The Raiders are the franchise synonymous with leaving the city of Oakland, but the Athletics were incredibly close to being the first to leave. This all started with the man who brought the Athletics to Oakland in the first place from Kansas City, Charlie Finley.
Nearly 40 years ago to the day, on March 27, 1978, owner of the Oakland Athletics Finely canceled a deal that would have brought the Athletics to Denver. If he got his way, the Colorado Rockies very easily could have never came into existence.
Finley tried to buck the baseball establishment everywhere he went. Finely was like George Steinbrenner in a blue collar city. He ushered in the designated hitter and night games in the World Series. The glorious electro color A’s uniforms of the 1970s were brought to you by Finley. The franchise never had a winning season in Kansas City and moved to Oakland in 1968. They won the World Series three seasons in a row through 1972-1974 with Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers.
Finley lost his stars to the emergence of free agency and the club struggled. He tried to move the team to New Orleans, Toronto and twice to Denver. Finely struggled through stadium issues similar to what the Raiders and Athletics are experiencing today.
When Finley moved the Athletics to Oakland, he signed a 20-year lease on the Oakland Coliseum with no option of moving. The city insisted on this because of the way he left Kansas City.
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Denver first bid on the Athletics before they came to Oakland. In 1979, attendance in Oakland was below 306,763 and they finished the season 54-108. Finley wanted to sell the franchise to Marvin Davis who wanted to move the team to Denver.
Davis, who owned 20th Century Fox and Aspen Ski Company, once made a bid on the Denver Broncos. Finley ended up selling the team to the Haas Family in 1980 for $12.9 million in 1980, of the Levi Strauss & Co., a move designed to keep the Athletics in Oakland.
Finley said he couldn’t compete financially anymore in a game he had a major impact on. He left the game not making many friends in a game he constantly criticized. He put in an effort to rebuild the organization though that would later materialize after he was gone with players like Rickey Henderson spearheading the way.
Rockies fans, can you imagine if Denver had the great A’s teams of the 1980s? Those A’s featured Tony LaRussa, the Bash Brothers and the team that dominated the Giants in the 1989 World Series. While the Denver club would have undoubtedly been different, it’s interesting to think about how different baseball in Colorado would be if Finley got his way.
The way it turned out, Colorado got to create it’s own unique baseball story while the city of Oakland has been through enough with the Raiders and Warriors relocating. Here’s to hoping baseball keeps the Athletics where they belong, in Oakland, California.