Oakland Athletics’ History: The Story of Carl Finley, Original GM of the A’s

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The Unseen Man Behind the Success of the Mustache Gang

Long before Moneyball and Oakland Athletics’ GM Billy Beane, and even before other noted GMs in Oakland A’s history such as Sandy Alderson and Roy Eisenhardt, the Oakland A’s front office was guided by Carl Finley, cousin of then-owner Charles O. Finley.

Carl Finley was taken on by Cousin Charlie, who had a natural eye for good talent, in 1962 to be his right hand man when the Athletics were still in Kansas City. Though he had gone to law school at SMU, Carl Finley, 37 at the time, was a school principal and was brought aboard to work a number of roles including P.R. Director, Ticket Manager, Spokesperson, Mediator, Consultant, and Scouting Director for the great teams of the 70s.

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When the A’s moved to Oakland in 1968, Carl Finley moved also and became the unseen man behind the A’s success. He was at the helm of the front office with a skeleton crew while owner Charlie remained in Chicago.

“Neither dad or Charlie had MLB experience,” said Carl’s daughter, Nancy Finley-King, who lived with her father in a Lake Merritt penthouse at the time. “No way would anyone imagine what would happen just nine years later in 1971, when the A’s made the playoffs five years in a row.”

In his various roles, Carl did not seek attention, but did play a huge role in the success of the A’s as General Manager and Vice-President of operations throughout the 70s. Carl Finley was Charlie’s long-distance link to the A’s clubhouse, the staff, the City of Oakland and Alameda County. That also included the media, and eventually the other owners while trades and deals were made. Carl Finley also represented Charlie Finley in many salary negotiations with players.

“I remember my father would get phone calls from Charlie at 5:30 in the morning,” said Carl’s daughter, Nancy Finley-King. “Dad would later go to the Coliseum around 8:00 and take care of what the concerns of the day were.”

Nancy also said there was a phone in the box seat where her father sat during the game. Charlie often called in on it to check on how the game was going, several times each day or night when the team was at home. (Nancy also had the direct number and would call her father on the line, too).

Around 1975, Charlie turned his voting proxy over to Carl Finley, who was also a minority owner, and he started attending the owners’ annual meetings in Charlie’s place. It’s believed that Charlie stopped attending these meetings due to his conflict with then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

Unlike controversial team owner Charlie Finley, Carl was liked and respected by all who came in contact with him in the baseball world including many of the owners, MLB execs, and Dick Butler, who headed the MLB Umpires Association at the time.

It was Carl Finley’s established relationship with Billy Martin that saw Martin come aboard as A’s manager in 1980 to turn the team back into winners and take them back to the playoffs after a five-year post-season drought of mostly losing seasons.

“Dad helped find the Haas family as potential owners,” Finley-King said. “He came to the conclusion that Charlie should sell. Things with the Coliseum Board were becoming worse. They had been privately ‘rebuilding’ the team since late 1976 and early 1977, including finding Rickey Henderson.”

Nancy Finley-King said that when the Haas family purchased the team in November 1980, her dad was asked to remain with the team as a VP to show the new ownership and executives how the front office operated. Carl Finley continued to attend annual MLB meetings with one of the new owners from the Haas family and left the organization in 1984.

Carl Finley passed away in 2002, but no mention or acknowledgement was ever given by the A’s organization at the time.

Nancy Finley-King is currently writing her story of coming of age with baseball history, her father, and the A’s. The book, Finley Ball, is available through pre-order at many book outlets, and is expected to hit shelves in early 2016

“This book is meant to tell what I remember about growing up within a MLB organization,” Finley-King said. “I realize my upbringing was not typical by any means. I hope to dispel some stories that have seemed to be thought of as true. Previous books about Charlie have been so wrong and didn’t tell the whole story.”

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