Finley #1

This tape is largely comprised of a Q&A session between famed Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley and an audience of teenage baseball fans. Seated in his own home living room with the audience around him, Finley answers questions about his own career, gives his input on team ownership, and compares modern day players and their salaries to the days when he was at the forefront of the baseball business.

00:00Copy video clip URL Color bars.

00:09Copy video clip URL Exterior shot of the house of former Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley. A large letter ‘F’ is painted on the brick chimney, and the camera zooms in on the stained-glass window paintings on the side of the house.

01:01Copy video clip URL The camera, not exposed for the dim light, zooms in on the silhouette of Charlie Finley talking to a group of teenagers sitting around him in a circle. “Don’t blame the athletes!” he says to them. “It’s the stupidity of the owners.”

01:25Copy video clip URL Cut to a now properly-exposed shot of Finley from the side seated in a large rocking chair, explaining to the group of teenagers the ins and outs of arbitration in regards to baseball. “If you or I were playing baseball today, and we thought we could get another $100,000, $200,000 from a stupid owner, we would ask for it. It’s just human nature . . . The Bible says ‘ask and you shall receive’; well, these athletes really believe in The Bible when it comes to that passage.” Finley then proceeds to describe ‘the arbitration clause’, claiming that it has destroyed the game of baseball.

02:25Copy video clip URL Finley continues on the topic of high salaries in baseball, stating that in his first year owning a baseball team in 1961, the league minimum salary was $7,500 per year, and the entire payroll for his team was $685,000. “Pretty hard to get a guy to play ball for you today for $685,000, much less a whole team.” He gets back on the topic of the arbitration clause as the camera moves around the room.

04:05Copy video clip URL As Finley continues speaking (audibility cutting in and out), the camera focuses on Finley’s shelf of World Series trophies, chronicling the Oakland Athletics’ wins from 1971-1975. “In baseball, the handwriting is on the wall in regard to these astronomical, unjustified salaries,” Finley says as the camera cuts back to the crowd of youngsters.

04:55Copy video clip URL Cut back to a close up on Finley, who predicts that in the near future a baseball team will go bankrupt due to the high salary demands of the players.

05:48Copy video clip URL Close up of one member of the audience taking notes on Finley’s lecture.

06:37Copy video clip URL Finley discusses “ego” in relation to baseball players and team owners. “I had a certain ego. But there are certain owners in baseball that are egomaniacs!” Because many owners in baseball continue to accrue millions of dollars each year, Finley says, these owners have a tendency to put that money back into the team in order to gain notoriety. He cites the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants team owners as examples of this kind of mentality.

08:47Copy video clip URL In regards to incentives and bonuses for players during his time as owner for the Oakland A’s, Finley states that he was no stranger to this style of management. He tells a story about former player Jim Gentile, who had asked Finley for a higher salary. Finley told him that if he could hit 35 home runs that season, he would give him a $5,000 bonus (which, he explains, was a great deal back in those days). Gentile hit 35 home runs, and Finley kept his word. Finley then segues into his philosophy on managing workers, saying that encouragement or a “kick in the ass” is necessary every so often to help motivate one’s employees.

10:28Copy video clip URL A member of the audience, sitting on a swing hanging in Finley’s living room, asks whether or not he believes that the mood of the game of baseball has changed recently. Finley responds by saying that the mood has changed without a doubt, as players are now motivated by the prospect of large sums of money, rather than for the love of the game. He goes on to say that although he does not hold anything against the players for having such high salaries, he is unable to understand why some of them would get involved with drugs and alcohol, putting their careers in jeopardy.

11:29Copy video clip URL Another member of the audience asks Finley whether he believes that the Pittsburgh Pirates team was driven to bankruptcy due to high salary demands by players. Finley responds by saying that although he doesn’t believe that it drove the team bankrupt, it drove Pirates owners John Galbreath and his family out of baseball, a family which he calls “one of the nicest families that was ever in the game.” Finley goes on to say that, like the Galbreaths, the skyrocketing salaries were what drove him out of the game as well. He then talks about having worked in the steel mills in Gary, Indiana before becoming an owner. “That’s where I learned my formula: sweat and sacrifice equal success . . . I earned my bread by the sweat of my brow.” Finley addresses the audience directly, telling them through a story about a time when he worked at a prison, “Everyone has got to learn how to work.”

15:18Copy video clip URL Finley talks about free agency as it relates to baseball, claiming that the moment that free agency was an option available to players was when everything spun out of control in the game.

16:42Copy video clip URL “If I was the commissioner of baseball today, I think that I would make every effort possible to help a ballplayer once, not twice.” Finley explains that there are many great athletes playing on minor league teams that are waiting for long periods of time to be called up to the majors, and in the case of an athlete that is making a six-figure salary and not performing, he would cut the major league player and call up a minor league player to take his place.

18:50Copy video clip URL A member of the audience asks Finley a question regarding the way he would sign players to contracts in his days as an owner. Finley says that when he was the owner of the Oakland A’s, he would hardly ever sign a player for more than a year, as he had always preferred to negotiate his contracts every single year before the season started. “That’s the only fair way of doing it. If a player had a bad year, you’d cut him; if a player had a good year, you’d give him a raise.”

19:32Copy video clip URL An audience member asks Finley about the legal troubles he had to go through when he went to sell the Oakland A’s baseball team. “No trouble at all,” Finley says. He explains that he sold the club to Levi-Strauss, the denim jeans clothing company, and although at the time he believed he was getting a lot of money,  if he had to do it over again, he’d ask for three times as much.

20:10Copy video clip URL The tape cuts off before Finley gets a chance to answer an audience member’s question about third baseman Mike Schmidt’s worth as a player.

20:17Copy video clip URL End of tape.

 

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