Fifty years ago, the Hawk’s forgotten sneak preview

Ken Harrelson, a young Kansas City Athletic, before Charlie Finley inadvertently shoved him to show a sneak peek at what players could get on a fair and open market in 1967 . . .

Ken Harrelson, a young Kansas City Athletic, before Charlie Finley inadvertently shoved him to show a sneak peek at what players could get on a fair and open market in 1967 . . .

When you think of the advent of baseball’s free agency era, you think of Curt Flood, Catfish Hunter, and Andy Messersmith first, and in that order. As Ted Simmons phrased it, following the Messersmith ruling of 1975, “Curt Flood stood up for us. Jim Hunter showed us what was out there. Andy showed us the way.”

Charlie’s Devils

Finley (left) with Dick Williams, who managed back-to-back Series champs before trying to escape the asylum.

Finley (left) with Dick Williams, who managed back-to-back Series champs before trying to escape the asylum.

It’s mentioned only in passing in Jason Turnbow’s Dynastic, Bombastic, Fantastic: Reggie, Rollie, Catfish, and Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s. (New York: Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt; 386 p, $26.) But what Finley did to outfielder Ken (Hawk) Harrelson in 1967 gave a sneak preview into two things.

Finley showed what he was capable of doing to divide and conquer his own team, never mind that he often united the team against him. And the Hawk showed what a player considered top drawer or with the visible potential to get there could earn on a fair, open market, at a time when baseball owners continued abusing the ancient reserve clause to keep them chattel.