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Charlie Finley: The Outrageous Story of Baseball's Super Showman Hardcover – July 6, 2010

27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Equal parts carnival barker, professional bully, world-class tightwad, and uncanny builder of championship baseball teams, Oakland A's owner Finley left a stamp on baseball that can still be seen more than 30 years after his departure from the game. Sabermetricians (baseball stats junkies) Green and Launius are thorough and balanced in telling Finley's story, from his start in the steelworks of Gary, Indiana, to his grand success selling disability insurance to physicians, to his purchase of the Kansas City Athletics in 1960 and their bitterly fought move to Oakland in 1968, and, finally, to his sale of the team in 1978. The authors capture not only the enmity Finley engendered everywhere he traveled in the baseball world—including his own clubhouse—but also Finley's valiant efforts to keep his team alive in the face of a tough Oakland market and exploding free agency. A good complement to the just-published Reggie Jackson. --Alan Moores


Charlie Finley takes a commendably even-handed approach to its volatile subject. (Wall Street Journal)

One of the most promising sports titles on the horizon. (Wall Street Journal)

[A] marvelous new biography of Finley…Green and Launius have brought an American Original back from the grave. (Timothy M. Gay, author of Satch, Dizzy & Rapid Robert: The Wild Saga of Interracial Baseball Before Jackie Robinson)

Charlie Finley finally gets the recognition--and the well-researched biography--that he deserves. This book bursts with fresh material, vibrant characters, and important historical insight. It's a flat-out winner. (Jonathan Eig)

I can't imagine that anyone could have done a better job describing the life of Charlie Finley than Michael Green and Roger Launius. The book was wonderfully written and superbly researched. Finley may have been a bad guy, but his impact on the game of baseball was enormous. (Peter Golenbock, author of The Bronx Zoo and Red Sox Nation)

An insightful, often rollicking, look at one of baseball's true kingpins. (Tim Wendel, author of High Heat: The Secret History of the Fastball and the Improbable Search for the Fastest Pitcher of All Time)

NASA senior planner Green and Smithsonian Air and Space Museum senior curator Launius do a creditable job pinning down both the mundane and the extraterrestrial aspects of Charles Oscar Finley's remarkable rise….Most readers will agree with the authors' final assessment that Finley was an innovative, infuriating jackass whose braying was sometimes sensible, even wise. (Kirkus)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1 edition (July 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802717454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802717450
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Larry Underwood on July 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who becomes a successful business person and makes millions of dollars in the process, obviously has something going for them; hard work, dedication, charm, negotiating skills; whatever it takes; they know how to put everything together and make things happen.

Charlie Finley was no exception, rising from a modest, working class background to become a millionaire who was able to cut a deal to purchase the old Kansas City A's baseball team, before the 1961 season began. This was a man of great ingenuity, business acumen, and charm on one hand; a petty, lying, conniving, meddling snake in the grass on the other hand. Certainly, he was flamboyant, innovative, and smart enough to build one of the most successful baseball teams in history - the Oakland A's - who won back to back to back World Series titles (1972 - 1974). He was also one of the biggest jerks in the game's history; and became one of the most hated owners ever to win a World championship.

Authors G. Michael Green and Roger D Launius do a superb job of documenting the life and times of Charlie Finley, in an even-handed, but brutally honest commentary that leaves little doubt for the reader to conclude that whatever success this man achieved was almost in spite of himself. Finley's antics were at times amusing, even innovative; but mostly, they were contemptuous. His legacy may be that of "super showman", although most of his material was stolen from good guy Bill Veeck; in the end, I believe his legacy is really that of a pompous, rich jerk who had very little redeeming character qualities to admire. That's a sad commentary on anyone; but it's the plain truth.

Whether or not you agree with that assessment is for you to decide; however, I strongly recommend reading this fascinating biography so you can draw your own conclusions.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By H. Argun on August 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a truly interesting book and should have been written long ago. The book is a biography of Charles O. Finley former insurance executive, businessman and owner of the Oakland A's. The book starts out describing Finley's simple beginnings and progresses to how he made his fortune in the insurance industry which gave him the money to buy the Kansas City Athletics. From there it describes the move of the ball club to Oakland and the many changes Finley brought to major league baseball as well as the many people he came into conflict with and aggravated. Finley's ideas were numerous from orange baseballs to the designated hitter to having a player on the active roster whose sole job it was to be a pinch runner, and he definitely sought to bring change to MLB. The book also revealed his personal relationships which were usually filled with conflict as well as his many legal battles. I thought the description of the departure of Catfish Hunter from the A's and the eventual beginning of free agency was particularly detailed and well written. The book is a page turner with (thanks to Finley's antics and ideas) never a dull moment. There is also a section of black and white photos of Finley, his family members, and members of the Oakland A's. Overall, this is a very well written and detailed book and for any baseball fan of the 1970's or fan of the Oakland A's is must reading and will not disappoint.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Howard D. Ross on July 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors do a masterful job making Charlie O. -- mule and man -- come to life. They pulled me in immediately with the prologue (which was more like a first chapter) about Mike Andrews and the World Series, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to put the book down. The stunts, the obnoxiousness, the 'crazy like a fox' mentality Finley brought to baseball and the Athletics are incomparable: 17 managers in 19 years (are you kidding?). My favorite stunt was sneaking a small mule into the ongoing White Sox game after the owner of that team banned the real mule from getting near the stadium. The book also made me really wonder what would have happened if MLB owners had listened to him regarding free agency -- give everyone free agency and a year contract -- again are you kidding? I couldn't figure out how the authors could provide so much insight until I got to the acknowledgments at the end and realized that so many former players gave them interviews, as did a few family members. The book is not without flaws -- typos / grammar after page 240 especially and not enough time on the designated hitter rule change (c'mon editors!) -- but the collection of new information they offer far, far outweighs those slights. A truly fun ride back through baseball in the 60's and 70's....
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Format: Hardcover
Mike Green and Roger Launius have done a masterful job of producing an entertaining and readable account of the life of Charlie Finley, one of baseball's most controversial owners. Combining painstaking research with interviews of family members, former players, employees, broadcasters, and baseball officials, the authors have covered both the high and low points of Finley's years as an owner. Finley was a quintessential micromanager. He fired managers at a high rate long before George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees. Green and Launius describe in detail his relationship with his managers, players, other owners, and, in particular, his nemesis Bowie Kuhn, the Commissioner of Baseball during most of the period that Finley owned the Kansas City and Oakland A's. The authors have also contributed strongly to the published books on Finley and the A's by describing the substantial impact of Finley's divorce from Shirley, his wife from 1941 until March 1974. The divorce was messy and nasty because Finley refused to comply with numerous court orders requesting information and documents. Near the end of the book, the authors quoted noted Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich on Finley's legacy and life: "Was he a genius or a crackpot, a career maverick or a buffoon, a liar, an angry man, an egomaniac, good for baseball or bad for baseball?" After reading Green and Launius' account of his life, you may tend to agree with Povich that "he was all of the above."

- Ed Edmonds, Associate Dean for Library and Information Technology, Professor of Law, Notre Dame Law School
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