Performance Enhancing Beards: A Tribute to No-Shave November

Today’s guest blog features Adam Maddox, a former collegiate baseball player at the University of Central Missouri. Adam knows what it takes to grow a playoff beard. While playing for the St. Joe Mustangs in 2011, Adam’s mustache played a critical role in his record setting no-hitter. 

Although the list of baseball superstitions is a long one, at the top you can always find the glorious “playoff beard.”  Facial hair goes with playoff baseball like Babe Ruth goes with the Hall of Fame.  In honor of No-Shave November, I’m going to shed light on this postseason tradition.

These performance-enhancing beards (PEBs, if you will) allow teams and players to take a new identity into the playoffs. For example, let’s look at this year’s World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants.

Any non-baseball fan would have assumed that the Giants had picked up a homeless man from the streets of California to play right field for them this postseason. Baseball enthusiasts know that homeless man as Hunter Pence. His fiery leadership shown in the dugout helped spark an incredible postseason run for the G-Men. Without his beard, however, it would have just been leadership. The beard made it fiery.

Fiery Beard

Pence’s beard isn’t the most well known of the Giants’ PEBs, though. We are all well aware of Brian Wilson’s gorgeous piece of facial fur. His beard even has its own Facebook and Twitter accounts.  With his beard, Brian Wilson looked like Gerard Butler’s stunt double in “300”. However, instead of chanting “This is Sparta”, Giants’ fans everywhere embraced the “Fear the Beard” battle cry on their way to the 2010 World Series crown. Sergio Romo hopped on the beard train as well, picking up right where the injured Wilson left off as Giants’ closer. End result: World Series Championship.

These beards give these players identities and confidence few clean-shaven men can rival. A solid playoff beard (i.e. Brian Wilson) sends a message to opponents, albeit sometimes a frightening one. A subpar PEB (i.e. Hunter Pence) also sends a message. The message is simple: I am homeless, crazy and will do anything to win.

So during this year’s No-Shave November, remember those who have not shaved before you. Remember Brian Wilson and Hunter Pence. Remember Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage. Remember Al Hrabosky and Dennis Eckersley. Heck, you can even remember Jim Joyce (just don’t remember the blown call). But more importantly, remember why they did it: to be remembered.

Rollie Fingers’ Legendary Handlebar Mustache

Adam Maddox graduated from the University of Central Missouri, majoring in public relations. Adam can be reached via Twitter @AdamMaddoxPR. 

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3 comments

  1. Jim Kern (Emu)

    In my case the reason for the beard was intimidation. I knew I was a one trick pony, owning an overpowering fastball with good movement on it, inherently wild and a willingness to act crazy. Being a short relief pitcher, my value was as a shock trooper, bringing gas after the starter had thrown breaking balls & off speed stuff for 6 – 8 innings, with hitters trying to adjust to my fastball and antics. The beard & yelling at myself on the mound seemed to play on the hitters mind in the short term & that was all I was concerned about, getting people out for an inning or 3. I figured that at the level of talent in the bigs, self confidence played nearly 50% of ones success, and if I could erode a hitters self confidence by just 2% I felt I had an edge. Being 6’5, 185 lbs looking like, as Nolan Ryan once put it “Ichabod Crane” on the mound, throwing the ball in the upper 90’s with generally a limited amount of control, growing the mangy beard and acting crazy helped this “less than great athlete” at least at the big league level, survive 13 seasons in the show!
    Talent gets you to the show, being able to think and adjust keeps you there! When you don’t have overpowering athletic ability you better, as Boog Powell used to say, “be able to trick em.” A beard I agree is a pretty good “trick” when it comes to intimidation and gets the opposition out of their comfort zone when facing you.

    Jim Kern (Emu)
    Has been All Star Relief Pitcher

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