Baseball History

Beard image a popular commercial success at Fenway Park


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The 2013 Boston Red Sox players promoted beard growing among the whole team and won the World Series. Team merchandise promoters sold their fans the team baseball cap with a fake beard. It was reported that they look like Gandalf beards, a reference to the great sorcerer from “The Lord of the Rings,” and there is no doubt about the Red Sox having a magical season. Their post-season success drew more attention. The Red Sox official team cap included an artificial beard that was sketched in a cartoon that appeared in “The New Yorker.” Nike is selling their T-shirts with the team members’ silhouetted beards.

The 2013 World Champ Boston Red Sox distinctive bearded wonders

The Boston Red Sox beard craze started when Johnny Gnomes, a former Oakland A’s player, joined their’ ball club and started facial hair growing addiction. Mike Napoli liked Gnomes’ full grown beard and grew a pretty big one himself. It caught fire among team mates, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and the entire team. David Ortiz had already groomed a nice trimmed beard for some time. Fans love purchasing stick-on-beard-decals of their favorite Red Sox player. Athletes have reached over the fence and challenged players of other sports to beard growing contests in the past. Professional wrestler, Daniel Bryan, challenged Oakland A’s outfielder, Josh Reddick, to a beard contest.

The Red Sox believe in Sampson and Delilah

The Bosox are superstitious about the story, “Sampson and Delilah.” Cutting off their hair zaps their strength. Remember what happened to St. Louis Cardinal reliever, AL Hrabosky, in 1977? He was nicknamed “The Mad Hungarian,” because he wore long hair, a thick long mustache, and goatee. The Cards turned over their team to Vern Rapp in 1977 and Hrabosky had to trim his facial hair. He blamed his off-season performance on the facial hair ban and was traded to the Kansas City Royals.

After the Boston Marathon Bombings, the Red Sox had every intention in the world of staying “Boston Strong” and helping injured victims rebuild their lives. They were determined to give their city something they could be proud of. The beard craze didn’t hurt their team spirit any and proved it doesn’t cause any harm to have fun.

Brian Wilson is a modern forefather of baseball beard growers

In August, 2010, Brian Wilson, relief closer of the San Francisco Giants, grew and dyed a thick black beard. Giant fans started a “fear the black beard mantra” and with Brian’s help won the World Series. The Pittsburgh Pirates would have loved him. Brian still wears his “black beard” as a present day member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He helped them beat the Atlanta Braves in the first round of the divisional series.

2013 Boston Red Sox sparks memories of House of David

The Red Sox’s beard policy harks back to the days of the House of David ball players. Benjamin and Mary Purnell founded them as a religious group that originated in Benton Harbor, Michigan in 1903. The men honored a tradition that they would never shave off their beards. The House of David purchased the ownership rights of a streetcar company and influenced all their employees to wear facial hair. They got involved in organized baseball and printed “House of David” on their uniforms. They hired Grover Cleveland Alexander as their player/manager, and influenced facial hair growth among baseball players in the Negro leagues, including Satchel Paige’s All-Stars. Another baseball team tried to imitate “House of David” and was taken to court because of their inferior play. But May 24, 1934, Judge John M. Woolsey decided in District Court S.D. New York that beards were part of the public domain.

World Champion Oakland A’s bonded with facial hair growth in 1972

The 1972 Oakland A’s were another ball club that built some character with their facial hair. Reggie Jackson became the first ball player since 1914 to grow a mustache. Charles Finley, their owner, promoted “the mustache gang.” Starting pitcher, Jim Hunter, grew a long thick drooping mustache and was nicknamed Catfish Hunter. Rollie Fingers popularized handle bar mustaches by growing it to win a $300 dollar bonus from Finley. The A’s went on to win the World Series.

Baseball’s clean-cut image was out of style in the 1970’s

Although the Red Sox received recognition for wearing beards as a team, facial hair has been popular among major leaguers for years and favored in the early years of baseball. But in 1910, the clean-cut look was in vogue and lasted 60 years. During the 1970’s and 1980’s long hair and bushy mustaches became popular among ball players.

Players with facial hair set strong statistical numbers in All-Star Baseball

There are statistics that prove ballplayers are more productive with facial hair than without it. WAHL Home Improvement analyzed the baseball statistics of players with facial hair performing in All-Star games and recorded higher batting average, slugging percentages, on base percentages, than those players that didn’t grow any facial hair. Clean-shaven Oakland A’s slugger, Yoenis Cespides, winner of the 2013 MLB Homerun Derby, has broken a run of six homerun derbies won by players sporting facial hair.

New York Yankees defy facial hair growth trend

Johnny Damon, popular fan favorite, had distinctive long hair and a mustache with the Boston Red Sox but when he decided to play for the Bronx Bombers his image changed. George Steinbrenner became the New York Yankee General Manager in 1973 and enforced the clean-cut image more than any other general manager in baseball history. In 1991, Yankee slugger, Don Mattingly, refused to cut his hair, and Yankee manager, Stump Merrill, benched him. Goose Gossage was a premiere closer of the New York Yankees. Yogi Berra asked Gossage to shave his beard because it was against Steinbrenner’s facial hair policy. Gossage shaved the beard but emerged with one of the longest and thickest mustaches in baseball history.

Facial hair fanatics may supply statistics that encourage beard contests but remember that the clean-cut Yankees won the World Series 4 out of the 5 years the team was managed by Joe Torre (96, 98, 99, and 2000).

Clean-cut look still alive in commercial endorsements

C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels’ ace of Anaheim, is a spokesperson sponsor for Head and Shoulders shampoo, and though his team is not as popular as “Red Sox Nation,” his handsome image appeals to women that love the clean-cut look. Physical athletes probably get more commercial endorsements for selling shaving cream and razors than keeping their beard. But one could argue it is an individual endeavor and not entirely representative of the whole team.

 

More about this author: Gil Valo