This is how he shows up at spring training, saying he hasn’t shaved all winter. His teammates, who love nothing more than to make fun of Reggie, grow mustaches too.
. The idea is to surround Reggie with so many terrible mustaches that he cannot help but want to shave off his own. Either that or it’ll force their manager to order them all to the barber. Reggie’s mustache is a ticking time bomb. No major leaguers have worn facial hair in almost a hundred years.
“When the season opens you’re representing me, the ball club and the state of Michigan,” is how Billy Martin, the manager of the Detroit Tigers puts it to his players in 1972. Did Joe DiMaggio have a mustache? Did Sandy Koufax need a beard? No and no. Professional baseball is clean-cut.
This changes now. Nobody gets on Reggie or any of the other Oakland A’s to shave. These things darkening their upper lips, these jokes, are allowed to stay on their faces. The manager defers to Oakland’s owner, Charles O. Finley; Finley, sensing a promotional opportunity, encourages the whole team to grow mustaches. He hasn’t been able to get many people to come see his team play but now Finley thinks he’s found a gimmick. He pays $300 to every player with a mustache. He makes June 18 Mustache Day at the stadium. Fans with facial hair can get in free, if accompanied by a friend who pays full-price.
Throughout April and May, Finley’s team wins. Baseball is a game of tough breaks and close calls, and baseball players are a superstitious lot, eager for any charm that might tip things their way. Clearly Oakland’s mustaches have helped gain them some mysterious advantage. They sweep the White Sox at the end of May and the mustaches take over first place. Now, with the season eight weeks old and the A’s securely in the front of their division, many Oakland players and coaches—Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, manager Dick Williams—are sporting the good-luck whiskers that will serve them for the rest of their lives. Relief pitcher Rollie Fingers has even begun waxing his mustache and curling up the ends. He has never pitched better. Even if Finley ordered them to shave now, it’s doubtful many players would comply.
One Sunday, on a typically cold and foggy afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum, Mustache Day arrives. 26,210 spectators show up, a lot for the A’s at the time, but scarcely enough to fill half the stadium. Approximately 7,000 of them have mustaches and are allowed in without paying. The game goes the way of the mustache, and the A’s beats the Indians, 9-0. It’s difficult afterward, however, to isolate the impact of the Finley promotion on total attendance. There’s another good reason many of the people have come. They have come to watch Oakland’s starting pitcher. His name is Vida Blue.