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Ryan Inzana

The Barnum of Baseball

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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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Great Big Story, Youtube
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video
Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
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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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History
The First High Five Recorded in the History of Sports
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Denis Poroy/Getty Images

We don’t quite know who invented the high five—but we can pinpoint the moment it became inextricably linked with sports, which the short documentary The High Five explores below.

On October 2, 1977, Los Angeles Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker scored his 30th home run, making the team the first in history to have four players—Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Reggie Smith—with at least 30 homers under each of their belts. Fellow outfielder Glenn Burke was so overwhelmed with joy and pride, he raised his arm and slapped his flat palm against the victorious athlete’s own palm. The moment transformed Baker and Burke into legends.

Sadly, the latter player faced hard times ahead: Burke was gay, and it’s believed that his sexuality prompted team officials to trade him to the Oakland A's the following year. In Oakland, Burke clashed with team manager Billy Martin, then retired early from baseball. Today, Burke is remembered for his charisma and talent—and for transforming a simple gesture into a universal symbol. “To think his energy and personality was the origin of that, that’s a pretty good legacy,” sportswriter Lyle Spencer says in the film.

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