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John Underwood
March 04, 1974
In a single bound, one of baseball's managers-in-exile vaults up from limbo to field boss of the champion Oakland A's
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March 04, 1974

Al Dark At The Top Of The Stairs

In a single bound, one of baseball's managers-in-exile vaults up from limbo to field boss of the champion Oakland A's

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What are you doing, Alvin—besides playing golf?" Charles O. Finley said to Alvin R. Dark on the occasion of an Oakland-to- Miami telephone call Feb. 1. They had been talking about managers: Charlie's—the Oakland Athletics'—need for one; Alvin's desire to be one again. Charlie was soliciting opinions on the men available. Charlie would name a manager and Alvin would give an opinion. It was not unusual. Over the years since Finley had fired Alvin from the job, they had become phone pals.

"Nothing. Getting fat," Alvin Dark said to Charlie Finley. "No one's here knocking my door down wanting me to manage."

"Alvin, how much you weigh?" asked Finley.

"Two-ten, two-fifteen."

"You must be fat. Would a fat old man be scared to manage a team that has won World Championships back to back?"

"It would bother anybody," said Alvin Dark. "It's a tough spot to put a man in. No matter what he does, he'll probably be wrong. The first time he loses a close game the second-guessers will have a field day. So to answer your question—I'd love to."

Charlie Finley laughed. "I can't make a decision yet," he said. "There's a lot to be ironed out." His manager of record was Dick Williams, though Williams had announced his intention to jump ship and manage the Yankees. Finley had pulled a contract on Williams, showing two years due. Hard words were passed. Litigation was under way.

"I'll be here," said Alvin Dark. "I'm not going anywhere, except to church. And to the golf course." The Darks' town house is hard by the 8th green of the east course at the Country Club of Miami.

When he hung up, Alvin Dark told his wife Jackie that if he did not know better he would say Mr. Finley had come dangerously close to offering him a job.

On Feb. 18 Charlie Finley called Alvin Dark again. Finley had been putting his house in order, with the help of a federal court judge who ruled that Williams had breached his contract. Dark had been putting his short irons in order for the Gleason Inverrary golf tournament. As a participant in the celebrity pro-am, he had played 36 holes that day and was limping slightly when he went to the phone. His left knee, which had stood the rigors of football at LSU and 25 years of playing and managing in the big leagues, is the only part of him that acts his age, which is 52. His hair is still curly and his eyes are still brown.

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