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What did Reggie Jackson do in 1972 that hadn’t been accomplished in Major League Baseball in more than five decades?
When he took the field in mid-April 1972, the charismatic, popular hitter for the Oakland A’s had a mustache, which was a growing style for American men in the 1970s. The Baby Boomer/counterculture generation that came of age in the late 1960s and early ‘70s made facial hair fashionable again, and it was something of a political statement after the conservative, clean-cut 1950s and early 1960s. Jackson had a mustache in 1972 because it looked good, and it was stylish.
But it was still controversial. When Jackson reported for spring training, A’s owner Chuck Finley ordered him to shave it off. Jackson, who had a history of clashing with management, refused. He got away with it because he was the team’s star player. Jackson’s mustache, and its rebirth in baseball, subsequently became newsworthy and Finley embraced it, holding a special “Mustache Night” at a Oakland home game, giving his other players a small bonus if they grew a ‘stache for the game. That night baseball mustache history was made. For while almost the entire team grew a mustache and shaved them right after the game, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers didn’t. Hunter’s bushy mustache and Fingers handlebar mustache became iconic.
By the way, the last time a baseball player tried to have a mustache was in 1936. French Bordegaray of the Brooklyn Dodgers grew one, but manager Casey Stengel made him shave it before the season began. The last known player to have a mustache and wear it during a game was catcher Wally Schang, who played for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1914.
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