Charlie O. Finley might have enjoyed today’s game, or part of it, at least.
After all …
You hear a lot about fire sales in Major League Baseball these days, wherein a team starts trading off or not re-signing their best players after a run of excellence — or after an attempt to win something.
It’s an effective strategy for lowering payroll and, often, ticking off fans.
Finley began to master both parts of that equation when a contract dispute between the Oakland A’s owner and Catfish Hunter after Oakland’s third straight World Series title in 1974 led the ace to sign a free agent deal with the New York Yankees.
The A’s won their division in 1975, but then, on the eve of more widespread free agency, Finley went to work …
First, he traded Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman to the Baltimore Orioles.
Then, he tried to “sell” Joe Rudi and Rollie Fingers to the Red Sox for $1 million. Oh, and Vida Blue to the Yankees for even more.
Commissioner Bowie Kuhn shot those deals down, but the die had been cast.
That fall, Rudi and Fingers left Oakland as free agents, and Blue would be traded to the San Francisco Giants in a more conventional deal before the 1978 season.
Those were just the more heated and publicized bits of Finley’s fire sale, but the structural damage went even deeper.
Heading out the door that fall of 1976 right along with Rudi and Fingers, for example, were first baseman Gene Tenace and third baseman Sal Bando.
Tenace would sign with the San Diego Padres, joining Fingers as the Friars tried to make something happen.
Bando, on the other hand, would find a new home with the Milwaukee Brewers, who were whipping up something of their own — a young team filled with promise who would eventually do some pretty nifty things.
There alongside budding stars like Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, Bando would spend most of the next three seasons as the Brew Crew’s starter at the hot corner, picking up some DH at-bats along the way.
As Jim Gantner emerged at third in 1980, though, Santo’s playing time diminished, and he made it into only 32 games in the strike-torn 1980 season.
Then, at age 37, he retired.
The timing was both tough and fortuitous.
Tough, in that the Brewers would complete their climb to contention the next season, winning the American League pennant and very nearly the World Series.
Fortuitous, from a baseball card perspective, because Bando lasted until there were three choices for hobbyists each summer. And, though Topps hardly ever granted cardboard real estate to players who wouldn’t be on a Major League roster, Donruss and Fleer were not shy about issuing career-capper cards of the four-time All-Star:
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The timing of Bando’s final season was interesting in another way, too.
Because, before that 1981 campaign, Fingers was on the move again, first traded by the Padres to the St. Louis Cardinals in December 1980 and then, four days later, from the Cardinals … to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Where, of course, he found old teammate Bando waiting.
And, thus, during Bando’s swan song, he got to witness a bit of that former A’s glory as Fingers won both the Cy Young and MVP awards in the American League.
As career cappers go, that one might be hard to beat for a bit of vicarious satisfaction.
Those great Oakland A’s teams with Bando at third base began their three-year championship run in 1972, and artifacts from that World Series team still show up from time to time … like this one:
That’s a team-signed ball from that 1972 club, including, of course, Sal Bando.
Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).
1982 Topps Baseball Cards Complete Your Set U-Pick (#'s 1-200) Nm-Mint
| $1.79 |
End Date: Sunday 04/09/2023 20:44:53 EDT
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