Finley, who grew up in Paducah, Kentucky, attended Paducah Tilghman High School and Southern Illinois University, where he earned a degree in physiology and played for the baseball team from 1984–87.
College, Team USA, and minor leagues
In 1986, Finley was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 11th round of the draft, but did not sign, instead choosing to remain at SIU, where he was 2-time All-Missouri Valley Conference performer and a third-team All-American in 1986.
He was a member of the 1986 Team USA squad that won a bronze medal during international competition in the Netherlands.
In 919 at bats in the minor leagues, Finley batted .309 and stole 68 bases.
In January 1991, he was traded by the Orioles with Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling to the Houston Astros for Glenn Davis. That year he was third in the league in triples (10), sixth in hits (170), ninth in stolen bases (34), and tenth in sacrifice hits (10). His 13 outfield assists tied Barry Bonds and Paul O'Neill for third in the league.
In 1992, he led the NL in games played (162), was second in triples (13), third in stolen bases (44; a career high) and sacrifice hits (10), and seventh in hits (177).
In 1993, he led the league in triples (13). He had been slowed in spring training by Bell's Palsy, a viral infection of a nerve in his upper neck, resulting in numbness that prevented him from closing his left eye.
In 1994, he was second in the league in sacrifice hits (13), and tenth in triples (5). He appeared in only 94 games of an injury and strike-shortened season, missing nearly a month after being hit by a pitch on June 8 in Montreal, breaking the 3rd metacarpal bone in his right hand.
In December 1994, he was traded by the Astros with Ken Caminiti, Andujar Cedeno, Roberto Petagine, Brian Williams, and minor leaguer Sean Fesh to the San Diego Padres for Derek Bell, Doug Brocail, Ricky Gutierrez, Pedro A. Martinez, Phil Plantier, and Craig Shipley.
In 1995, Finley batted a career-high .297 and was third in the league in runs (104) and triples (8), and fourth in stolen bases (36) and hits (167). Finley also won his first Gold Glove Award. He was the only National League player to have 100 runs, 10 home runs, and 35 stolen bases. He stole a career-high 4 bases on August 12 vs. St.Louis. He was in the delivery room on September 1 when son Reed was born, and then headed to the ballpark and played in the 8th and 9th innings of San Diego's 6–3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.
He was named MVP in the All-Stars Series between Japan and United States (Tokyo, 1996). Later in 1996, during Rickey Henderson’s first season with San Diego, he boarded the team bus and was looking for a seat. Finley said, “You have tenure, sit wherever you want.” Henderson looked at Finley and said, “Ten years? Ricky’s been playing at least 16, 17 years.”
In 1996, Finley was second in the NL in runs (126; a career high) and doubles (45), third in extra base hits (84), fourth in triples (9), and sixth in hits (195). Finley won his second Gold Glove Award. He came in tenth in the MVP voting. He established Padres' records in runs, doubles, extra-base hits ,and total bases. He wrapped up 1996 by earning MVP honors on an 8-game Major League Baseball All-Star tour through Japan.
In 1997, he hit three home runs in a game twice in the same season (May 19 and June 23. Finley was voted to the All Star team, and finished eighth in the league in runs (101).
In December 1998, he signed as a free agent with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He hit his first game-ending grand slam (April 10, 1998. In 1999, he hit three home runs and drove in 6 runs in a game on September 8, 1999. That season he had 34 home runs and a career-high 103 RBI, and was seventh in the league in extra base hits (76). Finley also won his third Gold Glove Award.
In 2000, he had 35 home runs and a career-high .544 slugging percentage, and was ninth in the league in sacrifice flies (9). He was also voted to the All Star team. Furthermore, Finley had 10 assists, and won his fourth Gold Glove Award. He was named the team co-Player-of-the-Year with Luis Gonzalez by the Arizona chapter of the BBWAA.
In 2001, Finley had a disappointing regular season but more than made up for it with a stellar post season, leading the Diamondbacks with a .421 batting average in the National League Division Series and 5 RBI in the National League Championship Series as Arizona went on to win its first World Series.
In 2003, Finley led the league in triples (10), becoming the oldest player in Major League history to lead his league in triples.
He hit his second career game-ending grand slam October 2, 2004. In 2004, he was eighth in at bats (628) and plate appearances (706), and was ninth in home runs (36; the third highest total ever for a 39-year-old in the Majors, behind Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron). Finley also won his fifth Gold Glove Award. He also tied Pete Rose's record of playing in 162 games at the age of 39. He hit a game-winning, walk-off grand slam to cap a seven-run ninth inning on October 2 against San Francisco that clinched National League Western Division championship for the Dodgers.
In December 2004, Finley signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. In 2005, he missed 18 games due to strained right shoulder, his first DL stint since 1997. In December 2005 he was traded by the Angels to the San Francisco Giants for Edgardo Alfonzo.
In 2006, at the age of 41, Finley became the oldest player ever to play more than 100 games in center field.
On November 1, 2006, the Giants declined their option on Finley for the 2007 season, which made him a free agent. On February 24, 2007, Finley signed a minor-league contract with the Colorado Rockies. After an impressive spring, Finley made their Opening Day roster. On June 5, 2007 the Rockies designated Finley for assignment, giving the Rockies 10 days to trade, release, or outright Finley to the minor leagues. Finley had batted .181 (17-for-94) with one home run and two RBIs in 43 games for Colorado. He was released on June 17, 2007. At the time of his release, of all active players, he was 1st in triples (124), 3rd in games (2,583) and at-bats (9,397), 4th in hits (2,548), 7th in runs (1,443), 8th in total bases (4,157), and 9th in doubles (449) and stolen bases (320). He also had the 4th-most center field appearances in major league history. He was also the 6th-oldest player in the NL.
Despite a disappointing 2007 for Finley, he isn't ready to retire just yet. Finley asked his agent, Casey Close, to look for openings, and specifically expressed an interest in playing again for San Diego, but was not signed.
Finley is married to the former Amy Jantzen, and has three sons (Austin, 1993; Reed, 1995; and Blake, 1997) and two daughters (Franchesca, 2001; and Sophia, 2005).
- List of NL Gold Glove Winners at Outfield
- List of major league players with 2,000 hits
- Top 500 home run hitters of all time
- 300-300 club
- 2001 World Series
- List of Major League Baseball players with 400 doubles
- List of Major League Baseball players with 100 triples
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 runs
- List of Major League Baseball players with 1000 RBI
- List of Major League Baseball triples champions
- Major League Baseball hitters with three home runs in one game
- Crasnick, Jerry. "Despite letdown in '07, Finley not ready to retire", ESPN.com, November 21, 2007. Accessed November 22, 2007.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Baseball Almanac - photos and miscellaneous
- BaseballLibrary - biography and career highlights
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