And then he grew a mustache.
The rest is history.
The crafty lefty may be New York’s No. 5 starter, but he has pitched like an ace this season. His 1.41 ERA is second in the American League and no opponent has solved Cortes’ signature cutter yet.
Could Cortes’ power comes from his mustache? Sure, the spin rate and unique windup changes are also a factor, but think about it. Antiquated as the Yankees’ rule banning beards may be, those who have worn the mustache well have enjoyed success in pinstripes.
So here we go. It’s time to rank the best mustaches in Yankees history.
Honorable mention: We can’t honor every Yankees mustache, but some just flat out can’t be ignored before we get to the big ones. Sal Fasano was a Yankee for a hot minute, but his was very befitting a guy named Sal. Jason Giambi’s awesomely bad dye job had real Costco Burt Reynolds energy. Catfish Hunter’s made him look like something of a catfish himself. And don’t forget Joba Chamberlain or Billy Martin.
Now, the top-10 (in ascending order):
No. 10: Ron Guidry
Random Ron Guidry pic.twitter.com/v9nL2oIF4V
— Stirrups Now! (@uniformcritic) February 21, 2019
Dubbed “Gator” for his Louisiana roots, Guidry’s ‘stache and thick Cajun accent showed how much of the bayou he brought with him to the Big Apple. When he wasn’t striking out 18 batters in a game, he could easily be pictured riding a fan boat and hunting his namesake. And all while that sweet, subtle mustache blew in the breeze.
No. 9: Nestor Cortes
A splash of Super Mario, shot of South Florida, and one shake of Brooklyn hipster brings us to the man of the hour. The baseball is his fire flower, after which he’ll don a chic outfit and probably go out for a fancy specialty cocktail. And if Cortes keeps pitching the way he has all season, he can do all of those things as much as he pleases.
No. 8: Reggie Jackson
Reggie Jackson swinging on Opening Day for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, April 8, 1977. pic.twitter.com/cUeprKjrGv
— Baseball In Pics (@baseballinpix) April 1, 2022
Jackson might not have been the straw that stirred the drink, but his mustache sure was. Mr. October’s soup-strainer dripped confidence chowder and earned him endorsements galore. His image and skills on the diamond made him the first true celebrity athlete, and a record-setting contract from the Yankees didn’t hurt either.
No. 7: Brendan Ryan
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 21, 2015
Ryan wasn’t a Yankee long, didn’t play much, and his teams weren’t that good. But it didn’t matter. He grew his mustache and wore it with pride as a stopgap utility infielder. He left in free agency after 2015, shaved the ‘stache, and only played 17 more MLB games. That isn’t at all a coincidence. Trust us.
No. 6: Wade Boggs
Wade Boggs is given a ride around the field by New York City mounted police officer after the Yankees won the 1996 World Series. pic.twitter.com/qUJb6RYQx5
— Baseball In Pics (@baseballinpix) February 5, 2021
Between the rapidly-thinning hairline, quirky pregame habits, and a mustache definitive of his native Tampa, Boggs was a true old-school ballplayer. Considering the Hall of Famer was a .328 lifetime hitter who rode a horse after winning a World Series, having a mustache served Boggs well indeed.
No. 5: Clu Heywood
Of course, Corey Kluber is not the first Yankee with the nickname Clu.
“Heywood leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair.” pic.twitter.com/IVmwXg8ie6
— Peter Botte (@PeterBotte) January 16, 2021
Yes, we’re rolling with a fictional character because the mustache is just that good. Played by veteran MLB pitcher Pete Vuckovich, Heywood’s massive frame and even bigger handlebar makes him look the part: a scary Yankees slugger who can change the game with one swing. Almost makes you wish that Vuckovich wasn’t a .159 career hitter, and instead someone who slugged his way into Monument Park.
No. 4: Don Mattingly
In 1984 Don Mattingly led the New York Yankees in Hits, Doubles, RBI, BA, SLG, OPS…..and Sacrifice Bunts pic.twitter.com/zT6I9Pgmco
— OldTimeHardball (@OleTimeHardball) May 4, 2022
Donnie Baseball’s facial hair was subtle, and he certainly played bigger than his spindly 6-foot, 175-pound frame before his back gave out. He’s gone clean-shaven since becoming a manager, and it just isn’t the same. Far as Yankees fans are concerned, Mattingly without a mustache means he’s missing a piece of his soul.
No. 3: Goose Gossage
— Vintage Jerseys & Hats (@PolyesterUnis) February 9, 2022
Gossage’s aggressive handlebar was his stepping stone to becoming one of baseball’s best closers. Seriously, go look at a picture of Gossage before he joined the Yankees in 1978. Considering he notched 254 of his 310 saves from then on, mustachioed forces were clearly at play.
No. 2: Thurman Munson
— 𝗗𝗮𝗻 𝗧𝗿𝗮𝗱𝗲𝘀 🄲🄰🅁🄳🅂 (@DanTradesCards) May 1, 2022
Munson’s handlebar was the epitome of his blue collar Ohio toughness. He was never afraid to put his body on the line and since his tragic death in 1979, only a few Yankees have come close to matching his work ethic. Much like Gossage, his strength came from his mustache and seeing him without one just doesn’t make any sense.
No. 1: Sparky Lyle
Cool 'stache club: Sparky Lyle, the '77 AL Cy Young Award winner w @yankees. Tossed 137 innings out of the pen, 2.17 ERA & 26 saves to help the Bronx Bombers to the WS title. His @sabr #BioProject story https://t.co/afkcj6Pse3 pic.twitter.com/TkmdzWnGax
— SABR BioProject (@SABRbioproject) July 16, 2019
He might not have been the Egg Man, but Lyle’s thick ‘stache sure made him the Walrus. Given he didn’t make a single start in his career and yet tossed over 100 inning six times, he clearly drew Samson-like strength from it. To quote the Walrus himself, Goo Goo Ga Joob indeed.