Finley is openly proud of his baseball acumen. Over lunch in the apartment (Piersall finally got back with the oil) he talked expansively of his days as a semipro-player-manager in Gary.
"Tell the one about the uniforms," prompted Piersall.
"Ah yes, well, I went to all the merchants in town asking them each to give $25 to pay for our uniforms. In return I assured them we'd have the names of their firms on the backs of our shirts. What I did then was to go out and buy 98� sweat shirts and just have the names stenciled on. The full uniforms didn't cost more than $15 apiece. The rest was gravy."
"Is that the most money you've ever made out of baseball?"
"Yes, I think you could say that."
It was also an early demonstration of the vaunted Finley ingenuity. No owner in baseball is more promotion-conscious, and while many of his schemes may be dismissed as juvenile—"Charlie-O.," the mule: the mechanical rabbit delivering baseballs to the umpire (since abandoned); "Bald Headed Day," "Mustache Day"—others have the ring of sweet reason. It was Finley, for example, who suggested the World Series begin on a Saturday and that weekday games be played at night so that "the people who support us—the workingman, the kid in school—can see our biggest attraction." He considers himself a practical businessman with vision. And so he is.
"Take the uniforms," he said, pushing himself away from the table. "When I first came out with our green and gold suits and the white shoes, all those owners threw up their hands and cried, 'What is the man doing to our beloved game!' Now just look at the way they're dressing their teams."
More radically, Finley proposes that pitchers be limited to three, not four balls, and he wants to allow players replaced by pinch hitters or pinch runners to return to the game. "This," he says, "will help balance the defense and the offense. We've got to bring action back into this game. Just look at all the rules changes in football, basketball and hockey over the past 25 years. In our game there hasn't been one significant rule change in the last 86 years! And I'll say this, if we don't make some substantial changes soon, I'm gonna get out!"
There was a time when a declaration of this sort would bring huzzahs from Finley's confreres in the baseball hegemony, but though he is an occasional irritant, they have decided he makes some sense now, and they are listening.
Finley savors his little victories over them. "You know," he said, "some people like to paint old Charlie with horns growing out of his head. But I'll tell you something." He lowered his voice almost to a whisper. "I'm really just about the sweetest guy this side of the Mississippi."