No strangers to the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals will return to the Fall Classic on Wednesday. The Cardinals earned that opportunity by beating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 9-0, in St. Louis on Friday night. Cards starter Michael Wacha was outstanding for the second time in the National League Championship Series. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw was uncharacteristically hittable on just the wrong night.
Many years ago, when somebody told former New York Yankees catcher and Hall-of-Famer Yogi Berra that he was ugly, Yogi replied that it was a good thing he didn’t hit with his face. Nobody in the current post-season hits with his face, though Boston’s oft-wounded Shane Victorino has tried to hit with the rest of his body.
But that’s not to say that the face has not played a significant role throughout the season in Boston, where the last to first Red Sox have apparently made that leap by collectively growing beards.
Only A Game’s Karen Given is among the many who have noticed.
It’s October at Fenway Park and even the guys hawking programs are wearing beards. The entire Red Sox starting lineup has grown something. There are bushy beards, patchy beards, stylish beards, scary beards, neat beards, and frizzy beards. Even Xander Bogaerts, the youngest and newest member of the team has managed to grow something that could charitably be described a goatee.
The follicular challenges of Boston’s lineup have captured the imagination of the Fenway Faithful and have even become a topic of dugout conversation between Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes and local sports talk radio station WEEI.
“We got some guys putting some pretty good effort, you know, but some people just weren’t blessed with the facial hair gene” said Gomes.
This week, the beards got their own episode of the YouTube series, “My Mom on Movies.”
Filmmaker Josh Seftel usually talks to his 76 year old mother, Pat, about movies stars and TV shows, but this week the topic was beards. Red Sox beards, to be more specific.
“You know the first baseman?” Pat Seftel asks.
“Mike Napoli,” her son answers.
“He has a pretty big beard,” Pat continues. “It doesn’t look clean, you know. I think if I were a man and I was eating and I had one of those big beards I could see like an egg sticking to it, crumbs, toast dropping into it, you know like a bird’s nest.”
Playoff beards are nothing new. They’ve been a plague in postseason hockey since at least the ’80s. But, some members of the Sox started growing their beards in spring training.
As fans streamed into Fenway Park for last weekend’s Game 2 of the ALCS, they didn’t want to talk about David Ortiz‘s propensity to hit a home run when it matters most, or the notably clean shaven Koji Uehara‘s closing record. The fans wanted to talk about beards.
Megan McGovern traveled five hours from Allentown, Pennsylvania for the game. And she didn’t hesitate when asked what made her team worth the drive.
“It’s the beard, it’s the beards, Red Sox have got this,” she said. “We’re gonna win. We’re gonna go all the way.”
Megan, like pinch runner Quintin Berry, is too pretty for a beard. (I borrowed that line from Grantland’s Wesley Morris.) But Boston fans Doug Treator and Jeff Nettleton are giving beards a try… with mixed results.
“It’s my second beard ever,” Treator said.
“I’m trying too, but my beard isn’t so good,” added Nettleton. “I’m trying to match the Ortiz chin strap but it isn’t too good.”
Not all Red Sox fans are convinced that the beard’s the thing. After a few rough years, Boston has a new manager, John Farrell, and beer and chicken have been banned from the clubhouse during games. While teams of the past have rallied behind rally caps, cowboy hats, or by calling themselves idiots, Sox Fan Alice Bonnie says none of that matters.
“It matters how you work together. And that’s the biggest, biggest thing is that they’re working together, they’re focused on one mission, and they are determined to win the World Series.”
Don’t expect the beards to last forever. One Red Sox wife has already gone on record to say that her husband will shave… right after he wins the World Series.