The Screwball: shave and a haircut, two bitsby Azure Texan
September 05, 2013
Azure Texan's offbeat take on baseball will be a regular feature at The Hardball Times. Look for another installment next week.
Perhaps you’ve heard the news, either at your barber shop or at ZZ Top’s 10th Annual Beard-a-Palooza, but in either case, the story is this: an American razor company recently offered Brian Wilson, he of the hyperactive follicles and perfectly normal outlook, a million bucks to shave the thing that hangs from his face like a patch of Spanish moss primed in cephalopod ink and slathered in crude oil from the United Arab Emirates.
Reluctant to trade his trademark for a chunk of taxable income, Wilson rejected the offer, either because he is housing a group of political refugees in the area around his chin or because summer nights in Southern California can get surprisingly cold, what with the mixture of cool Pacific air and the frigid chill that emanates from the area surrounding Gwyneth Paltrow.
So, yeah, like all things Beard, that made national news. The razor company got free publicity even though it’s offer met rejection, and Wilson lost the anonymity he’d so dearly embraced during his time away from the game.
Of course, despite its failure, the razor company’s offer surely will inspire other enterprises to make similar attempts, each centered on the signature feature—hair, sure, but other attributes, too—of the targeted big leaguer.
Herewith are the educated guesses—I took a continuing-education class called “Nostradamus, Baseball and You”—as to what will happen next.
Jon Shave and Buzz Capra also were considered
Keen to the publicity inspired by the Brian Wilson Razor Affair, Gillette offers a $50 Applebee’s gift card to Corky Miller—sure, he’s follicly gifted, but he’s no Brian Wilson—in exchange for surrendering his Fu Manchu to the Gillette Fusion ProGlide and its patented blade-suspension system. But Miller, a thinking man’s catcher—which is to say he’s smart enough to wear a mask—has a better idea, forged by his interest in slash-and-burn agriculture.
And so, on an off day in Cincinnati, Miller douses the hair in kerosene, crouches behind the plate, turns to the side and waits, fingers crossed, while Aroldis Chapman hurls a heater just millimeters from his face.
As expected, the resultant fire removes the Fu Manchu from the catcher’s mug, but sadly, the local fire marshal issues Miller a citation for his failure to obtain a burning permit. Unable to afford the fine on his not-exactly-Buster-Posey salary, Miller attempts to moonlight as a Goose Gossage impersonator, critically forgetting that he now has an ashy stain where his Fu Manchu used to be.
Locked up for his failure to pay the fine, Miller, owner of a .190 lifetime batting average in the big leagues, bats eighth for the Hamilton County Jail softball team. At midseason, he ranks sixth in the league in sacrifice flies.
The dread Pirate Andrew
As an emerging force in the field of humanitarian aid, Civil Engineers Without Civil Borders places a call to Andrew McCutchen. Within the span of a week, McCutchen is enrolled at the Patrick Stewart School For Men Who Wish To Feel Manly After Becoming Completely Bald, while the residents of Canas, Cusco, Peru, are weaving the donated “Pirate Twine” into sturdy ropes for use in the famous Q’eswachaka Hanging Bridge.
Days later, when McCutchen dashes after a high fly ball during a day game against St. Louis, his now-oversized hat goes flying off his head, revealing a bare scalp where his thick dreadlocks used to be. Also converging, left fielder Starling Marte calls off McCutchen but then loses the ball in the glare off the center fielder’s head, allowing the Cards to score the winning run.
Having shrewdly engineered the game’s outcome, a civil engineer without civil borders quickly collects on his bet. He then uses the earnings to make another offer: “Mr. Latos, here’s $50,000. All we ask in return is your ulnar collateral ligament, as the Inuit people are in desperate need of a fan belt.”
A brush with greatness
The Super-Duper Paint Brush Co. of Bethesda, Md., makes an attractive offer to the brash young bearer of baseball’s most luxuriant fauxhawk, a ’do that looks for all the world as if it could sweep the infield at the Daytona 500, filter pollution from the Cuyahoga River and stay fairly crunchy in milk. Days later, Bryce Harper is carpooling with McCutchen to the Patrick Stewart School For Men Who Wish To Feel Manly, Etc.
Billed as Bryce Brushes, the new items sell remarkably well, mostly to teenage boys who, in lieu of using them to paint neo-expressionist images of violent left-handed swings, ingest the bristles in the mythic belief that the refashioned hairs of the fauxhawk will endow them with Harperian power.
Out on the field, Harper enters a dreadful slump, mostly because his batting helmet keeps slipping down over his eyes. Meanwhile, out in the Washington suburbs, authorities grow more and more concerned that otherwise healthy teenage boys have continued to cough up hairballs.
In consultation with the Council of Mothers Who Want Their Boys To Sit Up Straight, and with a sizeable donation from the Society for the Prevention of Sasquatch Mimicry, Norelco makes a pitch to outfielder and Bigfoot body double Jayson Werth: let us demonstrate the power of our 6945 PowerTouch Cordless Razor on your magnificent profusion of facial hair, and we’ll show you the outtakes from the Patterson-Gimlin Film.
Days later, the newly shorn Werth is shocked by what he sees on film. No, it isn’t a man slipping into a custom Sasquatch suit. Instead, it is a genuine, bona fide Bigfoot in a romantic montage with his paternal grandmother.
Unaware that Coco Crisp shaved his trademark ’fro in June, Vidal Sassoon, Inc., in conjunction with the makers of Chia Pets, offers the A’s center fielder a half-million dollars plus an eponymous Chia Crisp in return for a daring act: sacrificing his Oscar Gamble-esque ’do to the magnetic motor and stainless steel blades of the Vidal Sassoon 12-Piece Haircutting Kit.
When the Sassoon and Chia people arrive to complete the deal, Crisp answers the door and patiently explains that his ’fro always has been bashful, which is why it is now covered in a Turkish-cotton bath towel. The outfielder further explains that out of respect for a hairdo that always has shown respect to him, he would prefer to martyr its roots in privacy.
Heads bowed in a solemn posture, the reps agree to the request, bidding Crisp adieu and the ’fro farewell as the outfielder totes the haircutting kit into a walk-in pantry. Thanks in no small part to a 12-oz. bottle of Habañero Tabasco, the ’fro-less Crisp emerges minutes hence with tears in his eyes.
Clearly bereaved, he then explains that due to his faith in doctrine espoused by the Teenage Baseball Players Of Suburban Washington, he has chosen to ingest the hairs rather than reveal them publicly. As proof of his claim, he clears his throat and coughs. Convinced, the reps reward him with $500,000 and his own Chia Crisp. Six weeks later, Chia Crisp joins Chia Questlove at the Chiapollo, where they perform a rousing tribute to Chiartis Gilmore.
Meanwhile, Crisp donates his payment to the burgeoning movement known as “Free Corky! Bring Back The Fu!” In time, however, Miller rejects the offer of clemency, citing the fact that he’s having his best season at the plate.
The Fiskars Corp., maker of quality scissors since 1882, is eager to promote its Premier 9” Titanium Nitride Shop Shears. Plan in place, the marketing director contacts Jeff Samardzija with an intriguing offer: Let us cut that flowing mane of yours, and we’ll give your GM $5 million to put toward a shortstop who will pay attention in the field and produce runs at the plate.
Hours later, Samardzija is already a class favorite at the Patrick Stewart School, not least because of his spot-on impression of Demi Moore in G.I. Jane. But while things continue to go well at school, they don’t go so well on the mound. In one particularly bad start, Samardzija gives up two doubles, a single and a grand slam to newly signed Padres pitcher Aaron Harang, who had entered the game with a lifetime batting average of .090.
Something of a biblical scholar—he attended Notre Dame, after all—Samardzija suddenly realizes that he is the modern counterpart of Samson, the ancient Israelite who lost his strength when a temptress cut his hair.
“Granted,” Samardzija says to himself, “I’ve never had to kill a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass, but I have had to go seven-plus innings at Coors Field, often while jawing with that a-hole Torrealba.”
Whether by divine revelation or mortal epiphany, Samardzija seizes upon an idea. Hours hence, he discovers that the only in-stock items at the All-Celebrity Wig Shop are the 1973 Greg Allman Model, complete with the pungent aroma of backstage vomit; the 1992 Billy Ray Cyrus Model, complete with a sense of impending regret; and the 2013 Kim Zolciak Model, complete with extensions and a pervasive sense of entitlement.
Feeling entitled to the old Samardzija mojo, the tall right-hander quickly chooses the Zolciak Model, and by early September he ranks fourth in the league in wins, second in strikeouts and first in ridiculous catfights.
While waxing his Snidely Whiplash mustache one day, Cubs pitcher Carlos Villanueva gets a call from the C.O. Bigelow Co. The pitch: Shave your famous mustache with our Premium Shave Cream With Eucalyptus Oil, and we’ll reward you with 500 pounds of Whiskas Chicken Flavor Cat Food.
Perplexed, Villanueva immediately balks at the idea.
“That’s right,” he tells the Bigelow people. “I immediately balk at the idea. No pun intended. Seriously. It now occurs to me what I actually just said.”
The reasons for his refusal are simple. First, he saw what happened to Samardzija when his teammate and fellow pitcher cut his trademark hair. Second, he has no idea why the Bigelow Co. thinks he’s an 82-year-old lady who shouts at passing trains while living in a condemned home filled with litter boxes, homemade cat toys and souvenir figurines from That Darn Cat!
“I mean, Whiskas, yeah, I get it, ha ha,” he says, head shaking. “But what the hell am I going to do with 500 pounds of chicken-flavored cat food?”
Villanueva gets his answer three weeks later, when, during a road trip to Tampa Bay, the predatory cats of Wade Boggs follow him into an alley.
Chin music, no. Chin dinner, yes
Mortified by the billy goat beard that clings grotesquely to Matt Garza’s chin, Schick makes an inventive offer to the Rangers right-hander: Shave that ridiculous thing with our Hydro Silk razor, which, as you know, contains a water-activated moisturizing serum and five curve-sensing blades, and we’ll order our children to stop dressing up as you on Halloween.
Having just eaten lunch, Garza politely declines the request, knowing that a tater tot, a French fry and a pair of onion rings are still clinging to the beard.
“I often stay up late writing sonnets on Twitter,” he tells the folks from Schick. “It burns a surprising number of calories, and sometimes I get hungry.”
A close shave
The NSA is hearing some serious Internet chatter: Seems that Luke Scott will journey to the year 1836, probably by way of DeLorean, to impersonate Martin Van Buren and assume the eighth presidency of the United States.
Knowing that Scott could dye his dark muttonchops gray in order to resemble those of Mr. Van Buren, and that he could then use his considerable firepower to heighten the Panic of 1837, the Obama Administration contracts with the Bic Corporation to make Scott an offer he can’t refuse: shave your muttonchops with Bic Sensitive Disposable Blades, and we’ll make sure the Tampa Bay Rays face more right-handed pitching.
“Don’t ask us how we can do it. Just know that we can do it.”
Fast forward: Scott finishes the season with a line of .336/.397/.912.
Rewind: Van Buren continues the Second Seminole War, securing Florida.
Related in name only
Confused as to how this whole thing works, the state of Arizona offers to relieve the Diamondbacks backup catcher of the name Tuffy Gosewisch.
To the letter of the flaw
Also confused as to how this whole thing works, and as to how this would even make sense given the basic rules of her long-running show, Wheel of Fortune’s Vanna White offers to relieve Marc Rzepczynski of a consonant.
Mobbed at the plate?
Really confused as to how this whole thing works, the Scarfo Crime Family of Philadelphia offers to relieve the Phillies of Ryan Howard’s, uh, contract.
The needle and the damage done
Note: Upon seeing the success of other ventures, several non-hair-related enterprises will be quick to join the Brian Wilson Razor Offer Trend.
Hoping to save Brett Lawrie from a post-career plunge into chronic unemployment, or at least from withering looks from the Council of Mothers Who Want Their Boys to Sit Up Straight, Toronto Laser Skin offers to remove the copious tattoos from the Toronto third baseman’s body.
Namely, and no joke here, the tattoos on his right arm alone include a spiderweb; a graveyard full of bats; a nautical star; dog tags, the MLB logo: a quote from master poet Eminem; and a quotation from Proverbs, reading, “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
During the procedure, the laser tech quickly realizes that it is not to one’s glory to overlook a defense, especially when one of its members committed nine errors in only 204 chances through 56 games in 2013, a percentage of just .956. And so while Lawrie drifts into sleep, the tech tattoos a stitch-for-stitch likeness of Adrian Beltre’s glove onto the Blue Jay’s left hand.
The eyeball test
Concerned that children in Rows 1 through 10 at Turner Field are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder, or, put differently, that they’re now afraid of the bogeyman, Hypercreative Optometry of Greater Atlanta, or HOGA, offers to remove the death stare of Braves closer Craig Kimbrel.
The payment: a day in production meetings for children’s show Adventure Time, produced by the Cartoon Network, a subsidiary of Atlanta’s TBS.
The offer letter reads, in part, “Mr. Kimbrel, this will give you a ‘unique view’”—editor’s note: optometry humor —“into the hearts and minds of America’s youth, and will allow you to gain further ‘insight’”—editor’s note: additional optometry humor—into the fear and anxiety that you have generated with your—and not to get too technical here—stink eye.”
Nights hence, the children sleep peacefully while the closer tosses and turns. What keeps him awake isn’t so much the game-winning homer he surrendered. No, instead, it’s that when he walked off the field, he watched as Vance Worley rounded the bags while making fun of his Groucho glasses.
A hands-off approach
Aware that Curtis Granderson has lost significant playing time to broken bones in both hands, Overly Dramatic Orthopedics of White Plains, N.Y., offers a radical solution, even if the overture arguably violates the signature-feature part of the trend.
After considerable thought, not least regarding the inevitable difficulties with chopsticks and texting, the Yankees outfielder agrees to the procedure. Just weeks after the double amputation, Granderson is leading the team in both stolen bases and awkward high fives.
Double-double beef and trouble
In need of a high-—make that wide-—profile client, Big League Lipo of Orange County, Calif., contacts CC Sabathia with an intriguing offer: Let us suck the subcutaneous fat from your midsection, and we’ll pay you with a lifetime supply of Double-Double Cheeseburgers from In-N-Out.
Sabathia complies, forgetting that the first hit is always free.
Concerned that the Reds might lose Homer Bailey to the filming of The Dark Knight Pitches a No-No, the Plastic Surgery Associates of Cincinnati extend an interesting offer to the Cincy right-hander: let us perform a procedure such that you no longer resemble Christian Bale, and we’ll give you not only a new face but also two tickets (plus a medium popcorn and small drink) to the 8:00 p.m. showing of Madagascar 4: Electric Bangalore.
Bailey accepts the offer, and though he does consider Madagascar 4: Electric Bangalore a bit implausible, what with all those animals fitting on that one ocean-going boat, he does enjoy his night at the cinema.
Days later, after getting shelled for nine earned runs in two and two-thirds innings, he suddenly realizes that he now resembles a 2005 Eric Milton.
Noting the surgical success of the Cincinnati group, the Plastic Surgery Associates of Philadelphia offer to do the Phillies a favor—no, everyone a favor—by removing the mouth of Jonathan Papelbon, no questions asked.
Azure Texan is a writer living in Austin.