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The TAMs are his only team outside Oakland, and this alone may bring them luck, for both the Seals, who have been losers, and the A's, who have been winners, are tepid attractions in the East Bay. The A's, probably the best team in the American League this season, have drawn only 900,000 fans. And yet, despite the persistently deplorable attendance, they make enough money to support the hockey team. Finley's lease at the Oakland Coliseum is a help. He receives 27�% of the parking and 25% of the concessions and pays a minimum annual rental of $125,000 or 5% of the gate up to 1.45 million, a total the A's have not even remotely approached.
The lease also runs for 20 years, a precaution against any future Finley defections. Finley insists, all rumors to the contrary, that he has no intention of moving either the Seals or the A's. But there are skeptics. One is Bill Dauer, who was the executive vice-president of the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce when Finley was there and now holds the same job with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.
"Everything he has said and done in Oakland," said Dauer, "is like a record being played back to me. He is so crafty, so cunning, truly one of the last great characters. It will take a pretty smart guy to outwit those people in Oakland. He may just be that guy."
Finley confesses to only a casual fan's knowledge of hockey and basketball, so he is more inclined than usual to delegate authority in those areas, although his concept of delegating authority is closer to Peter the Great's than Dwight Eisenhower's.
"Charlie butts into everything," says Bob Elson, the veteran baseball announcer who worked for the A's last year before joining the Finley alumni association—which is about the size of Harvard's. "He'd sell tickets, hawk programs, sweep out the ball park, anything. He's the hardest-working man in baseball, but Charlie Finley feels that if Charlie Finley should drop dead, the world would just stop turning around."
Nowhere is Finley's penchant for running his own show more apparent than with the baseball team. The A's chain of command begins and ends with Charles O. Finley, and there are few links in between. He employs a functioning office staff of seven men and one woman. Finley is his own general manager. He has tried others and found them wanting, and as he says, "I satisfy the owner."
Finley's one-man band mocks the conventional baseball organization, with its board chairmen, executive vice-presidents, financial analysts, media liaison officers and the other impedimenta of big business. It both galls and astonishes orthodox baseball men that Finley, wearing so many hats, can accomplish so much. It is not false pride speaking nor is it, heaven forbid, bragging when Finley refers to the team as "my A's." They are, indisputably, his.
"Maybe his way is right," says Bill Cutler, another Finley alumnus, who now operates the Portland Pacific Coast League team. "Maybe you don't need a general manager. Maybe all the owners should do like Charlie—run the team on the phone from Chicago and make the decisions after consulting cabdrivers and the guy in the barbershop."
Cutler learned firsthand that Finley runs his office the way 18th century British sea captains ran their vessels. When the team moved to Oakland, Cutler joined it as an "administrative assistant." He had spent 20 years in the American League office and left it as an assistant to the president. He had 12 children, so the cross-country move from Boston was no small undertaking. Once in Oakland, however, Cutler learned that the duties of a Finley "administrative assistant" were, at best, vague. He was further disillusioned when he heard Finley describe him publicly as the team's new public relations man.
"I wouldn't have come all that distance to be a P.R. man," says Cutler. "I'd never done any P.R. in my life. Charlie just didn't keep his word." Cutler, 12 children and all, was fired within six months.