Rollie Fingers: 34 days till Padres’ Opening Day

CR: John Iacono

Credit: AP Photo

When Matt Carpenter joined the Padres this offseason, there was a lot of talk about his facial hair, specifically his mustache.

Then at the Padres fanfest this year, center fielder Trent Grisham revealed he was going to be rocking the stache as well in 2023.

From Craig Lefferts to Goose Gossage to Dale Thayer and even owner Peter Seidler, the mustache has been iconic to Padres fans for generations. But none were greater than the infamously waxed handlebar mustache of Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, rated as the greatest mustache in MLB history according to baseballreference.com.

Rollie Fingers

Over the course of a 17-year MLB career, Roland Glen Fingers was one of the greatest pitchers in the game. He retired with a 114-118 record, a 2.90 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, and 1,299 strikeouts throughout 944 games pitched with the Oakland Athletics, the Padres, and the Milwaukee Brewers.

After rising through the ranks of the minor leagues as a starting pitcher, Fingers joined the Athletics as a reliever.

The seven-time All-Star helped redefine the value of relievers within baseball and ushered in the modern closer role. Fingers’ 341 career saves were the most in MLB history at the time of his retirement.

He led the major leagues in saves three times and was named Rolaids Relief Man of the Year four times.

Fingers was inducted into Cooperstown in 1992, the second reliever to ever do so at that time, joining Hoyt Wilhelm.

Credit: AP Photo

Prior to joining the Padres, Fingers spent nine seasons with the A’s from 1968 to 1976. In his time there, helped win the team three consecutive World Series titles, including in 1974 when he was named World Series MVP.

Fingers joined the Padres as a free agent following the conclusion of the 1976 season and made an instant impact, winning the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year Award in 1977, 1978, and 1980 with the Friars.

In his first season with the club, Fingers surpassed the young franchise’s record of 16 career saves, shared by Vicente Romo and Butch Metzger, and in 1978 he tied Clay Carroll‘s NL single-season record of 37 saves.

The mark was again tied the following year by Bruce Sutter, who eventually shattered the record with 45 saves in 1984. Near the end of his time with the Padres, Fingers passed teammate Randy Jones to become the club’s career leader with 265 games pitched.
Following four seasons with San Diego, on December 8, 1980, the Padres traded Fingers along with teammates Gene Tenace and Bob Shirley and a player to be named later (later selected to be Bob Geren) to the St. Louis Cardinals for Terry Kennedy, John Littlefield, Al Olmsted, Mike Phillips, Kim Seaman, Steve Swisher, and John Urrea.

Fingers never played for the Red Birds, though. Only a few days later, the Cardinals traded Fingers, Ted Simmons, and Pete Vuckovich to the Milwaukee Brewers for Sixto Lezcano, Lary Sorensen, David Green, and Dave LaPoint.

In 1981, Fingers put together one of the greatest single seasons in the history of the game for a relief pitcher.

The newly minted Brewer recorded a 1.04 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP, and 28 saves in 47 games for Milwaukee, leading the team to its first only WS appearance.

Fingers was the first-ever reliever to win the Most Valuable Player award and the second to win a Cy Young.

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Fun Facts

  • Just before the start of the 1974 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Fingers and teammate Blue Moon Odom got into a fight in the A’s locker room after Odom made a comment about Fingers’ wife. Though the incident lasted less than a minute, Fingers required six stitches on his head, and Odom sprained his ankle and had a noticeable limp.
  • Fingers is one of only ten players who have had their numbers retired from more than one team (A’s and Brewers).
  • In 2000, Fingers was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions, honoring the city’s finest athletes both on and off the playing surface.
  • Fingers originally grew his mustache to get a $300 bonus from Athletics owner Charles O. Finley.
    After being released by the Brewers after the 1985 season, Fingers was offered the opportunity to play with the Reds in 1986 but turned it down due to the team’s “clean cut” policy. No mustache? Then no baseball!
  • Dodgers’ slugger Bill Buckner once said, “the only thing stronger than my swing was the beauty of his mustache.”
  • Fingers and his wife Jill are high school sweethearts.

Other 34’s

Fingers (1977-1980) is one of 29 players in franchise history to wear the number 34. Others include Trevor Hoffman (1993), Fernando Valenzuela (1995-1997), Andrew Cashner (2012-2016), and Craig Stammen (2017-present).

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