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Ryan Inzana
Ryan Inzana

The Barnum of Baseball

Ryan Inzana
Ryan Inzana

Charlie Finley worked as an insurance salesman, but he never insured himself. At 28, he contracted a nearly fatal case of tuberculosis, and his health—and bank account—suffered. Finley was hospitalized for two years, rendering him destitute. Then he had an idea.

While in the sanitorium, Finley used his sob story to convince doctors to buy disability insurance—and boy, did they! Within a few years, Finley was a multimillionaire, and in 1960, he bought the downtrodden Kansas City Athletics.

Finley immediately became one of the league’s most eccentric owners. In 1963, he replaced the Athletics’ old elephant mascot with a live mule named Charlie-O. Finley brought the mule everywhere, from cocktail parties to press conferences. In 1965, relief pitchers were required to ride Charlie-O from the bullpen to the pitcher’s mound.

Three years later, Finley moved the team to Oakland, California. In 1972, he offered a $300 bonus to the player who grew the best moustache. By Father’s Day, all 25 of his players were sporting lip mittens—but Rollie Fingers’s handlebar bristles won the prize.

Fans ate it up, but the stunts motivated the players, too: Starting that year, the A’s won three straight World Series titles.

This story originally appeared in an issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe here.

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Pop Culture
The Simpsons's Classic Baseball Episode Gets the Mockumentary Treatment
Fox Sports, YouTube
Fox Sports, YouTube

Opinions vary widely about the continued existence of The Simpsons, which just began its 29th season. Some believe the show ran out of steam decades ago, while others see no reason why the satirical animated comedy can’t run forever.

Both sides will no doubt have something to say about the episode airing Sunday, October 22, which reframes the premise of the show’s classic “Homer at the Bat” installment from 1992 as a Ken Burns-style mockumentary titled Springfield of Dreams: The Legend of Homer Simpson.

As Mashable reports, “Homer at the Bat” saw Montgomery Burns launch his own baseball team and populate it with real major league players like Wade Boggs, Steve Sax, and Jose Canseco to dominate the competition. In the one-hour special, the players will discuss their (fictional) participation, along with interviews featuring Homer and other members of the animated cast.

It’s not clear how much of the special will break the fourth wall and go into the actual making of the episode, a backstory that involves guest star Ken Griffey Jr. getting increasingly frustrated recording his lines and Canseco’s wife objecting to a scene in which her husband's animated counterpart wakes up in bed with lecherous schoolteacher Edna Krabappel.

Morgan Spurlock (Super-Size Me) directed the special, which is slated to air on Fox at either 3 p.m. EST or 4:30 p.m. EST depending on NFL schedules in local markets. There will also be a new episode of The Simpsons—an annual Halloween-themed "Treehouse of Horror" installment—airing in its regular 8 p.m. time slot.

[h/t Mashable]

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Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
Great Big Story, Youtube
Great Big Story, Youtube

Seattle Mariners fans have more than warmed up to the newest, offbeat addition to the Safeco Field concessions menu: toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt.

The crunchy snack, which sells for $4 and comes packed in a small container, has only been available for less than a season but has already sold 300,000-plus orders to date. That's about 1000 pounds of grasshoppers. 

Frequenters of Seattle's popular Mexican restaurant Poquitos will know that this delicacy—which first started as a novelty item on its menu—has actually been available to the public for six years. But it wasn't until local chef Ethan Stowell was hired to give the Safeco Field menu a hip retooling that the salty bugs found new, fervent popularity at the ballpark. (Also on the Safeco menu: fried oysters drizzled in hot sauce.)

Great Big Story met up with Manny Arce, the executive chef of Poquitos and visionary behind this culinary home run, to discuss the popularity of these crunchy critters. You can watch the video interview below:

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