Starting Nine: What a relief

Written by: Craig Muder

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine includes must-see artifacts from every big league team. Check out the Brewers Starting Nine online.

When Oakland A’s manager Dick Williams sent Rollie Fingers to the bullpen in 1971 after several sub-par outings as a starter, Fingers thought his short major league run had come to an end.

“Williams threw me out to the bullpen and I thought: ‘Well, that’s the end of that,’” Fingers said. “My baseball career was over. I figured the handwriting was on the wall.

“No kid ever dreams of being a reliever. Everybody wants to be a starter, and I was no different.”

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However, the transition proved to be a blessing in disguise for Fingers who, during his 17-year major league career with the A’s, Padres and Brewers, became one of the greatest relief pitchers the game has ever seen.

The pinnacle of his illustrious bullpen career came in 1981 when, on Nov. 25, just three weeks after winning the American League Cy Young Award, Fingers became only the second relief pitcher in major league history to win a Most Valuable Player Award and the first to do so in the American League.

In his 14th year in the majors, Fingers posted a 6-3 record, racked up an AL-leading 28 saves and sported a microscopic 1.04 ERA. Utilizing his fastball and sharp slider, he struck out 61 men while walking only 13 in 78 innings pitched.

Fingers was especially dominant in the second half of the ’81 season.

After the Brewers got off to a slow start, the club rallied, emerging as second half champions of the AL East.

While the team would ultimately lose in the AL Division Series, Fingers was no stranger to October success. In his career, he pitched in 16 World Series games – winning three consecutive titles with the Athletics from 1972-74 and winning or saving eight of Oakland’s 12 winning games during those World Series.

When Fingers retired in 1985, he was the all-time saves king with 341.

A jersey he wore during the 1981 season is on display in the Museum’s Whole New Ballgame exhibit.

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

Starting Nine

The Hall of Fame's Starting Nine is a lineup of must-see artifacts from our vast collection containing tens of thousands of pieces that preserve the magical moments and memorable stories of our National Pastime. Our curators have spent countless hours hand-picking special objects from every major league team to create a lineup of pieces you simply won’t believe we have!