Thursday, July 9, 2009

Great Beards in History: Relief Pitchers of Yore

The role of specialized relief pitcher grew in popularity in Major League Baseball during the 1970's and '80s, as managers finally realized that having their starters throw 170-pitch complete games might not exactly be the best long-term solution. Teams started seeking out pitchers who could throw electrifying stuff in the late innings. These relief pitchers needed to have a blazing fastball, a reliable second pitch, and an intimidation factor not seen since the days of Bob Gibson. The first two parts of that equation could be taught, but the third, more intangible quality, could only be brought about by one testicularly-fueled, red meat-fed, fear-striking development: an awesome beard.

Now, some relievers did not sport the full beard (Rollie Fingers being the most notable case), but still grew awesome and intimidating facial hair that screamed to batters "I know 67 ways to kill you with a coat hanger." My favorite of that mustachoied class was most certainly Al Hrabosky, "The Mad Hungarian," who not only had a nickname straight out of the WWE, but whose Fu Manchu made panties drip and men shake in fear:

However, a large number of the more successful relievers of the era sported the full beard, pronouncing to the world their manliness and lack of fear of runners in scoring position. In fact, the recent induction of Bruce Sutter to the Hall of Fame was due not because of his 300 career saves (only 21st on the alltime list), but rather to the awesomeness of his beard, depicted by an artist here:
I never knew that art could bring a man to tears...until now.

In fact, looking at the Career Saves list, you'll notice an abundance of Bearded Men of Greatness populating the top 25. Rick Aguilera. Todd Jones. Jeff Reardon (bank robbing be damned). And even those who didn't sport the full beard, such as Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, Rod Beck and the aforementioned Fingers still featured great achievements in facial hair that brought both fear and manliness to the mound in the late innings. I say inningS, because these Bearded Men didn't just pick up two saves in the 9th, nay, they rode their Beardliness through two, three or even four inning saves, relying sheerly on guile and facial growth (and possibly goods robbed from a jewelry store).

Today's relievers, sadly, feature no such facial hair achievements. Trevor Hoffman may be the alltime saves leader, but if you saw Hoffman walking down the street, would you walk the other way? Same goes for Mo Rivera, who is as physically imposing as Clay Aiken. Sure, today's relievers may pile up hollow save numbers while having their arms protected like Faberge eggs, but would any of them be able to fight off a grizzly bear while pitching a four-inning save? Fuck and no. So kids, if you want to be a relief pitcher and still be a REAL MAN, I'd offer one piece of advice: eat raw meat, smoke some Chesterfield unfiltereds, and most importantly, throw away the razor. Baseball needs you, and it needs relief pitchers with beards.


Boatdrinks said...

I listened to Mike Pelfrey get lit up on the radio Tuesday night. I checked the box score (Mets / Dodgers, 0-8L for Mets) and clearly those six pitchers need some beard help. Tim Redding has a beard n mustache. Brian Stokes has a damn spot. Sean Green has something similar to Tim but more criminal element looking. The rest...not a whisker.
Clearly the Mets need to stop shaving.

Anonymous said...

Just a little FYI. Clay Aiken is 6'2" and 180 lbs. He's no macho man but he isn't a little guy.

Boatdrinks said...

I read anon's quick, and saw "..he isn't a little gay." What? Oh...okay.

B N said...

"Clay Aiken is 6'2" and 180 lbs"

So basically, big enough that you wouldn't want to be caught in a dark alley with him. ... Unless of course you had plans with him there.