A Conversation with Charlie O.

I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time recalling all the rash and intemperate things I did before getting knocked down a few times helped to smarten me up.

One of the items on my What-the-Hell-Was-I-Thinking list was the time somewhere around 1959 or 60, just before I moved to Hawaii, when I decided I would love to have a job with the “front office” of a big league baseball team. I sent resumés to the Red Sox and to most of the other teams—not the Yankees, of course—and waited while the polite form letter rejections trickled in.

Then one day in the winter of 1961, I happened to spot a small item in the morning newspaper’s Sports Section in which it was noted that Charles O. Finley, the eccentric and unpredictable owner of the Oakland A’s, had just fired his team’s traveling secretary.

(By way of explanation, the traveling secretary is, in effect, a major league team’s tour director whenever the ball club is on the road playing in their opponents’ home ballparks. It is, I now know, a difficult, thankless job—one for which I was unqualified in every conceivable way.)

At the time, however, I decided to apply for the job and to do so immediately. I picked up the phone and dialed the A’s “General Offices” number, determined to get my name into consideration that very day. What follows is almost a verbatim reconstruction of that telephone conversation.

(Sound of telephone ringing, being answered)

Oakland A’s.

Mr. Finley, please.

This is Finley.

Oh . . . uh . . . well , sir, I’d like to apply for the traveling secretary job.

You have a job now?

Yes, sir, I’m . . .

What’re they paying you?

$17,000 a year, sir.

Stay where you are.

(Sound of telephone disconnecting.)