In the months before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sought to comfort nervous Americans in his State of the Union speech by telling them that they enjoyed four inherent freedoms –freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
I humbly offer a fifth today – freedom of hair.
In this democracy of ours, individuals should be allowed their choice of hair style. You want to wear a crewcut? Go for it. You want a pony tail? That’s fine by me. You prefer to shave your head? Do it. Thinking of a comb-over to cover up your bald scalp? That works, too.
As a tax-paying resident of this country, how you wear your hair should be your business. All of which brings us to the stately New York Yankees, who in 2017 have a hair policy, one that has been in place for many years. They prefer the military look. They don’t prefer short hair. They require it. And just in case you thought a beard might enhance your look, forget it. The Yankee rule is no facial hair, except for a moustache, neatly trimmed, of course.
Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage once showed up with a moustache and a goatee. Advised that the goatee had to go, Gossage responded by turning the moustache into a Fu Manchu that made him look fierce, a nice addition to his 98 mph fastball.
Excessive hair is a violation of the Yankee way, a policy that the late George Steinbrenner imposed when he purchased the team in 1973. You think he was kidding? During spring training that year, he sent a note to manager Ralph Houk telling him to order haircuts for Thurman Munson, Bobby Murcer, Sparky Lyle and Roy White. The players were mystified but ultimately complied and, armed with appropriate hair lengths, the team went 80-82 that season and finished 17 games behind first place Baltimore
During Steinbrenner’s reign there were frequent clashes over hair in Yankeeland. Remember Oscar Gamble, who once sported the world’s biggest Afro? The most memorable hair affair involved first baseman Don Mattingly, who actually was benched in 1991 until he permitted himself to be clipped. The Yankees lost 91 games that season, but boy, did they look sharp doing it. Ironically, Mattingly now manages the Miami Marlins, where facial hair is barred.
This brings us to hotshot Yankees prospect Clint Frazier. Acquired in the trade that sent reliever Andrew Miller to Cleveland last summer, Frazier arrived in Tampa with an excess of flaming red hair, neatly tied in a bun on the back of his dome. Release the bun and Frazier’s hair flowed freely from under the back of his cap.
The Yankees dispatched manager Joe Girardi and Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson to advise Frazier of the rules and regulations and the young man sheepishly but obediently marched himself off to the camp barber shop for a repair job. So truth, justice and the Yankees way is safe again.
Now that everybody is nice and neat, Girardi needs to piece together a pitching rotation. It appears to be the Yankees biggest challenge as we approach the start of the season.
Meanwhile, their New York neighbors have assembled a first class pitching staff for the Mets, headlined by Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndegaard. Neither of them has had a haircut in some time and their hair waves wildly behind them every time they deliver a pitch.
Now here’s a question. Unless they sign long term agreements with the Mets before it happens – and wouldn’t that be a sensible strategy for the team — one day, both deGrom and Syndegaard will reach free agency. And when that happens, their hair will probably be longer than it is right now.
Will the pitching hungry Yankees be snub them because of their hairstyles if that happens or will freedom of hair be in place across the land by then?