The Yankees have had a no facial hair policy in place for decades. George Steinbrenner put it in place during the Bronx Zoo days of the 1970s in an attempt to install discipline on one of the most notoriously undisciplined teams in the history of the MLB. The culture in the nation and clubhouse changed but the no facial policy remains. The official rule states that facial hair is not permitted below the lip. Enforcement of the rule has been left to GM Brian Cashman who occasionally needs to walk through the clubhouse to keep players honest.
“I have to go around to guys every now and then and keep them honest. The line I usually use, I ask them, ‘Is your rotator cuff OK?’ And they say, ‘Huh? Yeah. Why? And I say, well, obviously you’re having trouble getting that razor up to your face. So I figured you’re having shoulder problems,” Cashman said. (h/t Daniel Barbaresi, Wall Street Journal)
There have been some famous violations over the years. Roger Clemens notoriously refused to shave on days he pitched and sported a noticeable five o’clock shadow. In 1991, Yankee Captain Don Mattingly was ordered by the Yankee front office to get a hair cut. He was sporting an impressive mullet at the time and he refused to cut his long locks. He was suspended by the team until he got a hair cut. In 1995, Mattingly again broke the rule by growing a goatee. Steinbrenner called him out to the media and the Captain trimmed it into a mustache. The whole situation was lampooned in a famous classic Simpsons episode. Ironically, today as manager of the Dodgers, a team without a facial hair policy, Mattingly is clean-shaven. Loose cannon David Wells reportedly asked to have money put aside in his contract to pay any fines associated with his occasional goatees.
Most players conform to the grooming standards without incident. Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, Randy Johnson and others all got the required haircuts or shaved to get in line with the standard. Others such as Brian Wilson and David Price have stated they would never sign with the Bombers as long as the grooming standard remains in place. The standard is generally popular with fans, it has become increasing unpopular with players. Especially as beards have become more stylish in recent years. The first thing former Yankees Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes did upon signing with the Tigers and Twins respectively was grow a beard.
At this point, it may be time to relax the facial hair standard. Perhaps along some facial hair such as goatees or slight beards while still banning the long hair and beards worn by players in other cities such as Boston. The Yankees can’t afford to let good players such as Wilson, Price and others sign elsewhere due to their reluctance to conform to the Yankee grooming standards. Abolishing the rule is not wise. The Yankees still have a corporate image to uphold, but perhaps it can be relaxed.