The Royals' problems have at least, been confined to the diamond; Oakland's have led them into court and the infirmary. The team has played the season with six unsigned players—Tenace, Sal Bando, Campaneris, Rudi, Fingers and Baylor—and McCovey now makes a seventh. None of them expects to be in an Oakland uniform next year. Back in June, after Commissioner Bowie Kuhn vetoed Charlie Finley's multimillion-dollar plan to sell Fingers and Rudi to Boston and Blue to the Yankees, the three missed 12 days in legal limbo.
It can only be speculated where the A's might be today if their stars had been in the lineup then or where they might be if they had not lost Tenace, Rudi again, Washington and Pitcher Paul Mitchell to injuries for periods ranging from two to five weeks. Then there is the Finley Factor. On Sept. 1, with his A's gaining on the Royals, Charles O. opened negotiations with the Rangers for the sale of Bando. This, his stunned players concluded, was hardly the act of a man in pursuit of a pennant. He was destroying the team even as it was pulling itself together. Bristling at such criticism last week, Finley announced that it was he who had rejected the Rangers' reported offer of $500,000 for Bando, and that it was he who requested that a hearing in federal court in Chicago on his suit against Kuhn (which might have kept the three players in question out of the lineup again) be postponed until after the season. The records show only that the judge continued the Kuhn case. In the Bando matter, Rangers' General Manager Danny O'Brien remains under the impression that it was, fie who turned down the Bando deal because the player's salary demands were too high.
Anyway, Finley has lately come out four-square for his players, announcing last week that he would be prepared to take the field himself as a designated hitter. The proposal prompted Fingers to regret anew that he was not wearing some other uniform. "You can bet," said he, "that I wouldn't walk him."
Sadly, if the A's do not catch the Royals this year, it is unlikely they will be catching, anyone for many seasons to come. Gone already from a team that had won three consecutive World Series are Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman. Soon to be gone are Rudi, Fingers, Campaneris, Tenace and Bando. Survivors, such as North and Washington, now refer to themselves as "The Last of the A's."
"It would have been nice to have kept everybody together," says Tenace. "We knew each other so well. There was always something standing in our way, but we always overcame it. But now...."