If I could be anything in life – it would be a toss up between baseball scout or music festival tycoon. So basically what I am saying is that Innings Fest is pretty much my paradise. Living the Fest Life’s first post covered the music and lineup part of Innings Fest –now for the other fun part, baseball. Everyone around here at LTFL probably knows a lot more about music than I do – but baseball is my area of expertise, so I figured I would spend a little time telling you all why this Legends lineup is making this baseball nerd geek out. This will be the first in a series of posts taking a closer look at the players on Innings’ Legends lineup.
Rollie Fingers: 1992 HOF, 7x All Star, 3x World Series Champ, 1981 – AL MVP and Cy Young Award Winner
If you even remotely consider yourself a baseball fan, you have probably seen Rollie Fingers before and just don’t know it – he’s known for his amazing handlebar mustache. As amazing as the ‘stache is, he has an even more amazing baseball career. There is a really cool story behind him growing it in the first place, but more about that another day.
Rollie played Major League Baseball from 1968 to 1985 with the Athletics, Padres and Brewers. He is the most famous relief pitcher or he should be. Yes…I have heard of Mariano Rivera and no he doesn’t throw the ball as fast as Aroldis Chapman – but Rollie Fingers is the pioneer of what we know as relief pitching. He was THE closer, before we even really knew what that was.
At the time he started closing out games, that really wasn’t part of the game. Most of the time, a starting pitcher stayed in the game as long as the team had the lead. Guys who were struggling, went to the bullpen to be relief – with the idea (and back then it worked) that starters would often get it back together after some time out of the rotation, working out of the pen. But – people like Rollie, showed managers that there was a bigger benefit to the team to have a strong reliever, than to have him at the back end of the starting rotation. The movement in this direction was became stronger when the designated hitter rule entered the game in the mid 70s.
Rollie started his career as a starter, and was a starter throughout his time in the minors. When he first joined the Oakland Athletics – he was a starter, but he struggled. He made his last appearance as part of the rotation in 1971, and then his manager moved him into a relief role. He would make two more starts in 1973, but was not part of the rotation at the time.
Early on in his relief career, he made a few appearances in the middle of games (known now as a middle reliever), but it became clear to all that his place was as a closer. After that, he rarely entered a game before the 7th inning. And he was hugely successful.
While he was with the Oakland Athletics, they became the first modern team to three peat – winning the world series in 1972, 1973, and 1974. In 1974, he was the World Series MVP. He won what was then called the Rolaids Relief Man of the year award four times, including 1981 – when he also won the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards.
In 1982, he recorded 29 saves for the Brewers – who went on to the World Series. However, as a result of injuries, he did not get to pitch in that series. He also missed the entire 1983 season due to injury and would go on to have surgery in 1984. He pitched again during 1985, but was released by the Brewers at the end of the season.
He apparently had an opportunity to join the Cincinnati Reds – but refused. Apparently, much like the Yankees we are familiar with from the 90s and early 2000s, the Reds had a clean shaven policy. According to Wikipedia sources, Rollie Fingers refused to get rid of his signature mustache – choosing retirement instead.
When he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1992, he was only the second relief pitcher ever to make it!
Other fun facts about Rollie Fingers: He was on Family Feud, he played himself in Field of Dreams, and his father – who was also an MLB Player – was Stan Musial’s roommate.
In an effort to be careful about stealing people’s pictures, I am not including one here – but please google Rollie and his amazing mustache or check him out on Wikipedia
Even better, come to Innings Fest and see him in person. And check back here for more festival news and baseball profiles in the coming weeks.