Blowhard, innovator, tyrant, and miser, Charlie Finley owned the Kansas City and Oakland Athletics from 1961-1980, a two-decade run that marked one of the most controversial and flamboyant administrations in baseball history. Columnist Jim Murray described Finley as “a self-made man who worshipped his creator.” Among other things, Finley dressed his players in gaudy Kelly green and gold uniforms, sodded an area behind the outfield fences for grazing sheep, and installed a mechanical rabbit behind home plate that popped up from the ground to give balls to umpires.
Another of his “innovations” was the “Alert Orange Baseball.” Finley contended the ball, painted the color of a construction worker’s hat, would be easier for both players and fans to see. Pitchers complained that the ball, which was used in two spring training games in 1973, was slippery and hard to grip, while batters couldn’t pick up the spin of the ball without seeing the seams, which on a normal white ball would stand out in red. Finley laid his experiment gracefully to rest, but would occasionally give the balls out as gifts. One of the recipients was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who accepted the ball with a smile after having it inspected for possible explosives by Secret Service agents.
The ball featuring Charley Finley’s portrait was painted by Jolene Jessie and was donated to the Baseball Reliquary by Bob Colleary.