Who has the best facial hair in baseball history?
As long as there have been home runs and strikeouts, ballplayers have sported mustaches, beards and sideburns.
At the turn of the 20th century, the majority of baseball players sported mustaches. But by the 1930s, the trimmers came out, and a fuzzy upper lip was prohibited, not explicitly, but rather via an unwritten rule of conduct, in the major leagues. The idea was to make the game more appealing to families, by keeping the boys clean-shaven and well groomed. And a shift in social etiquette, which mandated that decent men be clean-shaved, reinforced the move away from mustachioed players. Baseball players would remain clean-shaven for several decades, until 1972, when a mustachioed Reggie Jackson arrived at spring training with the Oakland A's. The look wasn't a hit with his fellow teammates, but their manager embraced it: He offered each player $300 to grow his own 'stache.
In the 1970s, facial hair represented a burgeoning counterculture, and the move by the Oakland A's was a controversial one: still, almost all of the team grew their mustaches out for the bonus, earning the team the nickname "The Mustache Gang." The ensuing years were a confusing time for baseball facial hair. Individual clubs, like the Brewers and the Blue Jays, issued explicit bans on facial hair within their clubs, while other clubs embraced players with full heads and faces of hair (the afro was big during this time).
Since the late 70s, baseball has seen a number of mustachio-clad players on the diamond. Recently released statistics on the last decade of All-Star Games reveal that those with facial hair actually outperform their clean-shaven counterparts. But even if the mustache doesn't make the man, it sure makes the man memorable.
Here are 10 players with memorable facial hair in baseball history.
Jim O'Rourke began his professional baseball career in 1872 and played until he was well over 50. As catcher for the New York Giants during a Sept. 22, 1904, game, O'Rourke became the oldest player to ever participate in the National League. All those years, O'Rourke sported a bushy crumb catcher that hung low past his mouth.
Rollie Fingers has been sporting a classic handlebar mustache since his early pitching days for the Oakland A's in the 1970s (he also played for the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers.) His facial hair is one of the most recognizable in the game, and according to a recent interview, only takes 15 seconds and little bit of wax to maintain. "If it took any longer than that, I'd shave it off," he said.
Al Hrabosky started his career pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1970 and finished out his run 12 years later with the Atlanta Braves. Although he's now a clean-shaven sports commentator, back in the day he toted around fierce facial hair. His 'stache, which billowed out beyond his chin, paired with an indifferent demeanor often mistaken for anger, earned him the nickname "The Mad Hungarian."
Keith Hernandez's time playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets in the '70s and '80s earned him the Gold Glove in 11 consecutive seasons. This was the most by any first baseman in baseball history, making Hernandez a masterful defensive player. But in 2007, it was his flavor savor that was in the spotlight, thanks to the American Mustache Institute, a nonprofit that promotes social acceptance of mustaches in the workplace and elsewhere. The Pittsburgh-based organization asked the public to vote on the greatest sports mustache of all time. The winner? Hernandez's tea strainer.
For David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, facial hair isn't about keeping his chin warm, it's about form. He wears a close-shaven chinstrap beard, one that likely requires frequent trimming and sculpting. Nicknamed "Big Papi," Ortiz is one of 51 in major league history to hit at least 400 career home runs. He's also a nine-time All-Star, lending credence to the argument that sporting a scratchy chin might mean higher performance.
Former infielder Scott Spiezio began his major-league career in 1996 with the Oakland A's, but his biggest moment would come six years later with the Anaheim Angels. In the 2002 World Series, the Angels were trailing the San Francisco Giants when Spiezio hit a three-run home run, propelling them to an eventual victory. When he joined the St. Louis Cardinals a few years later, Spiezio debuted a scraggly soul patch dyed bright red. One has to wonder if actual cardinals have ever mistook the facial hair for an actual small bird.
When Washington Nationals right-fielder Jayson Werth came to D.C. from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010, he sported a 2009 National League All-Star appearance and a mild-mannered goatee on the center of his chin. Since 2010, Werth and his facial hair have continued to thrive, reaching 1,280 career hits this summer. His beard, which has since transformed into a thick grizzly mane, even has its own Twitter account.
Former relief pitcher Brian Wilson began growing his behemoth of a dark beard while playing for the Giants in 2010 (he last played for the Los Angeles Dodgers). Since then, his facial hair has achieved considerably notoriety on its own: a Virgin America airplane, emblazoned with the team's logo, appeared with a Wilson-esque mustache painted on its nose in 2012.
Nicknamed "Dutch Oven," Texas Rangers starting pitcher Derek Holland is known for his left arm and fun-loving attitude. He's also recognized for the little squiggle that lives on his upper lip, making the 28-year-old look even younger, something mustaches rarely do. "It's the first time I've ever had anything like that; to do something, and the crowd gets into it," Holland once said of its popularity. "I mean, I had little kids wearing fake mustaches, I got women wearing mustaches. It's unbelievable. It's something cool."
The mustache worn by John Axford, a former relief pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers (now the Colorado Rockies), gives people a slight case of deja vu. That's because Axford's handlebar mustache is reminiscent of that of baseball great Rollie Fingers. But it has built its own reputation. In 2011, the pitcher received the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award by the American Mustache Institute.