Rollie Fingers

If you ever meet Rollie Fingers, you’ll marvel at just how big this guy is. At 6’4″, 190 lbs. in his prime, Fingers was imposing on the mound. For a big man, Fingers was gifted athletically. He was one of the best defenders off the mound of his or any other era. His 1981 season for the Brewers may be the best of any reliever in a single season.

Like Wilhelm and almost every other reliever who came up in the 1950s and 1960s, Fingers was a converted starter. I don’t think he would have fared as well as a starter as Wilhelm could have, however. Fingers relied heavily on two pitches, and one of them was an average fastball, by major league standards. Given a second or third look at him, batters would have gotten to him, I think. That’s not to say Fingers wasn’t great – his slider was a devastating pitch. In ’81 it was practically unhittable. But Rollie was perfectly suited for the role as a 2-3 innings pitcher. He has Dick Williams to thank for that, it was Williams who made Fingers into a closeout reliever (as they were called then). Williams and Fingers really created what is the modern role for closers.

Fingers career was nearly over before it started. Early in his minor league career, in one of his very first appearances, he was hit in the face by a line drive. It did only minor damage, thankfully.