which occurs when a boy attaches a playing card to the spokes of a bicycle wheel with a clothespin.

"Why don't you guys grow up?" snapped Moore. Just about then Harrelson spotted a full tray of unused miniature liquor bottles. He asked the stewardess if he might have a few. "I'm busy, but you can help yourself," she replied. Assuming they had permission, the players distributed the miniatures.

Moore decided the players were out of line, and he walked up front and complained to Hurley, who said: "What do you care? It's none of your business." Hurley, however, did relay the complaint to Dark, who decided to walk back through the coach sections.

"As soon as I saw their faces, I knew they were up to something," said Dark afterward. "They had innocent looks and were staring straight ahead. I asked the stewardess if she was having trouble. 'Oh, no,' she replied, 'they're a great bunch of guys.' I didn't think anymore about it." But Dark had interrupted the "refueling" process. The players were maintaining a look of innocence while hiding bottles of pinched Scotch.

Shortly after 10:30 the plane landed in Kansas City. Several of the A's left the plane in a cheerful mood but hardly in a drunken stupor. As far as the players were concerned, it was not a headline-provoking trip. Yet two weeks later, when they were playing in Washington, Dark received a phone call from Finley informing him that he had fined Krausse $500 and had suspended him indefinitely for his conduct on the plane. Finley also told Dark he was banning the serving of alcoholic beverages on plane trips.

"Charlie," Dark told the owner, "Krausse's actions weren't that bad. And I don't think the players are going to accept your decision."

"What can they do?" retorted Finley. Dark finally agreed to read Finley's announcement to the team in the club house. When he did, one of the players said: "We already know about that. The story was in the papers this afternoon."

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