The four-hour, open-heart surgery Charles O. Finley underwent Thursday night has added to the uncertainty surrounding the future of his Oakland A's baseball club and his multiple roles as manager, general manager and chief spokesman.
Finley's condition was listed as satisfactory yesterday at a Chicago hospital where a team of six surgeons performed a coronary bypass procedure after discovering arterial blockage.
Dr. Jerry Smith, Finley's personal physician, said the 59-year-old owner would remain in the hospital for a few weeks.The long-range prognosis, Smyth said, is "perfect".
Until a few years ago, Finley also owned the California Golden Seals of the National Hockey League and the Memphis Tams of the American Basketball Association. He sold the teams back to their respective leagues, explaining that his doctors had advised him to get out of sports.
In the past two years, there has been widespread speculation - often kindled by Kinley himself - that he might have similiar plans for his baseball club. The A's once a proud and feisty champion in three World Series, "really should be a Triple-A club now," one close observer remarked.
The comment was a reflection on Finley's counting personal and business problems that have prompted him to sell the contracts of as many of Oakland's stellar players as he could.
So far this year, Finley has sold seven veterans and taken on three whose combined experience amounted to a total of 83 major league games last year.
He has told reporters that some of the sales were necessary to meet the payroll. One general manager who purchased on Oakland contract this year noted that Finley insisted immediate cash payment.
There are multiple reasons for Finley's finiancial woes, not the least of which is the San Francisco Giants across the bay. Before Finley moved his American League club to Oakland in 1968, the National League Giants were drawing well over a million. Now, both are twisting slowly in the wind.
One step up from the cellar-dwelling Seattle mariners, an expansion team, in the AL West, Oakland has the lowest attendance in the majors.
In 66 home dates the A's have drawn 478,508 persons, an average daily attendance of 7,250 - or almost 12,000 below the league average.
With six home dates remaining, Oakland is trailing its last year's alltime low of 780,593 and a daily average attendance of 9,637.
The Giants are doing only slightly better. They have attracted 627,591 in 62 home dates through last Sunday, for an average daily attendance of 10,122.
At various times ,Finley has put out feelers on possible sale of the A's. He also protested that it will be the Giants - and not Oakland - who will leave the Bay area.
The A's have often been mentioned as the most likely avenue for a franchise in Washington - if Finley could not move here because of hte territorial rights fo the Baltimore Orioles of the same league.
Earlier this year, Finley suggested that the two leagues could buy him out of his lease, which runs through 1987, has what some lawyers condider to be an escape clause.
Finley's club problems have been compounded by legal developments in baseball, a costly divorce suit and the loss of some of his insurance company's major clients. One, the American Medical Association, once did $43 million worth of business with his firm annually.
These problem, plus the constant player squabbles and subsequentdefections the precarious financial state of the club and his recent surgery pose more questions about the future of Charlie Finley and the Oakland A's.