In a way, A'sowner Charlie Finley treated his players like dolls. He dressed them in gaudyuniforms and white shoes, paid them to grow facial hair and frequently pulledtheir strings--to get them not to talk. Ironic, then, that Sal Bando, thetough-as-nails A's captain who often clashed with Finley, is now in the dollbusiness--the CEO of the Hartland, Wis.-based Middleton Doll Company. Bandosays Finley's management style influenced his own. "He taught me to makesure you get talented people to work for you," says Bando, 63. "What Ilearned not to do is treat people unfairly." The power-hitting thirdbaseman led the A's in a near revolt in 1976 after Finley refused to allow aceVida Blue, closer Rollie Fingers and outfielder Joe Rudi to play, as a protestagainst commissioner Bowie Kuhn's ruling that Finley couldn't sell the three."Finley aired me out on the radio," says Bando. "You learn that'snot the way you do business."
Bando retired in'81 and got involved in business while remaining in baseball (he was G.M. ofthe Brewers from '91 to '99). He oversaw a complicated set of deals thatresulted in his taking over Middleton, which makes collectible dolls thatretail for as much as $250. "I had to go to a doll show in Orlando," hesays. "You talk about a fish out of water! For someone who's been in sportshis whole life and doesn't have any daughters, it really wasdifferent."
But of all hisachievements, 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 hadpainted a tribute to the A's on his curb. "It only took 15 or 20 minutes torecord the voice-over," says Bando, "but more people ask me about thatthan anything else."
Bando applies lessons he learned under Finley to running MiddletonDoll.