Dodgers’ Justin Turner just the latest in MLB’s trend of Samson-esque facial hair that keeps on growing in stature
As our nation prepares for the vices of summer and those torturous steps into the stagnant, humid air that burns lawns and moistens brows, we have a basic question to ask about Major League Baseball.
What’s with the bushy beards, guys?
The thought sprung again Sunday while watching Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner circle the bases at Citi Field after smashing an extra-inning homer to beat the Mets.
Turner, one of baseball’s few true redheads, has sprouted a beard with such girth and distinction one might imagine a mother robin incubating her little blue eggs within it.
As Turner happily ran the bases, the beard, not to mention his flowing hair, bounced up and down in syncopation with his stride.
He actually began growing the thing when he was with the Mets in 2014 and hasn’t shaved it primarily because his fiancé believes it has blessed him with the powers of Samson.
Still, we say, gross.
Ah, but Turner is just one of many major leaguers who have trimmed razor blades from the family budget, if you’ll excuse the pun.
Rivaling Turner just this season are Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies and Evan Gattis of the Astros. Put them on a horse and hand them sabers and they’d look exactly like confederate generals readying the infantry to charge the hill.
But think back to the game’s recent history, specifically to the career of the eccentric former relief pitcher, Brian Wilson. In 2010, he began sporting the beard of Rasputin, midnight black, long and lush as a Brazilian forest after a thunderstorm. Wilson often dyed his beard to accentuate its presence, as if one didn’t already know it was there. And then he shaved his head to provide full contrast.
“It’s basically the epitome of man,” Wilson once said. “God gave man the ability to grow facial hair, and that’s what he did.”
And so did Mike Napoli and Jayson Werth, Jonny Gomes and Dallas Keuchel, Jason Motte and Danny Espinosa, Derek Norris and Josh Reddick, just to name a few.
Long before Wilson, Johnny Damon’s scraggily beard helped define the lunch bucket mentality of the 2004 World Champion Red Sox, known as “The Idiots” for their unruly look.
The 2013 Red Sox, led by the impressive efforts of Mike Carp, Napoli, David Ross, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Dustin Pedroia, sprouted beards as a sign of team solidarity on the way to their third World Series championship in a decade.
“If Boston wins, they can get back to their regular jobs of driving carriages for the Amish,” famously texted comedian Steve Martin.
Of course, the trend to let facial hair grow unencumbered is not for everyone. The New York Yankees have always had a strict grooming policy of neat hair and no beards or mustaches, instituted by George Steinbrenner and carried on after his death. One still chuckles over the ironic sight of the suddenly clean-shaven Damon at his introductory press conference after signing with the Yankees in 2005.
So enamored with the policy, former Yankees captain Don Mattingly brought the regulations with him when he became manager of the Miami Marlins in 2016.
It’s what caused starting pitcher Andrew Cashner, the Rutherford B. Hayes of major league pitchers at the time, to complain vociferously after the Padres dealt him to the Marlins at the trade deadline.
How badly was he bothered? Cashner was 1-4 with a 5.98 ERA after the trade and signed with Texas after the season.
Ironically, Mattingly was among four Yankees suspended by former manager Stump Merrill in 1991 for wearing their hair too long.
Mattingly finally revoked the policy before the 2017 season.
“It was a constant fight last year, honestly, with guys,” said Mattingly during spring training that season. “Through the course of the season and watching the playoffs and the World Series, for me, it just didn’t seem like that big of a thing. The most important thing is our guys prepare and play the game right.”
Which is exactly what The House of David’s baseball team always believed. Look it up, trust us.