Matt’s off this week, so in lieu of his Sunday column, here’s my dissertation on Yankee beards.
Since the early days of George Steinbrenner’s tenure as owner of the Yankees, the Bombers have had a strict facial hair policy. Yes to mustaches, absolutely not to beards or excessively long hair.
Would I love to see the Yankees practice the scraggly art of unkempt or even fine-tuned beards? Sure. But the contrast of non-bearded Bombers gives us a chance to study players changing, one follicle at a time.
If someone is drafted by the Yankees out of high school or signs with the team on July 2 as an international free agency, that player is joining the organization well before their prime as a beard grower. Therefore, for much of their adult life, they’re deprived of the ability to grow out fun, lengthy and sometimes hilariously bad facial hair except in the offseason.
When players leave the Yankees, particularly homegrown talents, each player immediately throws away their razor. OK, maybe not literally, but almost everyone grows a beard shortly after leaving the Bronx. Some pull it off well and some … well, they aren’t quite as gifted.
For a breakdown, here’s an unnecessary categorization of Yankee beards.
The Standard Offseason Beard aka the CC
The most common beard you see from a Yankees player is the offseason beard. Without responsibilities to the team, players can go wild from November to February with hirsute appearances.
There is one undisputed champion in this category; CC Sabathia leads the Yankees in Offseason Beards Above Replacement. As he talked about on R2C2, he’s even mastered the in-season beard after learning at the feet of the master, Andy Pettitte, by finding ways to let some growth come up in-between starts. Since he’s now retired, he was quick to start the process back up.
Let’s check out this offseason work from 2014:
That, my friends, is a master at work. CC tested, LeBron approved.
Sabathia hasn’t always had the best beards, but he’s always courtside at basketball games ready to show off the new look. Salute.
The In-Uniform Offseason Beard aka The Bernie
Bernie Williams takes the cake here. First up, his appearance on Seinfeld:
You know that the Yankees are either in a stetch of off-days or the offseason, as Bernie is rocking the goatee. Considering the show aired in November, it’s likely the latter.
Yet Williams was not done. Six years later, he took part in MLB’s trip to Japan and played against Koji Uehara, among others. Most notably, he sported a devilish goatee again, this time in full Yankee pinstripes. We must bow down to this flagrant display of whiskers.
I’m going to use this photo so much (Also, Koji striking out Bonds was great, too) pic.twitter.com/kmYAzfyjG7— All Hallows’ Steve (@StevenTydings) May 23, 2019
The Average Post-Yankee Beard aka The Hughes
For most players, this is a right of passage. You play for the Yankees for a while and shave every day. Once you leave the Bronx, you want to see what you can do. Most players don’t abuse this newfound power and put together a fine look.
Example: Phil HughesEmbed from Getty Images
It’s not perfect, but it’s a strong effort from the baby-faced Hughes to blend into the adult world of Minneapolis. I dare say he pulls it off.
Example II: David Robertson and Melky Cabrera
This … This is the Bad Place! I didn’t want to see David Robertson with a beard, so now you have to as well. He put in the effort, but he was meant to be clean-shaven. (Melky’s beard fits him. Don’t @ me.)
Robertson has since tried to hide all evidence of his bearded days with his glove.Embed from Getty Images
Example III: Ian Kennedy
Kennedy shows up in a later (and lesser) category, but after years of trying, he’s mastered the post-Yankee beard. We salute you, IPK. Save the Big Three. 10/10Embed from Getty Images
Sometimes, there are visionaries in a field. Someone who knows instantly their true calling and makes strides that others simply cannot. That is Robinson Cano and the mustache-less beard. He brought it out at his introductory press conference. That’s how much confidence he had in it.Embed from Getty Images
Years later, it was still there. He’s since gone in new and innovative hair directions (Check his Instagram), but he’s a unique player in the post-Yankee beard space. No one else is pulling this off.Embed from Getty Images
Going Too Hard aka The Joba
All of the energy Joba put into expressive fistpumps early in his career went into hiding his chin and neck with hair later on.Embed from Getty Images
Look, Joba was great. He’s a World Series champion and was just about as fun a middle reliever as one could watch. That being said, he made a follicle folly. Chamberlain appears to have spent 10 years at sea on a crab-fishing expedition and barely lived to tell the tale. This took the post-Yankee beard past the line.
As promised, here’s Kennedy doing the same in San Diego.Embed from Getty Images
Once a Yankee, Always a Yankee (The Tino)
Almost everyone grows out the Yankee beard. Not Tino Martinez. Never Tino.Embed from Getty Images
Perhaps he couldn’t pull it off. Maybe he knew not to mess with his good looks, even while wearing a Cardinals or Devil Rays uniform.
Joe Girardi remained steadfast in his clean-shaven look as well. It’s What You Want.Embed from Getty Images
Extra: The Pre-Yankee Beard!
There are a few players who went hard on a beard before coming to the Bronx. The most famous, of course, is Johnny Damon. As a member of the ’04 Red Sox, he had long hair on every inch of his head.Embed from Getty Images
He never really grew it out again after leaving the Yankees, only sporting the occasionally average beard of a normal human.Embed from Getty Images
However, let’s check on the work of one Jonathan Holder. He was drafted by the Yankees but out of college. While at Mississippi State, Holder, aka Kenny Powers, clearly saw grooming as an optional pursuit meant for everyone else.Embed from Getty Images
Here’s an even better look. If Holder had gone to another organization, he’d have had a chance to shine as a cult hero for his shaggy hair. In the Bronx, he’s just like everyone else.