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UNIVERSITY OF FINLEY
After pulling off another of his astonishing deals—this time getting Catcher Manny Sanguillen and $100,000 from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Manager Chuck Tanner—Charles O. Finley of the Oakland A's was exultant and typically verbose.
"I run a finishing school for managers," he said. "I get them when they're coarse and rough, and it takes me at least a year to develop them into exceptional managers." Dick Williams, who won a pennant with the Boston Red Sox before switching to Finley's club, and Tanner, who was named Manager of the Year in 1972 when he ran the Chicago White Sox, should enjoy that comment.
"It costs me a lot of time and money to conduct this school," said Finley, "so I should be reimbursed. Or, I should say, indemnified when someone wants to take away the jewel I have created. The Yankees tried a few shenanigans to steal Dick Williams a few years ago, but I wouldn't stand for it. So finally, in order to get him as manager, the cowboy had to pay me $100,000 for him." The cowboy is Gene Autry, owner of the California Angels, who hired and then fired Williams, now managing the Montreal Expos.
"I tell my managers when they leave me to remember what they've learned," Finley continued, "but sometimes they forget and don't do so good. Dick Williams forgot how to win when he worked for the cowboy.
"The Pirates tampered with Tanner, you bet. I don't want to show any disrespect for Tanner—he did a fine job of managing for me—but less than half an hour after he told me several clubs were interested in him, Pittsburgh was on the phone. Their new general manager, Harding Peterson, asked about hiring Tanner, and I said, 'Why, that's an excellent idea. You can have him for $100,000 and Manny Sanguillen.' Peterson said I was putting a gun to his head, but a few days later he was on the phone to offer $100,000—but no catcher. Then a week later he was back to say, 'Well, Finley, you win.'
"Don't worry. I'll get another good manager for my finishing school in 1977."
Speaking of baseball managers, Paul Brown, the famous old football coach who developed the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals into NFL powers, said the other day that one winter in the early 1950s he was offered the job of managing the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I had gone to Florida to visit a friend in Fort Myers," Brown said. "The Pirates were going to train there that season, and Branch Rickey, who was running the club, was in the neighborhood to check on the spring training site. He asked to see me and he said, 'The way you run your football team in Cleveland is the way any man should run a team in any sport. I am impressed with your operation. It could fit into baseball, and I am offering you the job of managing the Pirates this season.' "