Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Follicle freedom

I think it's pretty well-known that the Yankees have a facial hair policy. No beards. No girly hair. But mustaches are OK (and, so, apparently are Nick Swisher mohawks. That's right, no beards, but that monstrosity is fine.  I'll never decipher the Yankees).

I think it's also well-known that the Reds had a facial hair policy for three decades, beginning in the late 1960s. It was some knee jerk reaction to hippies running wild and infiltrating our baseball teams.

And it's probably known that when players leave the Yankees, or left the Reds back in the day, some of them grow facial hair because they had been deprived of this manly pursuit for so many years.

I am going to focus on the Reds, because there's already way too much attention paid to the Yankees, and because I first noticed this phenomenon with the Big Red Machine teams of the mid-1970s.

When players left the BRM, many of them suddenly appeared on their new teams sprouting mustaches and other facial decorations. At last, they were free from follicle tyranny!

But I noticed that whether the player grew facial hair, and when the player grew facial hair, depended upon the individual player's situation.

Players who spent a lot of time being the face of the Big Red Machine couldn't wait to stick to the Reds front office -- in the form of hairiness on their upper lip -- when they left.

Joe Morgan grew a mustache as soon as he signed as a free agent with the Astros in January 1980. And he kept that mustache until the end of his career, wearing it with the Giants, Phillies and A's as well.

Dan Driessen grew a mustache after being traded from the Reds in 1984. Twelve years of being a clean-shaven member of the Reds was just too much to take.

George Foster must have thrown out his razor as soon as the ink was dry on the Reds' trade with the Mets in February 1982. Foster is sans mustache on his Topps 1982 card and proudly featuring freshly grown fuzz on his '82 Traded card.

But Cesar Geronimo delivered the biggest Follicle F-U to the Reds' brass, growing a mustache so large and strong that it doesn't look real at all.

Nine years of facial oppression for Cesar and then ... ALL HAIL CESAR!

Ken Griffey waited almost five years into his stay with the Yankees before he grew a mustache. Traded in late 1981 to another team that had issues with facial hair, it took Griffey a long time to work up the courage to grow both a mustache and a soul patch. Steinbrenner must have gone ballistic, because Griffey was dealt to the Braves midway through the 1986 season.

Not all of the famed Big Red Machine members grew mustaches after they departed as we'll see later. There are certain exceptions.

However, the players who had only bit parts with Cincinnati during the Big Red Machine era were less likely to grow mustaches after they found a new team.

Darrel Chaney, Doug Flynn, Terry Crowley, Bill Plummer, Joel Youngblood and Rawly Eastwick are not players you think of when you hear "Big Red Machine." But all of them played on those teams in 1975 or 1976. And none of them felt the need to grow facial hair when they left the Reds. Just not enough time to get pissed off at The Man, I guess.

Yet, there were some minor cogs in The Machine that did go to extra grooming lengths after they left the team.

Relievers, of course. Always throwing off the curve.

And now, we move on to the exceptions. Those Reds who were prominent figures in the teams' two World Series titles, but -- for whatever reason -- didn't feel the need to get hairy.

Don Gullett: Gullett signed as a free agent with the Yankees after the 1976 season, and you can't convince me that he didn't pick the Yankees because they also had facial hair restrictions. Mr. Gullett just feared the beard. An entire nine-year MLB career on teams that did not allow beards. Weird.

Jack Billingham: I have no explanation for Billingham. Apparently the Reds treated him perfectly or he held no grudges. There was barely a hair out of place during his time with the Tigers and Red Sox.

Pete Rose: When Rose signed with the Phillies, there was immediately speculation. "What will Rose look like with a mustache?" It staggered the imagination. Rose could never have facial hair!

He knew this. Which is why he merely grew his Prince Valiant hair even longer. Pete never did anything like everyone else.

Tony Perez: Finally, there's Perez. It's difficult to tell if Perez did anything follicly after he went to the Expos in a trade in 1976. Maybe he grew his hair a little longer, but would it have been long enough to get a ticket from the Reds' Hair Police? It doesn't look like it.

Perez is often credited as the heart and soul of those Big Red Machine teams. Maybe he thought he would be letting someone down somewhere if he grew a mustache, no matter how many years removed from those Reds teams.

Maybe he thought it was impossible to win a World Series with facial hair. After all, none of the Reds wore a mustache or beard when the team won it all in 1975 and 1976. And, perhaps just as telling, none of the players who left the Reds and then grew facial hair won a World Series title with their new teams (Morgan came the closest, with the 1983 Phillies).

Meanwhile, Big Red Machine members Johnny Bench and Dave Concepcion spent their whole careers with the Reds and were forever barred from a beard or a mustache. I often wonder what they would have looked like with mustaches.

Another mystery uncovered.

You're welcome.


  1. LoL on the artists renditions.

    i think you're right on with johhny b., but i feel concepcion would have rocked a fu man chu "chivo" on that manly chin.

  2. I think the weirdest look involving the Reds hair policy was when Jeff Reardon joined the team in 1993 and shaved his full beard. It was just so surreal.

  3. Everything was going nicely until I got to that Concepcion card. It's scary enough without the 'stache.

  4. I was reading something about great baseball mustaches and Bo Diaz was mentioned. My first thought was - "Bo Diaz didn't have a mustache!" - because my mental image of him is his 1987 Topps card - with the Reds.

    Incidentally, Carl Willis's 1987 Topps card features him in a Reds uniform with a mustache, b/c it was one of those airbrush jobs.

    And Jeff Reardon noted when I interviewed him last year that his 81 Topps Traded card features him in an Expos uniform with no beard, but he always had a beard with Montreal. Another airbrush job.

  5. I have a theory on Gullett, Rose and Perez. They all came back to the Reds later in their career. In fact, they all came back as managers and coaches (Rose as a manager, Perez as hitting coach and a very short tenure as a manager, and Gullett as pitching coach). This an example of excellent career planning. How could they enforce the high standard of no facial hair if they had sinned while in exile?

    Griffey Sr. bucks that trend a little bit, as he came back as a player and a coach, though maybe that's why he didn't grow it for so long. He thought his encore with the Reds might never actually come!

  6. There was a rumor that Rollie Fingers considered signing with the Reds at one point, but refused because they would not lift the ban on facial hair.

    Bo mentioned Carl Willis' facial hair on his '87 Topps card. There is also Andy McGaffigan from 1985 Topps. I originally thought it had not been airbrushed, but Googling the image I see that it was.

    JT, The Writer's Journey