Friday, October 16, 2015


I remember Oscar Gamble, his helmet looking helpless trying to contain the ever burgeoning afro that cried for freedom. How about the Oakland A's teams full of facial hair, none better than the twirled masterpiece of Rollie Fingers. And then there was Johnny Damon and his free flowing locks and impressive beard making a mockery of the buttoned down Yankees. Or Randy Johnson, standing impossibly tall on the mound, with something resembling a long flowing mullet tumbling out from beneath his beleaguered cap.

From the San Francisco Giants and the intimidating if hirsuitically questionable black beard, to the mass of wavy beauty that exploded from the head of Jacob DeGrom, the tradition of expressing one's inner freak through a vast array of hairy options remains a quintessential part of the last half century of baseball lore.

That is not to say that the pursuit of everything hair is but a hardball phenomenon.  From Bill Walton, his red hair flopping as he raced up and down the court to Troy Polamalu and the incredible mass of twists and turns that cried out for national recognition, athletes in every arena have vied not only for the most talented on the field, court or diamond, but most follically blessed.

But somehow, watching a baseball game, with the players in generally static pose for minutes unabated, gives particular focus and emphasis to the challenge of naming the best in class.
And there stands the Dodger third baseman, Justin Turner, his number 10 a reminder of Ron Cey, as I survey his beard and significant locks and wonder what the old hot corner star would have looked like if given full reign to let his wild thing out.

Not everyone on the field  has enjoyed the luxury of freedom of hairy expression.  Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Don Mattingly, who happens to be Mr. Turner's manager, was a star performer and captain of the most storied franchise in baseball.   The team's principal owner imposed a strict mandate on hair length and when the first baseman's tresses reached near his collar, he was ordered to the barber for a trim. When he refused, Mattingly was suspended. The next day, he was shorn.

And the aforementioned Mr. Damon, upon his appearance in Yankee pinstripes, looked more the part of Wall Street banker than descendant of Samson. Even today, the mere hint of excessive hair is a literal non-starter with the Bronx bombers.

For those like me, there are only myriad jokes about the reasons no hair finds a home on top of our scalps. I don't know which I envy more, the grace and athleticism of those upon this stage or their capacity to demonstrate they are world class hair growers. 

In the midst of all this contemplation, it appears that a baseball game broke out yesterday, an often thrilling and exhilarating display of talent. The deciding contest between the Dodgers and Mets produced a star performance by Daniel Murphy, stealing an unprotected base and clubbing a game winning home run against a mostly dominant and very impressively coiffed Zack Greinke. The only problem was that Murphy's beard is fairly sparse and in need of something more compelling. 

Maybe if the Mets last several more weeks Murphy can improve his look if not his already stellar game.  

Somewhere George Steinbrenner must be vigorously shaking his well manicured hair in disapproval.

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