The following is an excerpt from Bruce Markusen’s amazing and vital book, “A baseball Dynasty: Charlie Finley’s Swingin’ A’s.
Reggie Jackson reported to spring training in 1972 replete with a fully grown mustache, the origins of which had begun to sprout during the 1971 American League Championship Series. To the surprise of his teammates, Jackson had used part of his off-season to allow the mustache reach a fuller bloom. In addition, Jackson bragged to teammates that he would not only wear the mustache, possibly a full beard, come Opening Day.
Such pronouncements would have hardly created a ripple in later years, when players would freely make bold fashion statements with mustaches and goatees, and routinely wear previously disdained accessories like earrings. But this was 1972, still a conservative time within the sport, in stark contrast to the rebellious attitudes of younger generations throughout the country. Given that no major league player had been documented wearing a mustache in the regular season since Wally Schang of the Philadelphia A’s in 1914, Jackson’s pronouncements made major news in 1972.
In the post Schang era, several players had donned mustaches during spring training, yet, in each case the player had shaved off the mustache by Opening Day, either by his own volition or because of a mandate from the team. After all, there existed an unwritten rule within the conservative sport, one that strongly frowned upon facial hair. In addition, several teams had more recently instituted their own formal policies (most notably the Cincinnati Reds in the 1960’s), policies that forbade their players from sporting facial hair.
Baseball’s conservative grooming standards , which had been in place for over 50 years, were now being threatened by one of the game’s most visible players. Not surprisingly, Jackson’s mustachioed look quickly garnered the attention of owner Charlie O. Finley and manager Dick Williams. “The story as I remember it,” says outfielder Mike Hegan, “was that Reggie came into spring training…with a mustache, and Charlie didn’t like it. So he told Dick to tell Reggie to shave it off. And Dick told Reggie to shave it off, and Reggie told Dick what to do. This got to be a real sticking point, and so I guess Charlie and Dick had a meeting and they said ‘well, Reggie’s an individual so maybe we can try some reverse psychology here.’ Charlie told a few other guys to start growing a mustache. Then (Finley figured that if) a couple of other guys did it, Reggie would shave his off, and you know, everything would be OK.
According to Sal Bando, Finley wanted to avoid having a direct confrontation with Jackson over the mustache. For one of the few times in his tenure as the A’s owner, Finley showed a preference for a subtle, more indirect approach. “Finley, to my knowledge,”says Bando, “did not want to go tell Reggie to shave it. So he thought it would be better to have us all grow mustaches. That way Reggie wouldn’t be an ‘individual’ anymore.”
Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter, Darold Knowles and Bob Locker followed Reggie’s lead, each sprouting their own mustache. Instead of making Jackson feel less individualistic, thus prompting him to adopt his previously clean-shaven look, the strategy had a reverse and unexpected affect on Charles Finley.
“Well, as it turned out, guys started growin’ ’em, and Charlie began to like it,” says Mike Hegan in recalling the origins of baseball’s “Mustache Gang.” Finley offered a cash incentive to any player who had successfully grown a mustache by Father’s Day. “So then we all had to grow mustaches,” says Hegan, “and that’s how all that started.” By the time we got to the (regular) season, almost everybody had mustaches.” Even the manager, Dick Williams, known for his military brush-cut and clan shaven look during his days in Boston, would join the facial brigade by growing a patchy, scraggly mustache of his own. Baseball’s long standing hairless trend had officially come to an end.
Maybe I’m crazy and maybe I aint
So was Picasso and so were the saints
I’ve never been partial to shackles and chains
I’m too young for breakin’ and too old to change.
I think Chris Rock is one of the funniest, hippest and most intelligent modern-day comedians out there–and he recently had some poignant thoughts concerning baseball. Rock referred to himself as a “dying breed;” a black baseball fan. Here were some of the more interesting points he had to make with my opinions in parenthesis…
— 4 out of 5 viewers are white and the average median age is 53. (I may be the wrong person to opine on this topic considering that I enjoy the beauty and intricacies of the game that take historical knowledge and the ability to let time slow down for a moment. Baseball is a thinking man’s game and always has been. This doesn’t bode well for the modern generation that isn’t known for its voracious devouring of books or ability to slow down and daydream for a moment without looking at their phones to see whats “going on.” Scoring a game will soon be as dead as cursive writing. All of these things are appreciated by someone who is older and is wise enough to realize that slowing down is vital to enjoying one’s existence. As far as race is concerned, African-Americans also aren’t interested in International Soccer…the world’s most popular sport. The reasoning behind this is difficult and not an easy black and white (no pun attended) issue. I will have to ponder the reasoning behind this.)
— other cultures embrace “fun” more than Americans. The Koreans love the bat flip and the Caribbeans/Mexicans turn a ball-game into a virtual party. (I’d have to agree with this assessment. A lot of fans were unknowingly acting culturally superior last season for criticizing Yasiel Puig’s bat flips. This type of thing is accepted, even embraced in Cuban culture, and personally I see nothing wrong with injecting a little pizzaz into the game. This is not even close to an issue of who is “classier” or not despite fans using this term liberally during their borderline racist attacks on the man. The game is supposed to be fun…period. This isn’t a stock broker convention, it’s baseball.)
–Black people like to look to the future and the “retro” ballparks that are in-vogue embrace the past. (This is an interesting statement and actually gave me pause for a moment. I can see why American blacks would want to forget about the injustices of their past that are unfortunately still going on today. But I also wouldn’t want to see cookie-cutter, faceless basketball stadiums either. My question is this: what architectural aesthetic quality doesn’t remind someone of slavery/oppression? and does this make a European trip virtually impossible?)
–In other news: Ike Davis recently became the first position player on the Athletics to pitch since Frank Menechino in 2000. Davis pitched a mop up ninth inning job in a 14-1 beatdown by the Angels and actually did a decent job with a scoreless inning. I wasn’t surprised to learn later that Davis pitched at Arizona State as he looked like he knew what he was doing out there and had a semblance of command. It’s good to see Davis doing well early in the season for Oakland considering the bashing he took in New York with Mets fans and in Pittsburgh with Pirates fans. He is what he is…a platoon first baseman with above average defensive skills and a little pop that will probably bat in the lower .200’s. Anything is better than Daric Barton and I think A’s fans realize that.
Most of the Athletics sights in internet-land played the typical baseball writing game of follow the leader and were frothing at the mouth at the signing of Barry Zito. We here at the ‘Fro, however, felt a keen sense of bafflement and confusion. Zito, A) didn’t play last year and B) had ERA’s of 4.03, 4.15, 5.87, 4.15 and 5.74 his last 5 seasons. To put it bluntly–he sucked.
And as much as we admire Charlie O. Finley and Bill Veeck for their “circus like” candor, I just didn’t see Billy Beane, the paradigm of rational thought, as nostalgic, a clown-enabler or the type to give into Zito’s sense of entitlement to waste a Spring Training spot that a young player could desperately need to further his career. Zito, although once an Athletic, had erased any positive emotion from my mind when he signed with the Giants–all but stoking provincial animosities and spitting in Oakland’s face. Due to popular belief, emotions still exist in baseball, although the numbers-crunchers would tell you otherwise. They try to rationalize the signing with “low risk-medium return” hyperbole to the point of vomit inducing fervor, all but erasing the “gut feeling” that made Earl Weaver so successful. Perhaps the Athletics would have been better off using the 1 million they gave Zito to hire some people who actually NEEDED the money to help promote and to get “fringe fans” to buy tickets. It is common knowledge that their promotional representation in the Bay Area is a mockery to the fan base that is consistently criticized in the media for lack of support….
Jason Giambi retired, finally ending his reign as a PED user, MVP, lovable lug, Yankee, douchbag, party boy, laughing stock of New York and finally, grizzled, useless DH. (The above sentence bringing to light Tina Turner’s “We don’t need another hero” in my synapse hell.) Oddly enough, Giambi was quoted as saying, “I’ve done everything I can in my career.” Touche, Jason. In the end Giambi was seen as sort of a rascal despite his Yankee short-comings…and I’ve always had a soft spot for rascals…what would life be without them? Now Giambi can finally experience what other baseball retirees had to go through– the life of an Average (albeit wealthy) Joe, where no one knows who you are and no one cares until you show up at a fan-fest or baseball card show in a lonely, trash strewn strip mall. Good luck, Jason.
Just a few random thoughts……The A’s bullpen has stunk this season. The Jim Johnson fiasco and Luke Gregerson’s 7 blown saves has given a crap team like the Angels a chance to compete. (and let’s face it, Bob Melvin has enough on his plate– worrying about 3 platoon catchers, Brandon Moss’ slump, where to play him and all that jazz.) There are the people who think the ‘pen is fine based on BABIP and SIERA , (no, not Ruben!) but I tend to go with my eyes rather than a bunch of stats conjured from thin air by numbers-crunchers and the jobless. It gets so ridiculous at times that you wonder how they could ever cross the street until they figured out the Pythagorean projection of success. (A note to the ladies…they are most likely bad in bed.)….
…Is former Athletic and current Astro Chris Carter the new Dave Kingman? His stats suggest so. He has amazing power, low batting average, strikes out a lot, yet throw a hanger and that fucker will have its own stewardess. The only difference being that Chris is a soft-spoken “good guy” and Kingman was known for being one of the game’s biggest assholes…so much so that after hitting 35 round-trippers no one signed him….and he NEVER PLAYED AGAIN…
…The vape pen is the best thing to ever happen for all you low-key weed smokers/baseball fans. It’s compact, and you can get your smoke on without any of those corny ass, nosey, do-gooders getting in your face for no good goddamn reason. It’s the perfect ballpark accessory. (this works extra well late in the post-season and early summer when the “on the cusp” bring their kids and ignorantly see the ballpark as Disneyland.)…
The season is slowly/quickly and sadly coming to an end.