If you’re a baseball fan on Twitter these days, it’s likely that you’ve encountered an account for a ball player’s facial hair. Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth’s beard has a Twitter handle, as does San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson’s jet-black growth. Nationals farmhands Bryce Harper (and his attempt at upper-lip fuzz) and Collin Balestar’s mustache have also gotten into the Twitter game.
All this talk over facial hair got me wondering - does Major League Baseball care about facial hair taking on a mind of its own?
While I realize there probably isn’t a rule in place about facial hair using Twitter to converse with fans and the outside world, I figured there had to be some sort of rule in baseball’s lengthy history referring to it at some point. So, I took it to “The Unwritten Rules of Baseball”.
Thanks to baseball chronicler Paul Dickson, there’s a published book of unwritten baseball rules (an oxymoron, I know). According to Dickson, one unwritten rule of the game that had been in place for close to 60 years between 1914 and 1972 was that Major League Baseball “strongly disfavored” facial hair.
In the 1960s, when counterculture was going for a hairier look, most teams forbade their players from growing mustaches and beards. Really.
Take the thought back to the olden days of baseball and the words of Connie Mack throw some perspective on the facial hair debacle. Mack played baseball for 10 seasons, almost entirely as a catcher, and made his debut Sept.11, 1886 for the Washington Nationals (who were also known as the Statesmen or Senators).
“Ball players in the early days thought it was a sign of manhood to raise a beard,” he said in his memoir, “My 66 Years in the Big Leagues.” “You couldn’t be an athlete without raising whiskers or at least a mustache. In fact, most of the players on the Washington Senators, when I was catcher back in 1887, wore mustaches.”
These days, personal appearance is up to the discretion of the clubhouse (and sometimes team rules). I do, however, have the sneaking suspicion that if the Nationals had an issue with facial hair, they would have said something to their players (and respective Twitter handles representing their hirsute owners) by now.
Rachel Levitin blogs about the Nationals for We Love DC, and will be sharing her observations about baseball in the nation’s capital this week as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.