June 27, 2007

This Where Are They Now feature and others like it can be found in the July 2nd issue of Sports Illustrated.

In a way, A's owner Charlie Finley treated his players like dolls. He dressed them in gaudy uniforms and white shoes, paid them to grow facial hair and frequently pulled their strings -- to get them not to talk. Ironic, then, that Sal Bando, the tough-as-nails A's captain who often clashed with Finley, is now in the doll business -- the CEO of the Hartland, Wis.-based Middleton Doll Company. Bando says Finley's management style influenced his own. "He taught me to make sure you get talented people to work for you," says Bando, 63. "What I learned not to do is treat people unfairly." The power-hitting third baseman led the A's in a near revolt in 1976 after Finley refused to allow ace Vida Blue, closer Rollie Fingers and outfielder Joe Rudi to play, as a protest against commissioner Bowie Kuhn's ruling that Finley couldn't sell the three. "Finley aired me out on the radio," says Bando. "You learn that's not the way you do business."

Bando retired in '81 and got involved in business while remaining in baseball (he was G.M. of the Brewers from '91 to '99). He oversaw a complicated set of deals that resulted in his taking over Middleton, which makes collectible dolls that retail for as much as $250. "I had to go to a doll show in Orlando," he says. "You talk about a fish out of water! For someone who's been in sports his whole life and doesn't have any daughters, it really was different."

But of all his achievements, including three titles and four All-Star Games, one stands out: In May he and Gene Tenace appeared on The Simpsons, driving by after Homer had painted a tribute to the A's on his curb. "It only took 15 or 20 minutes to record the voice-over," says Bando, "but more people ask me about that than anything else."

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