Charlie Finley introduced mustaches, designated hitters and colored uniforms into baseball. Now the Oakland A's benevolent despot wants the major leagues to adopt orange baseballs and change the ball-and-strike rules (to three and three).

If this be madness, there is method in it. Finley has outraged his fellow owners and exasperated his players, but the A's won their third straight World Series, the longest string of championships since the 1949-1953 Yankees.

"I didn't go into baseball to win any popularity contests," Finley says. "There is only one person I have to satisfy: me."

At 56, Finley, head of a Chicago insurance company, is eminently satisfied. He feels no ill effects from his August 1973 heart attack. His chief complaint is that his wife of 33 years has sued him for divorce. "They tell me now that it's better the second time around," Finley says. "I'm still hoping we can get back together."

He may win back his wife, but not baseball's other moguls. At the owners' annual winter meeting, he won permission to test his orange ball. But his suggestion to make three balls a walk was turned down. Afterwards he mused: "I don't want to criticize the other owners. But we in baseball could solve our problems overnight by getting more action into the game and these crazy bastards aren't smart enough to realize it. That's why at the meeting I pound the table and tell them, 'If you guys had brains in your heads, you'd be idiots.' That gets their attention."

No doubt about that.