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.
4,000 days since Mark McGwire hits the last of his 14 career grand slams.
4,000 days since John Halama tosses the first perfect game in the history of the Pacific Coast League. Tacoma beats Calgary, 6-0.
8,000 days since Keith Hernandez’s final career game.
15,000 days since Reggie Jackson connects for the first of ten career walk-off homers.
20,000 days since the Orioles top the Indians, 5-4 in 16 innings, on a walk-off error. Ouch.
25,000 days since George Mullin, once a Tigers innings-eating pitcher, dies.
30,000 days since Joe Sewell’s consecutive-games-played streak ends at 1,103. He can’t play due to a high fever.
40,000 days since Harry Pulliam becomes the president of the National League. Due to the pressures of the job, he’ll end up committing suicide.
At some point today, it will be 1,000,000,000 seconds since George Brett mashed an upper-deck moonshot against Rich Gossage of the Yankees in Game Three of the ALCS. It is Brett’s third home run of the game.
1902 Giants owner Andrew Freedman meets with John McGraw about the possibility of jumping from the AL’s Baltimore Orioles to his squad.
1906 The Red Sox sign amateur free agent catcher Bill Carrigan, who will later be a player-manager for a pair of Boston world champion squads.
1911 The White Sox blow a 13-1 lead against the Tigers, losing 16-15. Detroit scores three in the bottom of the ninth to seal the win. It’s the highest-scoring game of the year.
1921 Babe Ruth draws a base on balls in his 17th consecutive game, a personal best.
1938 Babe Ruth signs with the Dodgers as a coach. He wants to manage, but that will never happen.
1939 Lou Brock is born.
1940 Joe Medwick, just recently purchased by the Dodgers in a trade from the Cardinals, is beaned in the head by his former Cardinal teammate, Bob Bowman. Medwick is carried of the field on a stretcher, and New York City police have to escort Bowman from the field to protect the Cardinals pitcher from the angry Ebbets Field crowd.
1947 Ewell Blackwell, one of the most dangerous fastball pitchers of his day, tosses a no-hitter for a 6-0 Reds win over the Braves.
1948 Former White Sox ace Thornton Lee plays in his last game. He received one first-place vote for AL MVP in 1941, which is amazing (and insane) when you realize what Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams did that year.
1948 Hall of Fame workhorse Robin Roberts makes his big league debut.
1950 The Indians score 14 runs in the second game of a doubleheader against Connie Mack’s A’s. Cleveland wins handily, 21-2.
1953 The Red Sox set a 20th-century record by scoring 17 runs in one inning against the Tigers. The frame takes 48 minutes, and Boston wins, 23-3.
1958 Norm Cash makes his big league debut.
1961 Andres Galarraga is born.
1961 Eddie Gaedel, shortest player in big league history, dies.
1961 Nellie Fox, of all people, smashes a walk-off homer. He has just 35 homers in his career, but this is his second (and final) career walk-off homer.
1961 The Red Sox top the Senators, 13-12, with a wild comeback: eight runs in the bottom of the ninth to win.
1962 It’s a great pitching duel between Hall of Famers Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. However, Tommy Davis ends it with a walk-off homer off Gibson in the bottom of the ninth for the game’s only run and a 1-0 Koufax win.
1966 Sandy Alomar Jr. is born.
1967 Hank Aaron, in a moment completely out of character for him, loses his cool and attacks teammate Rico Carty on a tem flight. Aaron later says that this loss of control is “the most embarrassing moment of my life.”
1967 For the only time in his career, Tony Perez plays second base. He lasts six innings there.
1968 Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis makes his big league debut.
1969 As recounted in Ball Four, Seattle Pilot John Kennedy is ejected by umpire Emmett Ashford over a called strike at the plate. He kicks the dugout water cooler after the ejection but admits Ashford’s call was good, but the timing was bad. It happened just as his greenie kicked in.
1969 Buck Martinez, catcher, makes his big league debut.
1974 Jim Kaat wins his 200th game, for a record of 200-166.
1974 Bobby Grich belts three home runs in one game.
1975 Fred Lynn has a game of the ages, going 5-for-6 with a double, three homers, and 10 RBIs.
1976 Hank Aaron wallops his 750th career home run.
1976 Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, citing the best interests of baseball, voids Oakland’s recent sales of Vida Blue to the Yankees, as well as both Rollie Fingers and Joe Rudi to Boston.
1977 It’s one of the most famous manager-player disputes in recent baseball history. In front of the national TV audience on NBC’s Game of the Week, Yankee manager Billy Martin pulls star slugger Reggie Jackson in the middle of the inning, contending that Jackson is loafing. Jackson and Martin then have a memorable dugout argument.
1977 Carl Yastrzmski enjoys the final of his 25 multi-home run games. He’ll play in another 828 contests without another one.
1977 The Mets release Joe Torre. Well, sort of. They release him as a player, but he started managing a week earlier. His playing career is now over, though.
1979 The Yankees fire manager Bob Lemon and replace him with Billy Martin. This is especially surprising as Lemon led the team to an amazing comeback and world title just last year.
1979 Hal Trosky, one of the great what-might-have-beens in baseball history, dies at age 66.
1980 Giants manager Dave Bristol and pitcher John Montefusco get in a fistfight in Bristol’s office after today’s game.
1982 Reggie Jackson gets his 2,000th hit. It takes him 2,075 games to do it.
1983 Reggie Jackson has the most clutch home run of his career, as measured by WPA. He smashes a three-run shot with two outs in the top of the ninth with his Angels club trailing, 6-4. The swing has a WPA of 0.724. His game total WPA is 0.800, the best of his career. He’d also tripled earlier in the game as California tops Toronto, 7-6.
1985 Commissioner Peter Ueberroth announces a mandatory drug testing policy will begin next month for minor league umpires and players.
1986 Don Sutton does it, winning his 300th game. His career record is 300-233.
1988 The Dodgers sign amateur free agent pitcher Pedro Martinez. Yeah, this is a good move.
1989 The Phillies make a pair of trades, losing some prominent veterans in the process. They trade Juan Samuel and a player to be named later to the Mets for Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell. Philadelphia also flips Steve Bedrosian to the Giants for Terry Mulholland in a five-player trade.
1990 Outfielder Claudell Washington plays in his last game.
1991 Former pitcher Dave Dravecky’s left arm is amputated.
1991 Robin Ventura belts the first of his 18 grand slams.
1992 Gary Sheffield unleashes the first of his 38 career multi-home run games.
1993 Barry Larkin gets his 1,000th career hit.
1993 El Presidente Dennis Martinez wins his 200th game, for a 200-161 career record.
1993 Roberto Alomar legs out his sole career inside-the-park home run.
1994 Former stalwart Red Sox pitcher Bruce Hurst appears in his last game.
1995 Baltimore trades past-his-prime outfielder Andy Van Slyke to the Phillies.
1996 In a five-player deal, San Diego ships Brad Ausmus to Detroit.
1998 Chicago Cub Brant Brown bashes three home runs in one game.
2000 Mike Lansing hits for the cycle.
2002 Ken Griffey Jr. gets his 2,000th hit.
2002 Longtime Cardinals broadcaster Jack Buck dies.
2002 Darryl Kile, Cardinals pitcher, appears in his last game.
2002 Luis Castillo ties Rogers Hornsby’s 80-year-old record for longest hitting streak by a second baseman when he reaches safely in his 33rd straight contest.
2003 Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League, dies.
2004 Albert Pujols belts his third career walk-off home run.
2006 Kenny Rogers wins his 200th game, for a record of 200-134.
2006 Veteran reliever Steve Karsay retires from major league baseball.
2007 Baltimore fires manager Sam Perlozzo.
2007 Chone Figgins of the Angles gets six hits in one game.
2008 Seattle’s young ace Felix Hernandez strikes out the side in the fourth inning against Florida on the bare minimum nine pitches.
2009 Outfielder Brian Giles appears in his last game.
2010 Nationals stud youngster Stephen Strasberg fans 10 in his third straight, giving him 32 in his first three games, a new record. (J.R. Richard had 29 in his first three games for the previous mark.)