December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Monday, June 18, 2012
Forty years ago today was one of the most famous and memorable promotional days in baseball history, Mustache Day in Oakland. Charles Finley paid all his players and coaches a bonus of $300 to grow one, and he let all fans with mustaches into the park for free for that one day. It doing so, the A’s created an identity for themselves and launched a facial hair revolution in baseball.
And it wasn’t something Finley intended to do originally. It was his way of co-opting a situation he couldn’t prevent.
It began in spring training 1972. Star slugger Reggie Jackson showed up wearing a mustache, something not seen in the big leagues since the 1930s. Finley, in accordance with team policy on grooming and appearance, initially ordered Jackson to shave it off. Jackson refused.
This was a problem for Finley. He wasn’t about to bench his best player over this, but Finley didn’t want to look like he’d lost control of his own team. So Finley veered in an altogether different direction.
Facial hair was becoming popular, so he would be the king of the mustache bandwagon in baseball. He’d have a special day for it and use the power of his purse strings to get all his players to grow one. He couldn’t force them to do so, but most guys back then could use an extra $300.
In fact, only one player refused to grow a mustache—young ace pitcher Vida Blue, who nursed a special grudge against Finley. In early 1972, Blue and the A’s had a nasty contract negotiation. Blue felt he was underpaid and held out, and Finley went out of his way to not just win the negotiation (which he did), but try to humiliate Blue in the process. Most notably, he made Blue issue a public apology to the fans after signing with the A’s for another year.
So Blue was clean-shaven, but none of his teammates were 40 years ago today.
Thus Mustache Day was born. And to help solidify the team’s identity, before the game Finley had the squad take their team photo, complete with all those fuzzy upper lips. As soon as they could, many guys dashed back to the clubhouse and shaved their ‘staches off.
But many kept theirs, including some of the most prominent players. Jackson certainly kept his. After all, he’d been the one who started this revolution. Ace starting pitcher Catfish Hunter kept his, as well. Most famously, reliever Rollie Fingers maintained his stylistically waxed mustache that has been his trademark ever since. Even team manager Dick Williams, the man who once enforced rules for clean shaving in Boston, decided to keep his. He figured it helped his players relate to him.
And the A’s went out to win that Father's Day game, 9-0 over the Indians. I could be wrong, but I believe it was NBC’s Game of the Week, so this event debuted hairy baseball to the entire nation. The A’s earned a new nickname that day: the Mustache Gang. They kept it for that year and ensuing seasons, as they became the first non-Yankee squad to win three straight world titles.
And they became the Mustache Gang 40 years ago today.
Aside from that, there are many other baseball events today celebrating their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim the list.
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