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This year, beards mean baseball in Boston

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  September 10, 2013 08:00 AM

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AP Red Sox Beards.JPG

With all this talk about beards, we at Boston.Com decided to put together a photo gallery of famous Boston Sports Beards past and present. You can visit that gallery here.

Beards.

They are a metaphor for strength, maturity, wisdom, and toughness.

Perhaps the last exclusive symbol of masculinity left in a cultural world of "blurred lines."

Lumberjacks have beards.

Wizards have beards.

Offensive lineman have beards.

Hockey players in June have beards.

Ayatollahs have beards, as do rabbis, priests, and many non-believers.

Beards can signal stability or eccentricity.

They can be required for conformity, but can also signal a willingness to be different or be used as a sign of protest.

Sometimes they convey strength, other times they evoke frailty.

Apple inventor Steve Jobs had a beard at various times. So did Patriots linebacker Steve Nelson. Steve "Shag" Crawford did not. Celtics coach Brad Stevens looks like he's not old enough to grow one if he tried.

This year in Boston, beards mean just one thing - baseball.

Facial hair and its management has been intertwined with baseball since the days before the Americans played their games at the Huntington Avenue American League Base Ball Grounds. Baseball players in the 19th century routinely sported beards, reflecting the status they enjoyed across society.

When a "clean shave" became the social norm, baseball followed suit. Ads for razors and other grooming products were the norm at ballparks. Boston-based Gillette has had a formal marketing relationship with major-league baseball since before America entered World War II [1939].

The 1903 World Series winners were a clean-shaven lot, save for a pair of bushy mustaches that belonged to George Candy LaChance and Charles "Duke" Farrell.

Facial hair soon disappeared from baseball altogether for decades.

The 1912 world champion Red Sox displayed nary a whisker in their team photo. The same held true in 1915 , in 1916 and in 1918.

Fenway 1942 - BPLx.bmpDuring the early decades of Tom Yawkey's ownership, left-field wall ads for Gem Razors loomed over Fenway [see photo at right, courtesy of the Boston Public Library], further ensuring the Red Sox player would remain clean-shaven.

The Hardball Times says catcher Wally Schang sported a mustache in 1914, but no player had any facial hair on the field subsequently during the season until Oakland's Reggie Jackson showed up with a mustache on Opening Day in 1972. [In 1936, legend has it, Brooklyn Dodger player French Bordagaray showed up with mustache at spring training, but manager Casey Stengel forced him to remove it.]

The Red Sox, as a whole, remained sans facial hair until the early 1970s, when mustaches and sideburns eventually slid their way into full-grown beards. Reggie Smith led the sideburns brigade, and by 1974 the team photo was sprinkled with mustaches and Fu Manchus, thanks in large part to Luis Tiant.

The 1977 Red Sox team photo [below] is the first official team portrait to show any players with full beards.

Red Sox 1977 Team Photo.jpg

The most noticeable beard, to no one's surprise, belonged to lefty-all-the-way-around Bill Lee [back row, center].

More than 35 years later, beards and the Red Sox have become intertwined. They are no longer an aberration, nor the lone signature province of a pitcher who once described Billy Martin and the Yankees as "that neo-Nazi and his Brown Shirts," and opined on "pyramid power, zero population growth, the goodness of soyburgers, the badness of sugar, interplanetary creative Zen Buddhism and heavy, heavy, zapped-out karma."

Depending on the very well-groomed John Farrell's [no relation to Duke] proclivities , the 2013 Red Sox could have up to seven quasi-bearded position players and a DH with facial hair in the lineup on any given day, in addition starting pitchers John Lackey, Ryan Dempster and the 11-0 Clay Buchholz- all of whom are no longer clean-shaven.

Others, like Jake Peavy and Will Middlebrooks, have dabbled with joining Boston's Club for Bearded Men.

Some want to believe these beards have provided the likes of Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Dustin Pedroia, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Shane Victorino with mythical powers, especially when it comes to delivering during the team's final at bat.

If this keeps up, who know's what's next?

Phil Olsen, the captain of Beard Team USA, which competes at the World Beard and Moustache Championships, told The New York Times, once part of the Parent Company of This Blog, that the Red Sox have set a model for others to follow.

"Good beardsmanship builds fraternity, camaraderie and friendship," he said "My unscientific observation: The Red Sox's record improves with the length of Dustin Pedroia's beard."

That, and a few other things.

Don't forget to visit our Obnoxious Boston Fan blog. As always, let us know what you think. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbost onfan@hotmail.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Obnoxious Boston Fan offers a fun, unique and biting perspective on the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and whatever else people are talking about in the world of sports. We More »
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