Who grew it first?
Make no mistake, baseball is no stranger for bringing unique facial hair to the clubhouse — Rollie Fingers and his waxed handlebar, say hello. But for 29 of the 30 clubs in Major League Baseball — sorry, Yankees — beards have become as much of a fixture in the game as the seventh-inning stretch.
By each October, they seem to have a life of their own. That might be where the recent razor-less resurgence all starts.
In a game built on superstition, Brian Wilson began growing a rich, dark black beard soon after the 2010 All-Star break as the Giants’ pennant race ramped up. Three months later, the Giants were World Series champs and for Wilson, their free-spirited closer, there was no turning back.
Wilson’s beard grew full and long, and so did the legend that came with it, seemingly beginning the trendy move of beard-growing across the league.
The Red Sox have had two of their World Series championship runs fueled by the beard, First it was Johnny Damon with his long locks and beard — before he was a clean-shaven Yankee — inspiring the “Idiots” to break the curse in 2004. Then there was an even stronger rendition in 2013, when Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes led a band of bearded brothers that would tug on each other’s beards to celebrate big plays.
Of course, no sport does beards quite like hockey when it comes playoff time, a tradition that has its roots in New York. The Islanders are largely credited with starting the playoff beards in the 1980s. By the time the Stanley Cup is won each year, most faces are fully covered.
It can’t be comfortable to grow out a beard when you’re profession includes wearing a helmet with a chinstrap, but that hasn’t stopped football players from joining the fold, either. The facial hair seems to be the most popular among offensive linemen, perhaps trying to double down on their grizzly statures.
And James Harden hasn’t stopped carrying the bearded bunch’s flag for the modern-day NBA, bringing back memories of Phil Jackson’s own face warmer in the 1960s. Heck, Harden’s beard even has its own Twitter account, as does Jayson Werth’s.
In all sports, beards have developed a cult-like following, regardless of which hero put the razor down first.