Fingers wraps up A’s dynasty with 1974 World Series MVP

Written by: Craig Muder

The game’s greatest championship dynasty – among teams not named the New York Yankees – was authored by the Oakland Athletics from 1972-74.

And the man responsible for the majority of those 12 World Series wins was named Rollie Fingers.

On Oct. 17, 1974, Fingers pitched two scoreless innings to end Game 5 of the Fall Classic against the Dodgers. When Von Joshua grounded out to Fingers to end the game – causing Fingers to take several joyous leaps while tossing the ball to first baseman Gene Tenace – the A’s ace reliever picked up his second save of the World Series en route to Most Valuable Player honors.

“I was told if we got the lead, I’d be in the game,” Fingers told the Associated Press.

That was no surprise. Of the 19 World Series games the A’s played from 1972-74, Fingers pitched in 16 of them. He totaled two wins and six saves to go with a 1.35 ERA and finished 10 of the 16 games he pitched.

“I was getting tired,” Fingers said after Game 5 in 1974. “The back of my arm hurt so I couldn’t get a breaking ball over (the plate). I could only get my fastball over.”

The Game 5 win gave the Athletics three straight World Series titles. Only the Yankees – with three crowns in 1998-2000, four titles from 1936-39 and five championships from 1949-53 – have ever been as successful.

Fingers bounced between the A’s rotation and bullpen during his first two full seasons in the majors in 1969 and 1970.

But in 1971, manager Dick Williams saw the future and began using Fingers primarily as a reliever. After two spot starts in 1973, Fingers never started another game in the big leagues.

Fingers was named to the first of seven All-Star Games in 1973, led the AL in appearances with 76 in 1974 and won a combined 23 games and saved 44 more in 1975-76. By then, Athletics owner Charlie Finley had begun to dismantle his dynasty in the face of free agency – and Fingers left Oakland to sign with the Padres prior to the 1977 season.

Fingers led the NL in saves in both 1977 and 1978, then posted his best-ever season in 1981 following a trade to Milwaukee. That year, Fingers was 6-3 with 28 saves in a strike-shortened season, winning the AL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Awards.

But for the man who held the career saves record from 1980-91, the team success with the Athletics would always be his defining time.

“Every bottle,” Fingers said of the victory champagne following the World Series victories, “tastes a little better every year.”

Fingers’ jersey from Game 5 of the 1974 World Series is on exhibit in the Hall of Fame’s Autumn Glory exhibit.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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