Carl Pavano’s mustache – Who’s to blame?

It’s not often that being old is good. Sure, it’s nice not to worry about getting ‘carded’ when I buy a beer at the ballpark, but other than that, I’d have to say getting old sucks.

So when the opportunity arises to make use of one’s advanced age by educating the younger baseball fans, I try to take advantage. Best to do that now, while I’m striking that precarious balance of being old enough to know stuff, yet not too old to remember it. Since I’m exactly at that point in my life, I can tell you all who is to blame for Carl Pavano’s mustache.

Reggie

It’s the man pictured at the right.

Yes, Twins fans, Reggie Jackson is the person responsible for those of you with a strong aversion to Pavano’s mustache having to try to simultaneously watch every minute of the games he pitches while not actually watching Pavano, himself.

You see, dating back to a time before any of you were born (think 1910-ish) and up to the early 1970s, historians record that only two players, Allen Benson (who wore a beard for two games in 1934) of the Senators and Satchel Paige (who wore a mustache when he was signed out of the Negro Leagues in 1948) of the Indians sported facial hair during regular season MLB games… and historians aren’t so sure Paige didn’t shave his before appearing for the Tribe.

It’s not that there was a rule against facial hair. Not an official rule, anyway. It was more like one of those unofficial baseball rules. Kind of like not running across the pitchers mound. By the early 1970s, a few players were showing up for Spring Training sporting various forms of facial hair, but by Opening Day, they all were shaved clean… until 1972. That’s when Reggie Jackson not only showed up for the A’s Spring Training with a fully grown ‘stache, but announced to anyone who would listen (including his manager, Dick Williams, who had been told by owner Charley Finley to make Reggie shave) that he intended to keep it… and would be adding a beard to go with it.

Rollie Fingers

Jim "Catfish" Hunter

Finley and Williams decided Jackson was just trying to assert his individuality and thought they could counter that… and get Reggie to shave… by having a few other players ALSO grow mustaches. Thus were born what became trademark mustaches for A’s pitchers Rollie Fingers and Catfish Hunter. Needless to say, the strategy backfired. Soon a lot of the A’s were growing mustaches of varying styles.

Finley, a bit of a renegade himself among MLB owners, saw an opportunity for a promotion. He not only backed off on his anti-facial hair position, but in May, Finley even announced a Fathers Day promotion… “Mustache Day”. Fans wearing a mustache would be admitted free of charge and he’d pay a $300 bonus to any player sporting a mustache by that Fathers Day game.

Every player collected the bonus. Many players, like 1B Mike Hegan, shaved immediately after collecting their Fathers Day bonus. Hegan claimed he shaved because his wife didn’t like it (can you say ___ whipped?). But by later in the season, most of the players had grown them back. Even Manager Dick Williams was wearing a ‘stache. Why? As 3B Sal Bando explained, “Well, we had success as a team, so everyone stayed with it.”

That fall, the A’s won the first of their back-to-back-to back World Series Championships.

In other words, Babs (and the rest of you who want to see Pavano get rid of his mustache), if I may be allowed to re-phrase a quote from the great baseball philosopher, Crash Davis, “… a player on a streak has to respect the streak.  If you believe you’re playing well because you’re (wearing a mustache), then you ARE! And you should know that! ”

Who knows… maybe Carl will be a trendsetter, just like Reggie. – JC