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Tuesday, February 20, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sideline Chatter

They Hated Finley, And Loved Him

Seattle Times Staff

Columnist Ron Bergman, who covered the Athletics for the Oakland Tribune from the first day in 1968 when they moved from Kansas City through 1976 and a little beyond, reminisces on former team owner Charlie O. Finley:

He was a man capable of great charity and cruelty. He had massive appetites for food, scotch and women. He proved he was alive every day of his life.

No one was more of a trencherman than Charlie. At his staff meetings - which were a joke because he set all the policies and made all the decisions - Charlie would have tubs of Kentucky Fried Chicken in front of everyone at the table. No one person could masticate through a tub of fried chicken except Charlie, who not only ate all of his, but the staff leftovers as well.

Charlie liked the chicken so much that he once brought the colonel himself, the late Harlan Sanders, to the press lounge before a game.

"Do you eat the chicken?" Bergman asked the colonel.

"I never touch that crap," the colonel replied.

Bergman never published that remark because he feared a phone call from Finley, who would call at any time, day or night, to complain about a story. Finley, Bergman wrote, would always start out the same way: "Bergman, I don't like you. The manager hates you. The players hate you."

Of course, Bergman was getting all his scoops from the players who had one common bond - they all despised and feared Charlie. That's what made them the team they were, the dynasty that won three straight World Series starting in 1972.

Yet they loved Charlie, too.

Catfish Hunter was crushed when he had to sell off acres of his dream farm in Hertford, N.C., because Charlie, who had lent him the money to buy it, called his loan early. But when Hunter was inducted into the Hall of Fame, he asked for and got Charlie to be his sponsor.

Charlie had signed Hunter personally after other teams had given up on him because he had lost part of a foot in a hunting accident. That was the one thing that made Charlie stand out from all the rest, Bergman wrote - he was the greatest judge of baseball talent.

They wrote it

-- Ryne Sandberg returned to the Chicago Cubs' spring training site last week in Mesa, Ariz., after a 16-month retirement.

Gene Wojciechowski of the Chicago Tribune told of this exchange between a reporter and Cub Manager Jim Riggleman.

Reporter: "How does he look to you so far?"

Riggleman: "Well, I haven't seen him do anything except show up. He showed up well."

-- Blackie Sherrod in the Dallas Morning News: "Is there a parable here? Fellow in Gilbert, Ariz., won two Super Bowl tickets by diving headfirst in 2,000 pounds of cow manure."

Compiled by Keith Allen, Seattle Times

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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