The New York Yankees allow no facial hair below the upper lip. Which players pushed back and rocked the ‘stache the best?
I have major mustache envy.
Seriously, nobody wants to see me grow facial hair under any circumstances. I start with Magnum P.I. becoming the goal, and barely advance past John Waters territory.
Clearly, this isn’t a problem the New York Yankees deal with often. The team’s ban on long hair and beards is well-known and the subject of much criticism and debate. On one hand, how the players look above the neck has nothing to do with their play on the field. On the other hand, it’s been a tradition for decades.
As a result, you won’t see any Yankees players sporting a full Grizzly Adams. If they are to have facial hair at all, only a mustache is allowed, and even they aren’t as common as they once were.
But just the same, the Yankees have had more than a few mustachioed men put on the pinstripes. In fact, some of their best players rocked a soup strainer well.
Thus, as we continue to wait out the season’s postponement, let’s draft the New York Yankees All-Mustache Team.
Catcher: Thurman Munson
This one isn’t even a contest. The Ohio-born Thurman Munson‘s mustache just screamed Midwestern, blue-collar toughness. I personally never had the opportunity to watch him play, but the stories I’ve heard consistently imply Munson had that in spades.
First, he debuted in 1969, when the Yankees were mired in mediocrity. After a brief cup of coffee, he became the starting backstop in 1970 and hit .302 en route to becoming the near-unanimous American League Rookie of the Year.
And even if Munson wasn’t the best defensive catcher, his rocket arm made up for it. He twice led the American League in caught-stealing percentage. Not to mention, he was durable as could be. Once in a blue moon, he’d play the outfield to give his legs a rest.
Throw in two World Series rings and an MVP trophy, and Munson is the only mustachioed catcher who makes sense here.
First base: Don Mattingly
Again, the starting first baseman’s slot on this team shouldn’t even be a contest. Okay, so maybe Chris Chambliss has a solid argument, but his lasting impact on the franchise doesn’t even touch Don Mattingly‘s.
Like Munson, Mattingly’s mustache exemplified toughness. The Indiana native debuted in 1982 and left his mark in less than three years. In 1984, at just 23 years old, Mattingly was the American League batting champ with a .343 batting average. He also led the league in hits and doubles that season.
The next year, he was named American League MVP and once again led in doubles, but also in RBIs. He wound up hitting an MLB-best 145 combined doubles over three years (1984-86), and “Donnie Baseball” was born.
Unfortunately, chronic back troubles arrived early and robbed Mattingly of his power. His batting averaged dipped to .256 from .303 in 1990 and he never hit more than 17 homers in a season for the rest of his career. The Yankees were also constantly falling short of the playoffs during much of Mattingly’s time as a player.
And yet, he continued to show up to Yankee Stadium without complaining. He just entered the building and played the game as the unquestioned leader of the clubhouse. Finally, in 1995, Mattingly played in the postseason for the first time and hit .417 with a home run and six RBIs.
He never played another game after that, but Mattingly meant so much to a whole generation of Yankees fans. Throw in his awesome ‘stache, and he makes this team in a walk.
Second base: Willie Randolph
Willie Randolph is kind of the ultimate New York baseball player. He grew up in Brooklyn and played for both the Yankees and New York Mets. Randolph was also a coach with the Yankees for years and later managed the Mets.
But in his playing days, Randolph rocked a mustache that was the epitome of smooth, even if its presence was faint. That’s because Randolph himself was smooth on the field. Even if his overall numbers were average, he was fleet-footed enough that watching him play was like butter.
The same went for Randolph’s work at the plate. He only hit 54 home runs in an 18-year career, 48 of which came with the Yankees. No, Randolph was a pure contact hitter and his soft hands ensured he’d get on base and then use his legs.
He wasn’t flashy but, just like his mustache, Randolph was cool and smooth.
Shortstop: Brendan Ryan
Brendan Ryan was not with the Yankees for very long. He was a late-season acquisition from the Seattle Mariners in 2013, and then signed a two-year deal to stick around as a utility infielder.
And Ryan wasn’t particularly effective. He could hold his own in the field, but only hit .201 with New York. Just the same, for a very brief period in 2015, Ryan grew a mustache that became a legend in its own right. The video above doesn’t really do it justice, but do yourself a favor and search for pictures.
It just goes to show how a reserve player can make a significant impact on a team, no matter how.
Third base: Wade Boggs
A non-baseball fan would look at Wade Boggs and probably think he was a contractor instead of a baseball player. The receding hairline, the thick mustache, and somehow looking older than his mid-to-late thirties just gave off that vibe during his Yankees tenure.
But facial hair aside, Boggs was also a legend for non-baseball reasons. He started warming up at the same time before every matchup. His routine of eating chicken prior to each game was practically common knowledge. There are other anecdotes to list, but this is a family show.
Like Randolph, Boggs was smooth on the field. He hit over .300 in all but one of his five seasons in New York. Even if he was never an elite fielder, he was often above average and had good instincts. Had he played 20 years earlier, Burt Reynolds would’ve played him in a movie about his life.
Boggs was, in a word, cool. And his mustache is probably 80% of the reason why.
Left field: Oscar Gamble
Though best known for his flowing locks and how crazy they drove owner George Steinbrenner, Oscar Gamble paired it all with an equally thick mustache.
As a player, he played two different stints with the Yankees. He was never an elite player and was more often a left-handed bench bat than he was an everyday player. Just the same, Gamble’s mustache gave him swagger, and his towering home runs showed it.
Even if he won’t go down in history as an all-time Yankee great, Gamble was absolutely a cult hero in the Bronx. Were it not for his epic ‘stache, perhaps he wouldn’t have been talked about like he was.
Centerfield: Dave Winfield
We needed to get creative with centerfield, considering the fact that the Yankees haven’t fielded many mustachioed men in that position. With that said, leaving either Dave Winfield or Gamble off this team would’ve been a grave injustice. Given how Winfield played center 223 times in his career to Gamble’s 79, we’ll pencil him in here.
And Winfield more than deserves to be in this spot. He sported his mustache for his entire career and still does today. Throw in his million-dollar smile, and it’s no wonder the Yankees signed Winfield to a ten-year, $23 million contract.
This is because underneath Winfield’s mustache and friendly demeanor was not just a five-tool player, but a stone-cold killer. He was an eight-time All-Star in New York and hit .290 with 205 home runs during his Bombers tenure. Even though he didn’t win his lone World Series ring in New York, Winfield was still popular. He and Mattingly famously raced for the American League batting title in 1984 while fans watched in anticipation.
The man was a Yankee favorite and great in his own way, and also just happened to have a sweet ‘stache.
Right field: Reggie Jackson
You were expecting, maybe, Jesse Barfield? No disrespect, but Reggie Jackson earns this spot by a mile.
Like so many, Jackson was more than a baseball player. He was an absolute superstar who even had his own candy bar. After establishing himself as something of a maverick with the Athletics, Jackson brought his charismatic swagger to the Yankees.
And through public spats with manager Billy Martin and Munson (then the team captain), Jackson was still a fan favorite. The three World Series rings he won with the A’s weren’t enough for him. He played well enough to help the Yankees reach the Fall Classic three times, winning twice.
Moreover, Jackson’s mustache became part of his brand. Pictures of him without it almost seem off, in a way. It’s almost as if without that small strip of hair darkening his upper lip, Jackson’s legend loses some of its luster.
Then, you watch the video of him hitting three home runs in a single World Series game, and all is well again.
Starting pitcher: Ron Guidry
If Ron Guidry was called “Louisiana Lightning,” one can only imagine what could’ve been if lightning struck his mustache while he pitched.
In reality, Guidry likely would’ve been seriously injured, if not worse. Nevertheless, in the world of baseball legends, some might argue that being struck by lightning would’ve made him even better.
Simply put, Guidry was bayou strong. He may have had a slight build at just 5-foot-11, 161 pounds, but he sure pitched larger than that. His 1978 season saw him go 25-3 with a video game-like 1.74 ERA. That same year, Guidry set a Yankees record with 18 strikeouts in a nine-inning game.
Who’s to say the mustache didn’t have a hand in any of it? Perhaps we’ll never know.
Relief pitcher: Sparky Lyle
You can’t have a Yankees All-Mustache Team without including Sparky Lyle. He starred as a closer when the role was still very new to the game. He even won the Cy Young Award in 1977 when he posted a 2.17 ERA, recorded 26 saves, and pitched an eye-popping 137 innings.
And even if the Yankees did Lyle dirty and signed Goose Gossage to be the closer in 1978, his work in the preceding years shouldn’t be ignored. In his Cy Young season, he led the American League in total appearances and games finished. During his Yankees tenure, he twice led the league in saves.
And yet, when people think of Lyle, the first thing that comes to mind is his prominent walrus mustache. No disrespect to Gossage’s handlebar, but Lyle’s facial hair commanded respect. Unlike the Yankees did in 1978, we won’t push him aside for Gossage in this case.