Charlie Finley and The Beatles

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The Beatles and Charlie Finley, former owner of the Athletics, had a brief but interesting history together.

Charlie Finley owned the Athletics from 1960, when they were still in Kansas City, through to 1980 when he sold the team to the now legendary Walter Haas. To say that Finley was a polarizing figure in sports is to say that Kim Kardashian is a somewhat well known nobody. Despite many changes that he made to the team, some of which we still see today, there are plenty of people from fans to players, owners to politicians that hated everything Charlie Finley represented.

"Reporter “Do you like baseball?”John “Not particularly.”Paul “Oooooo. Very good game, Mister Finley! Very nice!”Ringo “No it does, you know. You throw the ball, and then another ten minutes you have a cigarette and throw another ball.”"

Kansas City fans loved Charlie Finley and hailed him as the savior of their ball club. He promised the public that the Athletics were staying in KC forever and changed their uniforms to, for the first time ever, include the cities name. He even burned the lease, which included an out clause that made fans very nervous, in a dramatic show that he was going to stay with the city forever. It turns out, though, that the lease he burned was fake and almost immediately after his purchase of the team in 1960 he began scouting locations to move the Athletics elsewhere, Oakland being denied once previous to ultimate acceptance. His management of the team and desire to leave caused attendance to drop from around a million a year, which was reasonable at that time, to around 680.00 per year. During their time in Kansas City, the Athletics posted a .404 win record without a single winning season or placement higher than sixth place.

Reporter “In light of the splendid offer, that was mentioned a few moments ago by Mister Taylor, of $150,000… Do you plan to perform a little longer than a half-hour?”
Paul “Just extra well.”

In 1964, in an effort to turn the negativity into positive, Charlie Finley attempted to get The Beatles, who were making their first American tour without a stop in Kansas City, to play at Municipal Stadium where the Athletics played. He met them in San Francisco, the first stop on their tour, and offered their manager $100,000 to play a date in the city. Noting that the sole day off in The Beatles’ busy schedule was a visit to New Orleans, their manager rejected the offer.

"Reporter “Is it true Charlie Finley asked you to wear kelly green and gold baseball outfits?”George “Not true. We wouldn’t wear ’em, anyway. Not even for 300,000.”"

Ever the negotiator, Charlie Finley met with manager Brian Epstein again in Los Angeles a week later and made a new offer of $150,000. This, to that point, was the highest advance that any band had ever made for a single concert date. Presumably, John, Paul and George got $50,000 each and Ringo was told it was for charity.

Reporter “Is there any place in America that you wanted to see but did not get a chance to?”
John: “New Orleans is one of them.”

In fact, because ticket sales were so dismal, Charlie Finley decided to up the ante and announced that all the profit from the concert would be donated to the Children’s Mercy Hospital. Of course, that was not his original intention but public opinion of him was so low at this point in time that the Kansas City Star was urging for a citywide boycott of the event. Finley did attempt to drum up some excitement and had convinced his community that the Fab Four were staying in his home after he returned from their Chicago concert in a limo with him and his children donning Beatles wigs. Crowds gathered around his home in an attempt to see a band that were, in actuality, staying 1.100 miles away.

The boycott seemingly worked and the Kansas City visit became the only concert on the tour that did not sell out. The Beatles were paid, roughly, $4,400 a minute to play to a crowd with 14,700 empty seats and those that did buy the Charlie Finley adorned tickets (that’s right, his picture in a Beatle wig was on them) paid the second highest ticket price of the entire tour.* Having promised a minimum of $25,000 to the Children’s Hospital, it is estimated that Charlie Finley lost about $65,000 on the deal, gained zero positive publicity and forever put him in the record books as, maybe, the only man to lose money on a Beatles concert. People selling cut up bed sheets from the Beatles’ hotel rooms had turned a profit. Say what you will about Lew Wolff, he’d have sold out the coliseum for a Beatles concert!

On a positive note, a highlight of the concert included the Beatles singing Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey Hey and working the crowd into a frenzy. If you were watching the final game of the ALCS when the Royals beat the Angels, you heard that same song being blasted through the stadium. A fitting tribute, for sure.

"Reporter “Did you talk with Charlie Finley when he was in San Francisco?”John “We haven’t met him, I beleive.”George “I met him this morning.”Paul “I met him last night.”George “And Brian Epstein was the only one who saw him, I think, in San Francisco.”Reporter “He said he was very fond of you men.”Ringo “Oh. We’re fond of HIM, now.”"

*It is worth noting that for what you paid to see all four Beatles in 1964 ($4-6), you couldn’t buy a Coke at one of those Beatles current concerts.

All of the quotes on this article were taken from the Kansas City press conference held prior to the gig.

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