Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rollie Fingers Could've Been a Dodger?

I learn new things everyday.  For instance, while looking through the SCP catalog I came across a vintage Dodgers uniform connected to a future Hall of Famer who I was not aware had a Dodger connection.

Well, let me clarify that.  This man never played for the Dodgers, but he did give up one of the most dramatic home runs to a Dodger in team history.

Rollie Fingers was a highly sought after pitching prospect out of Southern California in the mid-60's.  He had attended high school in Upland and spent a semester at Chaffey Junior College in Rancho Cucamonga. 

As you can imagine, with Fingers right in the Dodgers backyard they naturally chased after him.  So, in 1964, at the age of 17, he was invited to the Dodgers rookie training camp and impressed the brass.  So much so, that they offered him a contract with a $20,000 signing bonus.  In addition, Rollie took home the vintage Dodgers jersey featured in this post - although it's unclear if it was actually given to him, or if he decided to take a five finger discount. 

At that point, Rollie Fingers weighed his options and did the unthinkable- especially at the time.  He decided to pass on the Dodgers, instead opting to take a lower bonus to play somewhere else.  Why would he do that, you ask?

Well, the Dodgers were well stocked with premium starting pitching already (Koufax and Drysdale) and had a good stockpile of talent ready to come up (Sutton and Bill Singer were in the wings), so he reasoned that his path the the Majors would be slowed if he signed with the Dodgers.  I don't know if that rationale is necessarily true - after all, talent trumps all.  Nevertheless, on Christmas Eve in 1964 Rollie Fingers signed a contract with the Kansas City Athletics for $13,000. 

At this time, the uniform is on auction at SCP with a current bid of $2,144
(auction link)

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