Retired Numbers: Rollie Fingers

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The Oakland Athletics retired number 34 in honor of legendary pitcher, Rollie Fingers in 1993 following his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Fingers, known for his handlebar mustache, was the first Oakland Athletic to have his number retired and only the second relief pitcher in all of baseball to earn the honor.

Rollie Fingers played for the Oakland Athletics from 1968 (he pitched 1.1 innings that year) until 1976 when free agency began and Charlie Finley, then owner of the franchise, let everyone go. His eight plus seasons with the team were highlighted with four trips to the All Star game, five post season appearances and three World Series victories. His World Series ERA with Oakland was 1.44 in 33.1 innings.

In 1974, Fingers was awarded the World Series MVP award after appearing in all four Athletics victories. He gave up a home run in game 1 and game 3 but those would be his only earned runs in 9.1 innings of work and he would only walk two of the 36 batters he would face.

Not until 1981, at the age of 35, did Rollie Fingers win a Cy Young award, as a Brewer, despite placing in the top 10 twice with the Athletics. His total WAR (wins above replacement) for the green and gold was 12 and his career ERA in Oakland sat at a more than respectable 2.86 (if you exclude 1968 when his 1.1 innings of work earned him a 27.00 ERA).

Fingers is credited as being one of the founding players in the modern era of relief pitching. Partially in reaction to an increase in offensive production and partially in reaction to the new designated hitter in the American league, it became important for teams to have a fresh arm on the mound and Fingers only started in 10 games after the 1971 season and rarely entered a game prior to the sixth inning. It was not uncommon for Rollie Fingers to pitch several innings of relief with one or no days of rest and he became the poster player for managing relievers until Oakland reinvented the role again under Tony LaRussa’s tenure.

Beyond his years as an Oakland Athletic, Fingers played with the Brewers and Padres. He would make just one more post season appearance after Oakland but did enjoy three more trips to the All Star game, a Cy Young Award and an MVP award. His career ERA of 2.90 is remarkable considering he pitched in 1,701.1 innings and faced 6,942 batters.

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To this day the Rollie Fingers mustache is synonymous with Oakland baseball and is sported by fans of the Rollie Fingers era as well as young fans with a love and admiration of Oakland’s history. He has been honored in World Series reunion ceremonies and was the subject of a bobblehead figure. Fingers has often been a guest at A’s fanfest, has a big headed likeness portraying him in the “All Star Race” at home games,  and remains a fan favorite nearly 40 years after departing the Oakland Athletics.

Enjoy his speech at his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

Next: 5 players who will not reach expectations

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