The early 1970’s were a pivotal and epochal epoch — the most pivotal and epochal, perhaps — in the great Mustache Wars that have convulsed civilization since its very inception. If we were, for the sake of building a narrative, to point to a single event that forever turned the tide of those wars, it would surely be the 1972 World Series. Famously dubbed “Hairs vs. Squares,” this contest pitted the full-foliaged Oakland A’s of Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter, and Rollie Fingers against Sparky Anderson’s baby-smooth Reds. The outcome — Oakland by a hair — validated mouthbrows everywhere and tipped off a long slide into obsolescence for shaved-lip purists.* It must have been a tough pill to swallow for old Sparky, who was so tenacious a defender of the clean-cut face that it cost him his firstborn son for a year and a half.
As the linked story notes, the legendary skipper’s chaetophobia and his deep respect for his players were often in conflict. Anderson himself claims that if Johnny Bench or Pete Rose were to walk into the clubhouse with a mustache, his only honorable recourse would be to play the star and then tender his resignation the following day. Which makes this revelation of Bench’s winter plumage all the more poignant:
However, exhaustive search of every archive available to me has failed to turn up any corroborating evidence of Johnny Bench’s offseason mustache. For now, pending further revelations, I am forced to place it in the “ANECDOTAL” file. Of course, if my able and resourceful readers wanted to continue the search —
* Though the Reds stubbornly maintained their team facial-hair ban until 1999, to the point of whiting out mustaches in their media guides.
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