Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Colavito, Finley, and FrancesaPosted by Bruce Markusen
As I am apt to do on a random afternoon, I was watching Mike Francesa’s show on the YES Network on Tuesday and heard him make an interesting historical reference to baseball. He mentioned a promotion that Charlie Finley once conducted for his slugging outfielder, Rocky Colavito, who was on the verge of hitting his 300th home run.
According to Francesa, Finley promised Colavito to deliver him $300 in silver dollars right at home plate if “The Rock” hit the milestone home run at Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium, home of the Athletics.
As a fan of Finley and the A’s of this era, I pride myself as being somewhat of a Finley-o-phile, all-knowing when it comes to matters of the game’s most radical owner. I had never heard of this Colavito-Finley stunt. So I thought to myself, “Francesa is either making things up, or he has his facts wrong.”
Well, shame on me; Francesa was absolutely right. An examination of the Sports Illustrated archive confirms the story.
In September of 1964, Colavito was closing in on No. 300. In anticipation of the magic home run, Finley arranged for a Brinks truck filled with silver coins, accompanied by two guards on motorcycles, to be parked just outside the ballpark. They would remain stationed there for every Athletics game on the homestand, at least until Colavito hit the home run.
When Colavito stepped to the plate, the motorcycle riders were told to be on the ready. If Colavito then clubbed the historic home run, the motorcycle riders would drive directly onto the field with the bags of coins and head toward home plate, where the A’s would stop the game and present The Rock with his 300 silver dollars.
Unfortunately, Colavito failed to hit the historic home run during the homestand. After the A’s hit the road, he finally hit his 300th at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, where there was no Brinks truck, no motorcycle riders, and no game-stopping ceremony awaiting his accomplishment.
It’s unclear whether Colavito ever received his money. Knowing Finley’s cheapskate tendencies, it’s possible he kept the money and took it to his grave (if that were actually possible). If that’s the case, maybe today’s Oakland A’s would be kind enough to give Colavito the $300. Forty-eight years later, that might make for a nice promotion at The Coliseum.
So, good job, Mike Francesa. You brought me another intriguing chapter in the unending saga of Charles Oscar Finley.
Bruce Markusen is the author of seven books on baseball, including the award-winning A Baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s, the recipient of the Seymour Medal from the Society for American Baseball Research. He has also written The Team That Changed Baseball: Roberto Clemente and the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates, Tales From The Mets Dugout, and The Orlando Cepeda Story.