At the turn of the 20th century, the majority of baseball players sported mustaches. But by the 1930s, the trimmers came out, and a fuzzy upper lip was prohibited, not explicitly, but rather via an unwritten rule of conduct, in the major leagues. The idea was to make the game more appealing to families, by keeping the boys clean-shaven and well groomed—and a shift in social etiquette, which mandated that decent men be clean-shaved, reinforced the move away from mustachioed players. Baseball players would remain clean-shaven for several decades, until 1972, when a mustachioed Reggie Jackson arrived at spring training with the Oakland A’s. The look wasn’t a hit with his fellow teammates, but their manager embraced it: He offered each player $300 to grow his own ’stache.
In the 1970s, facial hair represented a burgeoning counterculture, and the move by the Oakland A’s was a controversial one: still, almost all of the team grew their mustaches out for the bonus, earning the team the nickname “The Mustache Gang.” The ensuing years were a confusing time for baseball facial hair—individual clubs, like the Brewers and the Blue Jays, issued explicit bans on facial hair within their clubs, while other clubs embraced players with full heads and faces of hair (the afro was big during this time).
Since the late 70s, baseball has seen a number of mustachio-clad players on the diamond. Recently released statistics on the last decade of All-Star Games reveal that those with facial hair actually outperform their clean-shaven counterparts. But even if the mustache doesn’t make the man, it sure makes the man memorable. Here are 25 of the most memorable mustaches in baseball history.
Harry Wright assembled and played center field for baseball’s first professional team, the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings. He played for seven years, ending his career with the Boston Red Caps. He turned baseball into a business, paying his players up to seven times the salary of the average working man. Wright sported a tough-looking double-decker beard that turned white at the ends.
Cap Anson made his major league debut in 1871, and by the time of his retirement after nearly 30 years in the game, had racked up more than 3,400 hits and 2,000 RBI. He would also be well-remembered for his thin handlebar mustache.
Jim O’Rourke began his professional baseball career in 1872 and played until he was well over 50. As catcher for the New York Giants during a September 22, 1904, game, O’Rourke became the oldest player to ever participate in the National League. All those years, O’Rourke sported a bushy crumb catcher that hung low past his mouth.
A pitcher and shortstop during baseball’s early history, Monte Ward helped organize the first professional sports players union. In 1880, he threw for nearly 600 innings, pitched the second perfect game in baseball history in June of that year. The game wouldn’t see another until 1904 with Cy Young for the Philadelphia A's. Ward was rarely seen on the mound without a perfectly waxed, sleek mustache.
Mike "King" Kelly
Outfielder Mike “King” Kelly began his career in 1878 with the Cincinnati Reds and ended it 15 years later with the New York Giants. Kelly played in the heyday of mustaches in baseball, and spiced his bright red hair with a serious dark, thick handlebar mustache.
Catfish Hunter, whose birth name was James, started his 15-year major league career with the Oakland A’s, the team with a storied, mustachioed past. He became the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the Yankees in 1975. He won 23 games in his first season with New York, all while wearing a thick, no-nonsense mustache that angled sharply down like the wings of a bird in flight.
Rollie Fingers has been sporting a classic handlebar mustache since his early pitching days for the Oakland A’s in the 1970s (he also played for the San Diego Padres and the Milwaukee Brewers.) His facial hair is one of the most recognizable in the game, and according to a recent interview, only takes 15 seconds and little bit of wax to maintain. “If it took any longer than that, I’d shave it off,” he said.
Oscar Gamble, a former outfielder and designated hitter, played for 17 seasons on seven different teams, most notably for the Yankees. Though his gigantic fro, which bursts from the sides of his cap and makes for an iconic baseball card, is long gone now, people haven’t forgotten about it. When the Yankees acquire a new player with some wild hair, Gamble says reporters call him to ask about the team’s infamous grooming policy.
Al Hrabosky started his career pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1970, and finished out his run 12 years later with the Atlanta Braves. Although he’s now a clean-shaven sports commentator, back in the day he toted around fierce facial hair. His ’stache, which billowed out beyond his chin, paired with indifferent demeanor often mistaken for anger, earned him the nickname "The Mad Hungarian."
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt played his entire career as third basemen for the Philadelphia Phillies, racking up 548 career homeruns. He was also a three-time National League MVP and 12-time All-Star. That’s one pretty impressive resume, but what Schmidt is also remembered for is his signature, well-kept sandy brown mustache.
Dick Tidrow made his pitching rounds in the 1970s and ’80s, throwing for the Chicago Cubs and White Sox and New York Yankees and Mets. And everywhere he went, his trademark thick mustache, often called droopy and walrus-like, came with him.
Relief pitcher Goose Gossage played on nine different teams in the late 1970s and early 1980s, marking his best years with the New York Yankees and San Diego Padres. To this day, the Yankees are the only remaining baseball club with an explicit ban on facial hair—something that Gossage knows well, being asked to shave his beard at the behest of Yankee’s owner George Steinbrenner. Gossage acquiesced, but kept his thick, exaggerated mustache down to his jaw line. His intense facial hair matched this gruff exterior and mean pitching style, namely a fastball that solidified his ability as a skilled closer.
Keith Hernandez’s time playing for the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets in the ’70s and ’80s earned him the Gold Glove in 11 consecutive seasons. This was the most by any first baseman in baseball history, making Hernandez a masterful defensive player. But in 2007, it was his flavor savor that was in the spotlight, thanks to the American Mustache Institute, a nonprofit that promotes social acceptance of mustaches in the workplace and elsewhere. The Pittsburgh-based organization asked the public to vote on the greatest sports mustache of all time. The winner? Hernandez’s tea strainer.
One of Dennis Eckersley’s career-defining moments came during the 1988 World Series. Though he was an accomplished closer, Eckersley surrendered a game-ending home run to an injured Kirk Gibson, who hobbled up to the plate at the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1. Gibson’s team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were slated as the underdogs but Gibson's "walk-off" home run, a term that Eckersley coined earlier that year, set the tone of the rest of the series; the Dodgers won 4 games to 1. But in the end, Eckersley wasn’t fazed—and neither was his signature mossy mustache.
Former relief pitcher Bruce Sutter is remembered most in baseball history for perfecting the splitter. The throwing technique looks like a fastball to batters, but the ball “drops off the table” toward home at the last second, often leading to easy-out ground balls. Sutter won the Cy Young Award in 1979 while with the Chicago Cubs, and helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the World Series in 1982. During his career, he wore a beard that seamlessly transitioned into a full head of hair, with a light mustache and goatee.
Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, a first baseman and designated hitter, debuted in 1977 with the Baltimore Orioles and ended his successful career in 1997 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s regarded as one of the best switch hitters in the game. He’s also well known for a fierce, bushy mustache that stretched up into his sideburns and afro.
A shortstop for the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals between 1978 and 1996, Ozzie Smith was a 13-time Gold Glove winner. Nicknamed “the Wizard” for his defensive skills, he was famous for performing backflips as he ran onto the field. He was also famous for his fluffy sideburns, beard and ’stache, all connecting seamlessly to frame his usually smiling face.
During his 15-year MLB career as a first baseman for the Houston Astros, Jeff Bagwell always sported a goatee. But it wasn’t until a decade in until the goatee hit a growth sprout, nearly reaching down to Bagwell’s chest. The story goes that he and a teammate had agreed to grow their goatees all winter and arrive at spring training with lengthy locks. When the time came, the other teammate was clean-shaven; he had though the pact was a joke. Bagwell didn’t, but stuck with the look anyway.
Dustin Hermanson is a former relief pitcher who struggled to find a home in the majors, playing for five different teams in 11 years, including the Boston Red Sox. He closed for most of the Chicago White Sox’s championship season in 2005, saving 34 games before a back injury forced him to exit the game. As for what warrants his inclusion on this list, we’ll let the photo do the talking.
For David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, facial hair isn’t about keeping his chin warm—it’s about form. He wears a close-shaven chinstrap beard, one that likely requires frequent trimming and sculpting. Nicknamed “Big Papi,” Ortiz is one of 51 in major league history to hit at least 400 career homeruns. He’s also a nine-time All-Star, lending credence to the argument that sporting a scratchy chin might mean higher performance.
Infielder Scott Spiezio began his major leagues career in 1996 with the Oakland A’s, but his biggest moment would come six years later with the Anaheim Angels. In the 2002 World Series, the Angels were trailing the San Francisco Giants when Spiezio hit a three-run homerun, propelling them to an eventual win. When he joined the St. Louis Cardinals a few years later, Spiezio debuted a scraggly soul patch dyed bright red. One has to wonder if actual cardinals have ever mistaken the facial hair for an actual small bird.
When Washington Nationals right-fielder Jayson Werth came to D.C. from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010, he sported a 2009 National League All-Star appearance and a mild-mannered goatee on the center of his chin. Since 2010, Werth and his facial hair have continued to thrive, reaching 1,000 career hits in the summer of 2011. His beard, which has since transformed into a thick grizzly mane, even has its own Twitter account.
Closer Brian Wilson began growing his behemoth of a dark beard while playing for the Giants in 2010 (he now plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers). Since then, his facial hair has achieved considerably notoriety on its own: a Virgin America airplane, emblazoned with the team’s logo, appeared with a Wilson-esque mustache painted on its nose in 2012.
Nicknamed “Dutch Oven,” Texas Rangers starting pitcher Derek Holland is known for his left arm and fun-loving attitude. He’s also recognized for the little squiggle that lives on his upper lip, making the 26-year-old look even younger, something mustaches rarely do. "It's the first time I've ever had anything like that; to do something, and the crowd gets into it,” Holland once said of its popularity. “I mean, I had little kids wearing fake mustaches, I got women wearing mustaches. It's unbelievable. It's something cool.”
The mustache worn by John Axford, a closing pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers, gives people a slight case of déjà vu. That’s because Axford’s handlebar mustache is reminiscent of that of baseball great Rollie Fingers. But it has built its own reputation. In 2011, the pitcher received the Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year Award by the American Mustache Institute.