Rollie Fingers was born on August 25th, 1946 and attended Upland High School in Upland California. In 1964, Fingers would be signed to a contract by the KC Athletics. In 1968, after the A's had moved to Oakland, Fingers would make his MLB debut against the Detroit Tigers, giving up 4 runs in 1.1 innings.
On May 13th in 1969, against the Boston Red Sox, Fingers would pick up his first save. From 1969-1973, Fingers would pitch as a starter, reliever and closer for the A's. In that time span, Fingers would start 37 games for the A's and even pitch four complete games. In 1973, however Fingers would make his last start, and begin his career as an exclusive closer, earning himself his first of seven All-Star selections.
During spring training in 1972, A's owner Charles Finley offered a $300 bonus to the player that could grow the best facial hair. Inspired by Snidely Whiplash, Fingers grew the famed handlebar mustache that he became famous for, and still sports to this day.
Rollie Fingers would play a critical role for the A's during their dominance of the AL in the early 1970's. In 1972-1974 the Oakland A's "three-peated" as World Series Champions. In the 1972 WS, Fingers pitched in 6 of the 7 games, logging 10.1 innings, winning one and saving two of the games. In 1973 Fingers pitched in 6 of 7 games again, only allowing 1 run in 13.2 innings, while saving 2 games. In 1974 Fingers won the WS MVP award, as he pitched in four of the five games, winning 1 and saving 2 of the games against the LA Dodgers.
In 1977 Fingers would begin a four year stint with the SD Padres. In three of those seasons, Fingers would win the Rolaids Relief Awards, twice leading the NL in saves. In 1980 Fingers would record his 228th save, breaking the standard set by HOFer, Hoyt Wilhelm.
After the 1980 season the SD Padres traded Fingers to the Cardinals with Gene Tenace and two other players to the StL Cardinals for catcher Terry Kennedy and seven other players. The very next day the Cardinals traded Ken Reitz and Leon Durham to the Cubs for future Hall of Famer closer, Bruce Sutter. At that point the Cardinals had two future HOF closers on their roster with Fingers and Sutter. Only four days after acquiring Fingers, the Cardinals sent Fingers along with switch-hitting catcher Ted Simmons, and starter Pete Vuckovich to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Sixto Lezcano, starter Lary Sorenson, and prospects David Green and Dave LaPoint.
Rollie Fingers made his first appearance as a Brewer on opening day in 1981 against the Cleveland Indians. He took the ball with one out in the eighth inning and a one run lead. Fingers gave up a couple of hits and a walk, but got through the eighth and ninth innings without surrendering the lead, and saved his first game for the Milwaukee Brewers.
During the 1981 strike-shortened season, Fingers would appear in 47 games, and the Brewers would win 40 of the games he entered. Brewer manager Buck Rodgers was not afraid to use Fingers more than an inning, as Fingers made 31 multiple inning appearances in 1981 as well. Seven times Fingers entered the game in the seventh inning and 20 times Fingers entered the game in the 8th inning. Fingers made 18 appearances in which he pitched two or more innings.
Fingers would end the 1981 season with 47 games (finishing 41), 78 innings, 61 strikeouts and 13 walks, and a minuscule 1.04 ERA. Of the 38 base runners he inherited, only ten would come around to score. Fingers would also lead the league in saves with 28, converting 82% of his save opportunities, and win both the AL MVP and Cy Young awards -- being the first Brewer to win either of those awards.
The Brewers qualified for the playoffs for the first time in 1981, and because of the player's strike that shortened the season, the Brewers had to face the NY Yankees in a five game divisional series. The Brewers only won 2 of the 5 games with the Yankees, Fingers won one of the games and saved the other.
1982 would be the first year that the Milwaukee Brewers would represent the American League in the World Series. Rollie Fingers would pitch in 50 games for the Brewers, with the Brewers winning 39 of those contests. In those 50 games Fingers would rack up over 79.2 innings. In over half (27) of his appearances he was needed to pitch more that one inning. He entered the game in the 7th inning 10 times, and the 8th inning 14 times. Only 8 out of 35 inherited runners would be allowed to score, and Fingers converted 83% of his save opportunities.
Rollie Fingers represented the Brewers in the All-Star Game for the second time in 1982 (he took the loss for the AL in 1981). Unfortunately, on Sep. 2nd of the 1982 season, Fingers would make his last appearance of the year, as he suffered a season ending injury. The Brewers would go on to win the AL pennant, and beat the Angels in the AL Championship Series, to face the StL. Cardinals and their closer Bruce Sutter in the World Series.
Fingers would end up missing the 1982 post-season and the entire 1983 season as well. In 1984 Fingers would return to the Brewers and would pitch effectively enough to save 23 games in 33 appearances, but would be shut down for the season near the end of July. The Brewers would sign Fingers to pitch one more season in 1985, however after a very unremarkable season he would be released.
Pete Rose, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, offered Fingers a roster spot for the 1986 season. However, Reds owner Marge Schott had a strict rule requiring all players to be clean-shaven. Given the choice between shaving his mustache or retiring, Fingers opted to retire but not before he suggested that Marge Schott go shave her St. Bernard.
When Rollie Fingers retired, he had pitched in 944 career MLB games, starting only 37 of those games. He saved 341 games, which would be later broken by Jeff Reardon and others. In 1992, with 81.2% of the vote, Rollie Fingers became the first "modern day closer" to be elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Eventually both the A's and the Brewers would retire the #34 uniform honoring Rollie Fingers, making Fingers one of only 8 MLB players with this honor.