October 4, 2013

Sox make beards unlikely symbol of dramatic turn-around season

Fans and beard wearers alike can’t brush off what the whiskers are doing for Red Sox Nation.

by Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

Patrick Carey of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

“I think it brings the players down to earth a little bit, it helps make it fun to watch them,” said Jeff Carpenter, 72, a bearded optician and Sox fan from Porter. “It’s a symbol of their camaraderie.”

And it’s a symbol of the Sox new attitude, brought by new players.

New outfielder Jonny Gomes sported a bushy beard in spring training, and it caught the eye of new first baseman Mike Napoli and new catcher David Ross. Soon, it looked like somebody had sprinkled Miracle-Gro in the Red Sox lockers and most of the team was sprouting facial hair. Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino and David Ortiz let their chins get covered, to name a few.

As the beards started growing, the team started winning. And they never stopped.

“I think it’s a good symbol of what helped them get where they are,” said Patrick Carey, 32, a bearded computer programmer from Portland. “But it would have been terrible to do this last year – pulling beards while losing all those games.”

The Sox and their fans endured a horrible season in 2012, symbolized by overpriced players (relatively speaking) who didn’t seem to care for each other or, more importantly, for beards.

But this year, the players show up at Fenway looking like members of ZZ Top one day and Rutherford B. Hayes the next, showing that the only thing they care about is winning.

As opposed to the way they look.

People who study the cultural importance of beards say it’s no surprise that they have given the Sox confidence, swagger and a mystic sort of energy. That’s what beards do, they say.

“It’s fun to watch Napoli hit a home run and you see everyone grabbing his beard, like they’re trying to get the magic from it,” said Brendan Cheever, a member of the Boston Beard Bureau, a beard awareness and promotion group in Massachusetts. “You can see how they can use it as intimidation. When you’re a hitter at the plate and you’re facing a whole team of bearded guys, that must be something.”

It’s hard to find another example of so many players on a Major League Baseball team bearding up at the same time. You have to go back to the House of David, a religious community’s barnstorming team that played into the 1950s, to find a whole team of bearded players.

As for beards equaling winning, relief pitchers Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo grew famously bushy beards during the San Francisco Giants’ 2010 championship season. But there were plenty of clean-shaven guys on that team.

You might reason that the Red Sox beards of ’13 are the full-facial-hair equivalent of the mustaches sported by the Oakland A’s of the early 1970s. The A’s were pitiful losers for years before finally fielding a decent team and making the American League Championship series in 1971. But they lost.

The next year in spring training, after initially being furious that slugger Reggie Jackson had grown a mustache, owner Charles Finley paid his players $300 each (players weren’t millionaires then) to grow staches too, as a stunt. The mustachioed A’s would go on to win three consecutive World Series.

Sam Mercer, a bearded movie projectionist and slam poet from Portland, sees the Sox beards as good for baseball. He has no vested interest in seeing them win – he’s an Indians fan.

But like all good baseball fans, he roots heavily against the Yankees and all things Yankee. And the Yankees officially prohibit beards.

Of course they do.

“It’s nice to see that not all baseball is Yankee-fied and full of rules,” said Mercer, 24. “It just makes them seem more like regular guys. Like us.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

rrouthier@pressherald.com

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Additional Photos

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Maxim Bergfield-Davis.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Patrick Mehlhorn of Waterboro.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Brian Cogill of Parsonsfield.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Bradford Taylor of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Griffin Mehlhorn of Waterboro.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Alex Faunce.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Bill Slavick of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Chris Thompson of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Albert Wheeler of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Randy Ussery of New Gloucester.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Jeff Carpenter of Portland.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Marc Gowdy of Berwick.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer



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