In which the major-league mustache explosion continues unabated, shooting from 28 percent to 37 percent—remember, it was only 3 percent three years ago. In this idiom, the Cinderella story of 1976 is surely the Milwaukee Brewers, previously forbidden to get funky and now topping not only the American League East in facial hair but tying Oakland for the most in all of the majors. (And thus began the slow shift in the Brew Crew’s fortunes: 94 losses in ‘75, 95 in each of ‘76 and ‘77, but then a 93-69 1978, the first of six straight winning seasons.) The Angels, too, have joined the fray, and Houston is back on board, if in a minor (albeit multicolored) showing. The Expos and Reds are still a bunch of accountants.
28 percent of the players in the 1975 Topps set are sporting mustaches, up from 17 percent the year before. Milwaukee, California, Montreal, and Cincinnati remain holdouts for Squaresville; Houston, which boasted four ’staches in ’74, is down to zero, too. These things happened from time to time in the mid-1970s when “old-school” skippers and front-office guys signed on and decided to lower the lameness boom.
I find it most surprising that Milwaukee has a no-facial-hair policy at this point, considering that I identify most of the great 1970s Brew Crew—Gorman Thomas, Darrell Porter, George Scott—as formidable mustachers. Guess I must be mistaken. (Psst…we call this “foreshadowing” in the biz.) Continue reading
1974 is when it all blows up. Seventeen percent of the players depicted in this year’s Topps set have mustaches, up from 3 percent in 1973; above, we have the first all-facial-hair League Leaders card, and, while it is now impossible to list all the athletes who’ve gone the way of Groucho, it is worth noting that Paul Blair, John Lowenstein, Willie Horton, Freddie Patek, Nate Colbert, Luis Tiant, and Bill North have never looked more excellent. And Thurman Munson finally looks normal. (Craig Robinson is in desperate need of a ‘stache, though…ah. Much better.)
While the Oakland Athletics, of course, are most famous for their mustaches—it’s a long story involving Reggie, Charlie Finley, and some reverse psychology that backfired in the spring of 1972—a quick look at the 1974 Mustache Standings indicates that the A’s were already no longer the baddest asses. It’s actually the Pittsburgh Pirates who take it all this year, by a hair. Oh! Continue reading
I’d always known about the Yankee ban on beards, which lately has been added to the litany of aspersions against them (fascists!) but in my opinion has spared me the indignity of being forced to regularly watch men who have landing strips on their faces. Anyway, the Yankees were always among the league leaders in mustaches from 1973 on—at least they didn’t have a total ban on facial hair, as, I learned, the Cincinnati Reds did until mustache folk hero Greg Vaughn toppled it before the 1999 season. (In the article, Dmitri Young claims that several players refused to be traded to Cincinnati due to the ban; according to the Rollie Fingers wikipedia article, Fingers said, in 1986, “Well, you tell Marge Schott to shave her Saint Bernard, and I’ll shave my mustache.”)
All these years, by the way, I’d never noticed that Cincinnati was a faceless…sorry, I mean facial-hairless team. Maybe it was because of George Foster’s killer precision sideburns. Once he was out of there, though, he got a ‘stache, stat. Joe Morgan, too, that dork.
By 1973, there are still few enough baseballers with mustaches to list by name—twenty—but you can tell that the storm is about to hit. The racial barrier is finally crossed: Jim Willoughby, card # 79, is the first mustached white guy in the set, but there are six others, including, at last, Rollie Fingers. Gonzalo Marquez becomes the first kid (he actually looks about forty-one) with one on a Rookie Stars card, and meanwhile Mike Cuellar is pushing the Afro envelope while Walt Williams and Dick Allen are really starting to get in the all-around pocket. Indeed, for the first time ever, the ‘73 set allows you to draw together an All-Mustache Team:
C – Dick Billings
1B – Dick Allen, Nate Colbert, Gonzalo Marquez Continue reading
The 1972 set should have a ton of guys with mustaches. Surely, at least, the people who designed these swingin’ cards had mustaches. But as with the 1971 set, there’s only one ‘stache in the batch. (That rhymes.)
But if Reggie—whose mustache would be an MLB staple for the next 15 years and who, two years later, would introduce the first-ever full beard on a Topps card—is the only guy with the dusted lip, that doesn’t mean that the ‘72 set isn’t bearing witness to the unmistakable early days of the grooming glasnost. Fellow Athletic Jim “Mudcat” Grant, even at this stage, has some seriously outstanding chops, as do outfielders Walt Williams and Gene Clines. Continue reading
Back in baseball’s frontier days, everyone had mustaches. But then, at some point—exactly when and why will perhaps be examined at a later date, but let’s just say the 1910s for now—ballplayers started going clean-faced. Maybe it had to do with improved safety-razor design, or Burma-Shave endorsements, or Kenesaw Mountain Landis being a hard-on. Anyway, this remained the stubborn status quo all the way through the 1960s, when everyone else had mustaches; baseball, as America’s pastime, wasn’t going to stray too far from the mores of the Silent Majority. (Former Detroit infielder Jim Walewander, although of a different vintage, said it best in his classic interview in Chin Music: “Baseball’s rural. It has its roots in farmland. Shit, they still chew tobacco.”) There is not a single player in the 1968 set with a mustache. Nor the 1969 set. Nor 1970.
Yet by the time I was collecting cards in the early 1980s, it seemed that dudes Continue reading