The sports world gasped in delight last season when Omar Minaya, New York Mets general manager, called out Adam Rubin of the New York Daily News amid turnover and turmoil in the Mets front office. It was odd, it was random, and it was a sight seldom seen in a current baseball culture that treats teams like private businesses schooled in proper public relations.
It was nothing compared to what Charlie O. Finley could do.
On Aug. 20, 1961, the owner of the Kansas City Athletics grew tired of a local journalist’s scoops about Finley’s relocation efforts and secret trips to scout Dallas’ Cotton Bowl as a potential venue. So Finley organized Ernie Mehl Appreciation Day to “honor” said journalist. Let’s let authors Roger D. Launius and G. Michael Green explain the festivities:
“Finley ordered billboards that said ERNIE MEHL APPRECIATION DAY – POISON PEN AWARD FOR 1961, with a cartoon of Mehl sitting at a typewriter with a quill pen next to a bottle labeled ‘poison ink,’” write the authors. “He had the billboards mounted on both sides of a flatbed truck, which was driven around the playing field. As the truck circled the field the organist played ‘Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?’”
Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball’s Super Showman takes a clear-headed, strongly researched approach to Finley’s time as owner of the Kansas City (and, eventually, Oakland) Athletics. The authors – both members of the Society for American Baseball Research – pepper the biography with similar colorful anecdotes throughout Finley’s time in baseball. But trying to capture the rationale behind the man is much like trying to win a race against Herb Washington, the track star and personification of a failed Finley brainstorm known as the professional pinch runner: near impossible, and potentially embarrassing.
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