Oakland A's History: Finley Fires Andrews

Mike Andrews in happier times in 1967 with Boston.

MLB has seen its share of scandals from its owners, but former A's owner Charlie Finley's firing of Mike Andrews, after back-to-back errors in the extra innings of Game 2 of the 1973 World Series, tops the charts. Not only did Finley's action cause the abrupt end of a player's career, but it also resulted in the loss of his valuable manager, a near team mutiny and the respect of his peers.

Veteran infielder Mike Andrews inked a free agent contract with the A's on July 31st, 1973 after he was released by the Chicago White Sox. (In Chicago, Andrews was the first White Sox designated hitter and backup second baseman to Pat Kelly). Once Andrews landed in Oakland, he became part of Dick Williams' rotation of second basemen. He played well enough to earn a spot on the post-season roster.

Once the post-season rosters were set, A's owner Charlie Finley wanted to add a highly touted infield prospect named Manny Trillo to the roster, but he was blocked by both the Mets and the MLB Commissioner's office from adding Trillo to the roster. Consequently, Finley, in essence, had it in for both the Mets and Commissioner Bowie Kuhn even before the World Series began. Finley was so mad over their decision that he ordered an announcement before Game One of the World Series pertaining to the denial of Trillo to the A's roster over his PA system. That announcement got him in trouble with both the league, Kuhn and the Mets, and he was ordered never to do that again.

Game One in Oakland saw the A's win a tight, 2-1 game, which featured a hot pitching duel between Ken Holtzman and Jon Matlack. Game Two was a four-hour, 13 minute matinee (an ML record), sloppy, error-filled game. Tied 6-6 going into the 12th inning, Mets outfielder Willie Mays knocked in a run and put the Mets in the lead 7 to 6. The next batter, Jon Milner, hit a grounder to A's second baseman Mike Andrews, who allowed the ball to go in-between his legs. The next batter, Jerry Grote, hit a grounder to Andrews, who fielded the ball cleanly, but over-threw first baseman Gene Tenace, which lead to three unearned runs for the Mets.

The A's put up another run against the Mets in the bottom of the 12th, but they lost the game, 10 -7. The Andrews miscues drove Finley crazy. He was extremely upset. Finley was denied Trillo before the series and revenge was on his mind.

Little did Andrews know, Finley was going to use him as a scapegoat for the loss, and try to force him off the roster by making him sign a false affidavit claiming he had a shoulder injury. That way, Finley could add the infielder he wanted on the roster in the first place, Manny Trillo.

After the game, Andrews was told to report to the trainers' room and see team physician Dr. Harry Walker, who examined Andrews' right arm and shoulder. Then Andrews was told to report to the manager's office, where he found A's owner Charlie Finley and A's manager Dick Williams present. Finley presented Andrews with a typed statement, signed by team physician Dr. Walker, that stated: "Mike Andrews has a history of chronic shoulder disability. He is unable to play his position because of a bicep groove tenosynovitis of the right shoulder. It is my opinion he disabled for the rest of the year."

Finley went on to explain to Andrews that by signing this statement, he could help the A's by letting them activate Trillo to the roster. Andrews was stunned. Not only did his shoulder not hurt, but he was being coerced into signing the statement. After a half an hour of Finley's pressuring, Andrews relented and signed the statement, effectively ending his Major League career.

After the meeting, Andrews took the next flight home. The next day, the A's players noticed that Andrews wasn't on their flight to New York for Game Three. Word was already out on what Finley did to Andrews. Manager Dick Williams, disgusted at Finley's treatment of Mike Andrews, told the team that he was tired of Finley's antics and could no work for him. He announced to all of his players that he would be effectively resigning as the A's manager right after the conclusion of the World Series.

The A's players were outraged at Finley's behavior and they were ready for a mutiny. They even talked about throwing Finley out of the plane, but realized they that opening the door of the plane would de-pressurize the plane.

The mood of the A's players took a dark and ugly turn as they flew into New York. Player representative Reggie Jackson was going to file a grievance on Andrews' behalf and the A's were talking about striking. The A's players taped "17" – Andrews' number – on their uniform sleeves as a protest. Some wanted to outright strike, and others wanted to give Finley a hard time in next year's contract negotiations. Once cooler heads prevailed, The A's realized by striking, it would hurt their obligations to the fans, so they decided to play.

Finley held a press conference that next day to announce the injury and his dissatisfaction with Andrews' play, and that he was hoping he could add another infielder to the roster in his place. That next day, Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn flatly rejected Finley's attempt to add Trillo to the roster and issued a statement blasting Finley for "unfairly embarrassing a player who has given many years of service to professional baseball."

Kuhn then ordered Andrews to be reinstated immediately to the roster. When Andrews contacted the team, he explained that the only reason why he signed the statement was that Finley threatened to destroy him and his career. By now, the firestorm over Finley's actions was plastered all over the media. He became a pariah, made out to be the most mean and rotten man in baseball.

The American public and his teammates rallied to Andrews' defense. Andrews eventually appeared in Game Four of the World Series, a pinch hitting appearance in the eighth inning (he grounded out), before which he received a huge and ecstatic standing ovation. Everyone stood on their feet, but only one soul, Finley, just sat there and waived a pennant. Finley ordered Andrews benched for the remainder of the series. The A's went on to lose Game Four, 6-1, and Game Five, 2-0, but Oakland rallied in Games Six and Seven to win both games at home and captured the 1973 World Series.

At the conclusion of the 1973 World Series, A's manager Dick Williams quit, Commissioner Kuhn fined Finley $6,500 as punishment for his World Series antics and another $4,500 for the handling of the Mike Andrews situation. Finley was also was placed on probation by Kuhn.

The A's released Andrews on November 31, 1973, the same day that the fines were made public. Andrews went on to play in Japan for 1974 season and retired in 1975. He never appeared again in another Major League game.

The Oakland A's played hard because they disliked Finley. The 1973 Oakland A's were a talented and rowdy bunch. No matter what situation or distraction popped up, they overcame adversity and rose to the occasion. Reggie Jackson once said: "Charlie Finley doesn't see white or black baseball players, all he sees is green." Maybe that's why Finley did what he did to win, but what he did to Mike Andrews was inexcusable and will go down as one of baseball's worst World series moments.

(Source) – "Champagne and Baloney: The Rise and Fall of Finley's A's" (1976) by Tom Clark.

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