Tuesday, November 26, 2013

If you can't join 'em, count 'em

One of the great disappointments in my life is the inability to grow a respectable mustache.

This is both my fault and the fault of my ... um ... surroundings. I actually grew a mustache and wore it for about a year-and-a-half around 12 years ago. It was your average, full, well-maintained 'stache. But the problem was I have blond hair and those yellow mustaches never really work out right. It was a Frank Viola mustache.

You know the kind. He has a mustache. You know it's there. But part of you isn't quite sure. Is that really a mustache? Your eyes get all squinty trying to determine what he has on his upper lip. That's the way it was for me. Close up? Oh, yeah, that's a mustache. At a distance? Can't tell without ma glasses.

The solution for us fair-haired folk who want their facial hair to stand out is to grow a fu-manchu or a righteous mustache-beard ensemble. But that's where the "surroundings" come into play. I'm pretty certain that my mother would disown me if I came to town with a beard. With the mustache, she was already giving me looks like I was going to snatch her purse.

So after several months of trying to look bad-ass, I shaved it off. It wasn't working.

That's especially disappointing in a month like this. It's Movember, you know. It's cool to have a mustache at this time of year, and growing one raises awareness for all kinds of great causes. But I'm on the sidelines again unable to do my part through facial hair growth.

But there is one thing I can do.

I can figure out the most mustachiast baseball card set of all-time.

We all have our talents.

My objective here is to figure out which set featured the greatest percentage of "mustache cards," meaning cards that showed someone wearing a mustache.

I confined this to just the base sets that I have completed (or in the case of 1979 Topps, have come within 3 cards of completing).

Also, after attempting and failing miserably to include modern-day completed sets, I confined my search to just sets from the 1970s and 1980s. I counted 36 mustache cards out of 660 in 2010 Topps, but I know there are more players than that with mustaches in the set. With the frequency of action shots in sets over the last 20-plus years, it's too difficult to get an accurate read.

Besides, we all know that the '70s and '80s were the prime periods for mustaches. Back then, they didn't need to take a month out of the year to grow a mustache. Every damn month was Movember.

So let's see the Movemberiest sets of all-time, going in reverse order, of course.

5. 1980 Topps, 43.9 percent (319 mustache cards out of 726)

1980 beat out 1979 Topps for fifth place by a mere two-tenths of a percent. Or, more appropriately, by a whisker.

4. 1986 Topps, 44.3 percent (351-792)

There was a big jump in mustache cards from 1985 to 1986. I'm not sure why, although I'm blaming the subsets in 1985 Topps -- too many fresh-faced Olympians.

3. 1981 Topps, 45.6 percent (331-726)

What I wouldn't give to be able to wear a mustache like that.

2. 1984 Topps, 51.6 percent (409-792)

More than 50 percent of the set features people with mustaches! That is impressive. But still not the best.

1. 1983 Topps, 53.2 percent (421-792)

It is no coincidence that '83 Topps features the most mustaches. It is also the same year that Magnum P.I. was the fourth highest rated television program in the country.

But these rankings surprised me slightly. When I first started tallying up mustaches, I began with the late 1970s sets. I figured that with the advent of the Swingin' A's in the mid-1970s, the trend would blossom in the late '70s. But I guess I overestimated the eagerness of ballplayers to pick up on a fad.

The only other thing I wished I could do is compare how one of the 1982 sets ranked on the list. I'll have to reconfigure when I complete '82 Topps (or '82 Fleer) someday. If I'm not too lazy, I'll research it online and update it earlier.

But for now, 1983 Topps is your Movember representative as the set with the most mustache awareness.

Perhaps that is incentive for some of you to get your health checked out and help in the cause for early cancer-detection.

But if not. At least you know exactly when mustaches were king.

All year long.

(P.S.: 1971 Topps has a whopping three cards out of 752 with a mustache)


  1. When I grow up I want to be just like you !

    You never run out of ideas. But then again,
    like my son, you're a writer , that's what you do.

    You can't see my mustache too well anymore either, because it's turning white !!

  2. I'm surprised. I figured 1981 would have been #1 by a long shot. I've always considered that the "hairiest" set of all time.

  3. Just attempted to count 1982 Fleer. There's 317 mustaches on the 627 player cards... I think. This will come as a shock but there are cards in the set that are so blurry, I'm not 100% sure its a mustache.

    The Pirates have to be the hairiest bunch, almost every one of them has a furry lip. The Reds of course brought the average down.

  4. I don't know how a guy with no time does that kind of count. I am jealous though. I couldn't grow a good 'stache if my appearance on cardboard depended on it.

    1. I thought of this idea two weeks ago. I waited until I was on vacation to count.

    2. Whenever you did it, it's a great post and I had no idea the percentages would run that high. I was so scarred by the Derek Holland mustache that I might need therapy.

  5. 1982 came up short?


    1. Just read the end about '82. Now I feel stupid. Thats what I get for just looking at pictures and reading bold print.