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October 19, 2011

The Lineup Card

13 Iconic Instances of Facial Hair

by Baseball Prospectus

In honor of the now playoff-departed John Axford, this week's Lineup Card will focus on some of the best examples of baseball player facial hair of all-time.

1) Rollie Fingers

As I write this, a Google search for "iconic mustache" (no quotes) returns 621,000 results. Among the first five are a Facebook fan page for a band using that name, a page about some college basketball coach who shaved his facial hair, and three pages identifying the top mustaches of all time. Among the men and women (hello, Frida Kahlo) who appear on these latter lists, three names are common to all three: Tom Selleck, Salvador Dali, and Rollie Fingers. And while it is true that Selleck wore a Tigers cap in Magnum, P.I. and played an aging slugger in Mr. Baseball, it is equally true that Dali never won the American League MVP. Furthermore, Fingers in 1986 turned down a minor-league contract from the Cincinnati Reds because they required him to shave his mustache, which he refused to do unless Reds owner Marge Schott shaved her dog (puzzled by Schott's objections, Fingers once observed, "She had more facial hair than I did."). This effectively ended the 39-year-old Fingers's career and cemented his status as the Awesomest of the Awesome. Geoff Young

2) Old Hoss Radbourn

The picture you've seen of Old Hoss Radbourn, this one, shows him with a neatly cropped mustache. I knew a guy with a mustache like that; he was a high school sportswriter who went to church every Sunday and said shucks a lot. Good guy. For all I know, the real Old Hoss Radbourn said shucks a lot, too. I don't know. But the fake Old Hoss Radbourn is snide and cynical and enjoys whores and whiskey, and if he were alive today, you'd love him for a year and then you'd hate him, the same way fans eventually hate every player who talks a lot and sticks around. And he'd have a nutso mustache that looked like a Flying V, and after he struck out the last batter of a game he'd pretend to play Crazy Train on it. Oh, would you hate him. Sam Miller

3) Kevin Mattison

This, ladies and gentleman, is the AFL OPS leader. R.J. Anderson

4) Mr. Redlegs

In 1967, the Cincinnati Reds responded to the terrifying specter of the Summer of Love by requiring all players to sport neatly trimmed hair and clean-shaven faces. This policy may have cost them a chance to sign Rollie Fingers, who refused to sell out his signature handlebar ‘stache for twenty pieces of Marge Schott silver, and the policy was finally rescinded in 1999 after newly-acquired slugger Greg Vaughn met with Schott and begged to keep his goatee. It’s therefore a little ironic that baseball’s largest mustache belongs to Mr. Redlegs, Cincinnati’s throwback mascot, whose soup strainer could easily absorb a full blivet of tomato bisque. Ken Funck

5) Jack Morris

—Adam Tower

6) Ken Phelps

Ken Phelps was "Moneyball" before the term existed: an undervalued player whose abilities in the two most fundamental skills a hitter can possessgetting on base and hitting for powerfar eclipsed his perceived deficiencies. While it's a shame that Phelps wasn't offered regular playing time in the major leagues until he was almost 30, it's a downright crime that the man's prodigious nose neighbor was buried in the minors for the prime of his career, leaving us to wonder what extraordinary feats he and it could have accomplished had they only been given a chance. Bradley Ankrom

One of the most notable Seattle Mariners talking points of 2011: Brendan Ryan’s facial hair (though terms like “molestache” and “porn ‘stache” were used to describe it). —Paige Landsem

8) Gorman Thomas

Between his longish hair, thick sideburns, and bushy mustache—with or without several days of stubble for a beard—Thomas looked more like a motorcycle thug than a ballplayer, but from 1978 through 1982, only Mike Schmidt hit more homers than he did (175), and no one struck out more (706 times). Not averse to enjoying a cold one with County Stadium tailgaters, Thomas epitomized the rough-around-the-edges spirit of Harvey's Wallbangers and was well attuned to what brought fans to the ballpark. "They come to see me strike out, hit a home run, or run into a fence. I try to accommodate them at least one way every game." Jay Jaffe

9) Goose Gossage

In 1978, the Yankees won their second straight World Series. Some say it was due to Ron Guidry’s historically great season. Others might point to Graig Nettles’s strong year at the dish and in the field. I am more inclined to believe it was infusion of Goose Gossage (and his facial hair) before the season which inspired the Yankees to take home the title. No one can deny that adding Goose Gossage(‘s facial hair) to an already strong bullpen led by Sparky Lyle propelled the Yankees in the late 1970s and early 80s. —Sam Tydings

10) Scott Spiezio

Spiezio's soul patch made it appear as though he'd cut himself shaving and was perpetually gushing a geyser of blood from the region below his lower lip, but shaving wasn't his problemnot shaving was. Spiezio's diligence in maintaining his montrosity required daily dyeing and inspired numerous imitators, but any attempt to replicate this follicular affront was less an homage than a copycat crime. Bonus fact: if we ever do a Lineup Card on the worst tattoos of all time, you'll be seeing Spiezio again.Ben Lindbergh

11) Bruce Sutter
              

At some pointsometime this winter, mayberigorous study needs to be done on the relationship between closers and facial hair. Bruce Sutter not only was one of the game’s great firemen, but he sported an all-time great beard. When Sutter and his mustache first reached prominence with the Cubs, his trademark was his split-finger fastball. But his full, backwoods-style beard later became such an institution in St. Louis that two of his contemporaries, Johnny Bench and Ozzie Smith, donned ZZ Top-style imitations for Sutter’s 2006 Hall of Fame induction. Jeff Euston

12) Dustin Hermanson
          

Dustin Hermanson pitched for 12 seasons in the big leagues but was only truly memorable in two of them: 1998 as a starter for Les Expos and 2005 as the closer for the White Sox before Bobby Jenks took over. Luckily for me, those were the only two years that I rostered Hermanson in a fantasy baseball league, and both times, I picked him up in dollar days in the draft. 

Early in his career, he had the standard goatee that everyone sported in the 90s at one point or another, but he started to get quite creative with his facial hair later in the next decade to the point of absurdity. I guess when you're a relief pitcher with an average major league fastball who doesn't get a lot of swings and misses, you have to do something to intimidate hitters, and Hermanson went with some of the more creative facial hair looks in recent history. It was always hard for me to take him seriously on the mound, first with the butt-chin sideburn look (first image) and then later with the biohazard goatee look with Boston (second image). Jason Collette


Mustaches on players were quite common in the 1890s, but fashions changed and facial hair largely disappeared from the turn of the century until the 1970s. One of the few players to buck the trend in between was Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Frenchy Bordagaray. A speedy outfielder with about as much plate judgment as Alfredo Griffin, the native Californian was best known for such antics as being picked off base while practicing his tap dancing moves and losing his cap while chasing a ball, only to give up on the ball and go after the hat. “Frenchy is the fastest man on the Dodgers,” his manager, Casey Stengel said, adding, “running to the wrong base!” In 1935, the mustache made for another attention-getting device. “A guy’s gotta have color to succeed,” Bordagaray said. “I’m bringing back the good old days. All the great ballplayers used to wear them. I got to thinking that some great modern ballplayer should bring back the mustache, and here it is.” When Bordagaray’s play continued to be more colorful than successful, Stengel ordered him to shave.Steven Goldman

Related Content:  The Who,  The Week In Quotes,  Marge Schott,  Mustaches

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