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Angels great Chuck Finley talks with Halos Heaven

Longtime Angels ace Chuck Finley sat down with me to talk about his playing days and how he'd fare in the modern game.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Chuck Finley was the Angels ace for the late 80s and through the most of the 90s.  His career stats compare favorably to several Hall of Famers, and he is one of my all time favorite Angels.  I had the chance to speak with him recently and here's a transcript of how that talk went.

I’m not going to try to hide the fact you are one of my favorite Angels of all time.  Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, I really appreciate it.

Really?  Thanks.  You know nowadays when I go out to dinner or something I see a lot of guys say "my dad took me to watch you play when I was 4" and now they’re handing me a beer or bringing me dinner.  Makes me feel good, but a little old, ha ha.

I’m in my 40s, so you were the playing when players went from larger than life to guys about my age.  You, Wally, and Abbott were my favorite players of that era.

I appreciate that.  We had some good guys on those teams.

Back in your era, hitters focused more on putting the ball in play.  Nowadays the game is trending towards a home run or bust mentality and strikeouts are way up.  Would you change your approach to modern hitters and if so, how?

Well, you are 100% that it’s all about putting the ball over the fence.  I know one thing about today’s game the strike zone has shrunk so much I don’t know how competitive I’d be.  When I watch the game today it looks like every guy is looking for one pitch and if they get it they drive the ball and if not they strike out.

I’ve noticed this year the ball looks juiced a bit.  You agree?

Yes, I do.

You were known to rack up a lot of strikeouts yourself.  How do you, as a pitcher, get a feel for the strike zone and do certain umps have reputations for calling pitches one way or the other?

Oh yeah, I always knew who were the pitching umpires and who were the hitting umpires.  What I would try to do is establish myself as a strike thrower and work around the plate early.  That way the umpire gets used to calling a strike and then walks his way out there with you when you expand and start working the corners.

Nowadays players have to start at the corners.  I see pitches called balls that are right down the chute.  I can see the frustration on the pitchers.  It’s tough.

I came through the league when the umpires were more old school, they took care of the veteran guys, and if you showed them you could put the ball one inch off the plate consistently they’d call it.

Playing at the Big A, a lot gets talked about the Marine Layer.  It is the killer of home runs.  What was your experience pitching with the Marine Layer?

I never took much notice of the marine layer.  The Big A used to be a crazy to pitch during the Wednesday day games.  The ball used to fly out of there.

People always used to say "did you change the way you pitched in Fenway with that short right field pole?" or  "did you change the way you pitched in Yankee Stadium?" and I never changed the way I pitched.  I knew at Fenway I’d want to stay inside, but nothing major.

The one time a stadium kind of got to me was Colorado.  You really don’t even want to come out of the locker room.  You have to have some thick skin to pitch there.

Because of so many great performances, you are a definite fan favorite.  And you’re doing an event at the Big A before Saturday’s game.  What is that all about?

I always like getting out with the fans and having a good time.  I’m hosting the Hefty Flip Cup Challenge in the parking lot of the Big A on Saturday afternoon.  If you get to the game early you’ll see a big inflatable cup and we’ll have teams of four doing the flip cups and we could use some more teams.

Anybody who wants to swing by, please do.  Either get some friends and try it out or just check it out and say "hey."  All you have to do to play is show up and let them know you’re playing.  We’ll be there starting at 3.

You played on the Angels with two of my child heroes in Wally Joyner and Jim Abbott.  Any quick story about one of those two you can share with me?

Abbott and I roomed together and he lived with me his first year.  Hope I didn’t ruin his career too much living by the beach with me, ha ha.  All those players were cut from the same cloth.  Wally, if he had a bad game he’d stand there and answer the questions and tell you he had a bad game.

Abbott, his life story and what he’s done are incredible.  To play in the big leagues, as hard as that is and to have a piece missing, is incredible.  And that piece is so important.  And the lives he’s touched.  It’s just amazing.

Both of those guys are great guys and were great team mates.  Just really, really great guys.

Two of your rotation mates, Mark Langston and Bert Blyleven have gone into broadcasting.  Did you ever give that much thought after your playing days?

The Angels have invited me many times but I’ve always kept my gloves up.  I just don’t feel comfortable getting back out on the road for 81 games then back for 81 games.  It was fun when I was playing but it doesn’t appeal to me right now.

The Angels have been great about inviting me to coach or do radio or whatever I want.  My daughter is getting ready to school and I’m happy where I am.

I've gone out to Spring Training for a week or so each year.  There are so many players and so much going on, though, I can hardly keep up.  I ask the Angels "what should I do?" and they tell me "whatever you want."

Speaking of coaching,  I’m having a son in October.  When should I contact you about pitching lessons, ha ha?

Ha Ha. In October?  Congratulations.  I’d say, when he turns probably 9 or 10.

Thanks.  I’m going to take you up on that.

There we have it.  Finley sees the strike zone as tighter, the ball as jumping out of the park, and will groom my son to take his old spot as the ace of the Angels.  Ok, I might have stretched a bit on that last one.

Honestly, I had a blast and found Chuck a lot of fun to interview.  It might get lost a bit in writing, but we joked and laughed quite a bit; far more than the average interview.

Please share your thoughts and/or memories of seeing Chuck on the hill below.