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Funeral Held For Charlie O. Finley

February 22, 1996

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) _ Charlie O. Finley, his casket surrounded by the gold and green colors of the teams he once owned and a World Series ring on his finger, was remembered today as always being ``his own man.″

Finley, one of baseball’s most innovative and outrageous owners, died Monday of heart and vascular disease. He would have been 78 today.

``He was always ahead of his time,″ his daughter, Sharon Kesling, said before services at the Geisen Funeral Home in Merrillville, near Finley’s home in LaPorte.

``He was just his own man″

The gold and green floral arrangements were sent by the Oakland A’s, winners of three straight World Series championships in the 1970s while Finley owned them. Pictures of Finley with his World Series trophies, family and former players were nearby. Also attending was acting baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

After making millions in the insurance business, Finley fought for years to buy a baseball team and in 1960 finally bought the A’s, then in Kansas City.

In 1968, he moved them to Oakland, and with Reggie Jackson, Sal Bando, Catfish Hunter and other stars, they became the last team to win three straight World Series titles, defeating the Cincinnati Reds in 1972, the New York Mets in 1973, and the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1974.

The A’s also won AL West titles in 1971 and 1975, losing in the playoffs to Baltimore and Boston.

But, Finley was best known for his innovations in baseball. In Kansas City, Finley named a mule Charlie O. and made it the team mascot. He put a sheep pasture on a hill overlooking the outfield and had baseballs delivered to the umpire by a mechanical rabbit that popped out of the ground. He also had water and cookies _ made by A’s employee Debbi Fields who later formed the Mrs. Fields Cookie Co. _ delivered to umpires.

Finley was always trying to find ways to make the game of baseball more exciting. He is credited with creating the designated hitter. And it was Finley who suggested playing championship games at night.

Finley also tried to convince baseball to use orange baseballs and wanted to speed up the game by reducing walks to three balls and strikeouts to two strikes.

His A’s were the first to wear colored uniforms, while other teams remained with white for home games and grey on the road.

Finley was contentious, too, feuding often with then commissioner Bowie Kuhn. When Finley tried to trade pitcher Vida Blue and outfielder Joe Rudi because he knew they’d leave the team at the end of the 1976 season, Kuhn blocked the deal.

With the onset of free agency, Finley’s stars began leaving the team in the late 1970s. Finley sold the team before the 1981 season and returned to his farm in LaPorte, Ind.

Though he was no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of baseball, Finley’s love affair with the game continued. Long a proponent of interleague play, he finally saw owners adopt the move last fall.

Finley was born on Feb. 22, 1918, in Ensley, Ala., outside Birmingham. After his family moved to northern Indiana, Finley went to work in the steel mills. While hospitalized with tuberculosis from 1946-48, he hatched a plan to sell insurance to doctors, an idea that made him millions.

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