ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Carpenter had to hustle for his first game with the Yankees, boarding a flight that landed at Tampa International Airport about four hours before the scheduled first pitch on Thursday. But first, he knew that there would be a date with a razor.
Indeed, as Gerrit Cole once said, “If you’re a Yankee, you shave.” So Carpenter trimmed off the bushy beard that had been a staple over his decade wearing Cardinals red, leaving a mustache that bears more than a passing resemblance to the gentleman in the W.B. Mason logo.
“It’s different,” Carpenter said. “My kids didn’t recognize me when I walked out of the bathroom. I’ve got a 6- and 5-year-old at home. They’ve never seen me without a beard, so it’s a little different. But I’m here to rock it.”
The Yankees’ famed facial grooming policy began in 1973, when principal owner George M. Steinbrenner looked with disapproval upon his shaggy-haired starting lineup for an Opening Day game against Cleveland. Since then, the Yankees have largely adhered, blessing the past five decades of Bombers baseball with some impressive soup-strainers. Here are some of our favorites:
Wade Boggs (Yankees years: 1993-97)
Boggs’ mustache was an integral part of his identity, as much as his ritual of consuming chicken before every game and his claim of drinking more than 100 beers on a cross-country flight. The image of the mustachioed Boggs riding a police horse after the 1996 World Series is an all-time classic.
Nestor Cortes (Yankees years: 2019, 2021-present)
Cortes is a throwback in many ways, his variety of arm angles and offerings helping to deceive hitters. His distinctive mustache only helps add to what manager Aaron Boone has described as “the legend of Nestor,” which appears to have the left-hander on track for an All-Star nod.
Sal Fasano (Yankees years: 2006)
A well-traveled backup catcher, Fasano wasn’t with the Yankees for long — just 28 games in ’06 — but he sure made an impression with a bushy lip sweater that stood out in Derek Jeter’s well-groomed clubhouse, making him a fan favorite.
Jason Giambi (Yankees years: 2001-08)
Who can forget the Yankees’ “Support the ‘Stache” campaign of 2008, which aimed to help push Giambi to the All-Star Game in his final season with New York? Giambi grew the mustache as a 1980s homage to Don Mattingly (more on the “Hit Man” later), helping power a 32-homer campaign.
Goose Gossage (Yankees years: 1978-83, ’89)
Gossage grew the distinctive horseshoe that has become his trademark in part to upset Steinbrenner, protesting the Bombers’ facial hair policy. In a 2014 interview, Gossage said that he showed up to Spring Training with a full beard, prompting coach Yogi Berra to tell the reliever that “George is going to kick your [butt].” Gossage trimmed it halfway, and the rest is history.
Ron Guidry (Yankees years: 1975-88)
Can you picture “Louisiana Lightning” without his mustache? Probably not, and we wouldn’t want to. Guidry’s 1978 season still stands as one of the most remarkable by any Major League pitcher — the lefty went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA to claim the American League Cy Young Award.
Sparky Lyle (Yankees years: 1972-78)
Lyle didn’t wear a mustache throughout his entire Yankees career, but when he did, it was magnificent. The 1977 AL Cy Young Award winner, Lyle famously “went from Cy Young to sayonara” when he was dealt to the Rangers after the ’78 season, a quote attributed to third baseman Graig Nettles.
Don Mattingly (Yankees years: 1982-95)
With copious amounts of eye black, Franklin batting gloves and a thick mustache, Mattingly embodied what every kid in the tri-state area imagined during Wiffle Ball games of the 1980s. Arguably the best player in baseball during the first half of the decade, Mattingly is still one of the franchise’s most beloved players.
Thurman Munson (Yankees years: 1969-79)
Munson’s gruff, hard-nosed demeanor behind the plate was accentuated by his distinctive dark blond handlebar, which earned him a terrific nickname: “The Walrus.” Despite his role as Yankees captain, Munson would occasionally grow into a full beard to defiantly tweak management — see his 1976 Topps card, a photo taken shortly upon arrival at spring camp.
David Wells (Yankees years: 1997-98, 2002-03)
No man may have enjoyed being a Yankee more than the boisterous, hard-partying Wells, who trimmed his goatee into a mustache upon arrival in the Bronx. A man who once wore a game-used Babe Ruth cap on the mound, Wells achieved baseball immortality with a 1998 perfect game against the Twins, later claiming that he’d done so hungover from attending a Saturday Night Live after-party.