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Great Facial Hair: A Little Piece of Baseball's Unique Culture

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A look at facial hair in baseball's past and present.

Todd Heltons' goatee has become a well known part of his persona.
Todd Heltons' goatee has become a well known part of his persona.
Christian Petersen

One of the things that makes baseball such a great sport is the culture that goes along with it. Baseball isn’t just a game to true baseball fans. It stretches beyond the playing field and infiltrates our very beings. From the minor leagues all the way up to the majors there is a distinct culture that goes along with being a part of baseball.

There are so many aspects of that culture that they simply can’t all be identified in an article of this length Jay Tymkovich wrote last week about how a commercial affected him as a baseball fan and Drew Creasman wrote about a movie that inspired him. Baseball is indeed a sport that can pull unique emotions out of a person and tug on their heart strings.

So what makes baseball so unique in its culture? I will be focusing on one aspect of baseball’s culture and that is facial hair.

Obviously, facial hair is not exclusive to baseball, but it helps identify fans with baseball. When you think Goose Goosage, what do you think? Mustache. How about Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Mike Schmidt and Keith Hernandez? Mustache. Or how about the caveman-esque beards sported by Brian Wilson, Jayson Werth and now Josh Reddick? Then there are more unique facial garbs like Scott Spiezio’s red soul patch and the ever changing facial hair that Ryan Spilborghs used to sport. And who has a hard time remembering Todd Helton without his thick goatee?

Of course some of the most distinctive facial styles belong to that of closers. For some reason, closers seem to think that having some ridiculous type of facial hair will increase their success rate. I think Mariano Rivera would beg to differ, but nonetheless the attitude remains.

Brian Wilson and his replacement in San Francisco, Sergio Romo, both sported big black beards. Jason Motte in St. Louis might actually have had a Cardinal nesting underneath his chin last season. Joel Hanrahan looked like an actual pirate closing for Pittsburgh. Sticking with the pirate theme, John Axford of the Brewers looked like Captain Morgan and Chris Perez of the Indians just looked…homeless. Whether it’s intimidation or something else entirely, it’s clear that some closers think looking the part is almost as important as playing the part.

Baseball players past and present are often identified with their facial hair. Maybe it’s the long road trips and late nights that contribute to it, or as I like to think, it’s just part of being a baseball player. Of course, the Yankees are an exception. Many players have had to part with their facial hair in order to become a member of the evil empire, the most recent casualty being Kevin Youkilis. I’m not sure why the Yankees won’t let baseball players be baseball players, but with their payroll I would shave too. Aside from their strict no facial hair policy, it is certainly easy to see how facial hair plays a role in baseball’s unique culture.

So chime in in the comments. Tell us your favorite facial hair in baseball past or present and your favorite Rockies player that had or has facial hair.

I leave you with a short list of some of the best facial hair in Rockies history in no particular order:

Todd Helton
Ryan Spilborghs
Jason Giambi
Sal Fasano
Larry Walker