Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Rollie Fingers and His Magic Mustache

I once tried to grow a handlebar mustache.

Well, let's say I tried to grow a mustache...any ol' mustache, with or without handlebars.

There were two problems with this plan:
1974 Topps Rollie Fingers
1974 Topps Rollie Fingers
  • Problem #1: I can't grow a mustache
  • Problem #2: See Problem #1
My inspiration for becoming a handlebar-mustached hero was one Rollie Fingers, Hall of Fame relief pitcher for the Oakland A's. If you grew up watching baseball in the 1970s, you remember Rollie. He was hard to miss with his sinister facial hair and bright yellow and green uniform. The fact that he had a powerful fastball that helped close out three straight World Series victories for the A's didn't hurt either.

My facial follicle shortcomings aside, Fingers was always one of my favorite players. Because he was a relief pitcher - or "fireman" in baseball parlance - he usually didn't appear until the sixth or seventh inning when the starting pitcher's arm was starting to get rubbery. Fingers would come in with a fresh arm and fan the opposing team's sluggers, sealing the win while his mustachioed upper lip intimidated follicle-challenged guys everywhere, including your wayward blog author.

1975 and 1976 Topps Rollie Fingers
1975 Topps (left) and 1976 Topps Rollie Fingers

A few details about the cards pictured here: All three of the cards pictured here were made by Topps:

  • 1974 Topps: Card #212 - Topps was relatively new to publishing game-action cards in 1974 (the first real action cards appeared in 1971). By 1974, they were starting to get it right. This card perfectly captures the fury of a major league pitcher's heater.
  • 1975 Topps: Card #21 - One of the most striking (possibly garish?) cards Topps ever produced. The 1975 was a bit psychedelic in its design anyway. Add Rollie's colorful uni and wild mustache and you have an attention-getting card.
  • 1976 Topps: Card #405 - I remember pulling this card out of a wax pack in 1976. I remember my dad telling me that Fingers was a great pitcher. Like me, my dad couldn't grow a 'stache to save his life and if I am not mistaken, I remember seeing a little longing in his eyes when he looked at this card.

A few details about Mr. Fingers: Born Roland Glen Fingers in August 1946, Rollie pitched for 18 years in the majors. He played for the A's from 1968 to 1976, the San Diego Padres from 1977-1980 and the Milwaukee Brewers from 1981-1985. His number 34 has been retired by both the A's and the Padres. He was elected to the hall of fame in 1992.

Fingers was a seven-time all-star, was the AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner in 1981, and was a four-time Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year winner.

In 1973, A's owner Charles Finley offered a $300 bonus to the player who could grow and maintain the best facial hair. Rollie ran with it...

In 1986, the Cincinnati Reds offered Fingers a contract to pitch for one more season. However, the Reds had a "clean-cut" policy, meaning the organization would not allow players to grow facial hair. Fingers turned down the job, telling the Reds GM: "Well, you tell Marge Schott to shave her Saint Bernard, and I'll shave my mustache". You just gotta love a man with principles when it comes to the sanctity of his facial hair.

Fingers still rocks his coiffed facial hair today. Check out his website: Rollie Fingers Official Website