Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday… Rollie Fingers


Fingers was a starter throughout his minor league career. He had started 19 games in 1970. But a May 15, 1971 start against the Royals in Kansas City would be his last in regular rotation (he gave up one run on four hits in five full innings; final score Royals 5 – A’s 4). He came in on May 21, 1971 in the first inning against the Minnesota Twins in Oakland after Blue Moon Odom gave up three runs and three walks facing eight batters. He pitched 5-1/3 allowing three hits and two runs (Twins 10 – Oakland 1). After that his earliest entrance to a game was in the sixth inning, and only three times. Mainly he came in the seventh, eighth, or ninth (he came in once in the eleventh and once in the twelfth).

By the end of May 1971 his manager with the Athletics, Dick Williams, had made up his mind that Fingers would be the late inning closer. The following season, 1972, Fingers entered the game in the fifth four times, otherwise it was the sixth or later. He did start two games in 1973 (April 21 versus the California Angels at Oakland and May 7 against the Orioles at Baltimore; His May 7, 1973 start was the last of his career), other than that he came into the game no earlier than the sixth on three more occasions. After that he rarely entered a game before the seventh inning for the rest of his career.

Fingers is regarded as a pioneer of modern relief pitching, essentially defining the role of the closer for years to come. As had generally been true in baseball through the 1960s, Fingers was originally moved to the bullpen—and eventually to his role as a closer—due to struggles with starting. Before Fingers’ time, a former starter’s renewed success in the bullpen would have led back to a spot in the starting rotation; but since the successes of not only Fingers but also contemporaries such as Sparky Lyle and Goose Gossage, it has been widely accepted that an excellent pitcher might actually provide a greater benefit to his team as a closer than as a third or fourth starter. (Gossage, for example, was moved to the starting rotation after a first few seasons in relief—and he got clobbered despite pitching 17 complete games and was then moved back to the bullpen to stay.) As a result, later teams have been more willing to move successful starters—notably Dennis Eckersley, Dave Righetti, and John Smoltz—to the permanent role of closer, with no plans to bring them back to the rotation (although Smoltz bucked that trend by successfully returning to the rotation in 2005). In 2006, Bruce Sutter became the first pitcher in baseball history elected to the Hall of Fame who never started a game in his major league career.

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday salutes …Rollie Fingers

MLB debut
September 15, 1968 for the Oakland Athletics
Last MLB appearance
September 17, 1985 for the Milwaukee Brewers
Career statistics
Games pitched 944
Win–loss record 114–118
Earned run average 2.90
Strikeouts 1,299
Saves 341

Oakland Athletics (1968–1976)
San Diego Padres (1977–1980)
Milwaukee Brewers (1981–1985)

Career highlights and awards

7× All-Star (1973–1976, 1978, 1981, 1982)
3× World Series champion (1972–1974)
AL MVP (1981)
AL Cy Young Award (1981)
World Series MVP (1974)
4× Rolaids Relief Man of the Year (1977, 1978, 1980, 1981)
3× Saves champion (1977, 1978, 1981)
Oakland Athletics #34 retired
Milwaukee Brewers #34 retire

Published by bklynboy59

Welcome to Smallthoughtsinasportsworld. We keep it fun and we keep interesting and informative. On Tuesdays we go back in time with Old School Tuesdays, on Thursdays we keep it fun by Smallthoughts Trivia Thursday and on Fridays is Smallthoughts: Rant of the Week and Smallthoughts:Rave of the Week and we also post the answer from Smallthoughts:Trivia Thursday. I am a lifelong New York Mets, Knicks and Jets and Giants fan. I root hard for my teams and have rooted for them even when it wasn't and in some cases still isn't easy. I enjoy talking sports, and on here I get to write about it as well. I have my thoughts hence Small thoughts, we will not always agree, but respectfully speak about what we feel. I invite your comments and feedback as well. You can also follow me on twitter @bklynboy59 and facebook Jerry bklynboy Small

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