Thursday, February 04, 1999

Let Vaughn keep his goatee

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Should the Reds drop their ban on facial hair? Email to Vote yes or no, and comment if you'd like. We'll post your replies. Include your name and where you live (city, Cincinnati neighborhood).
        If he hits 50 home runs, Greg Vaughn can look like the Wolfman, for all I care. When Kevin Mitchell was reaching the seats regularly as a Red, the Mitchellin Man was “svelte.” When he wasn't, he was a fat tub of goo.

        Vaughn has a goatee. He has had a goatee since before goatees were cool. He may be the longest-running goatee-wearer in the entertainment industry today, now that Shakespeare is dead.

        The man needs his goatee.

        “Sometimes facial hair helps a guy psychologically,” Reds first baseman Sean Casey explained Wednesday. “Guys with facial hair, especially a goatee, they can be intimidating.”

        (It should be noted that Casey is not challenging the club's face-hair ban. He doesn't wish to rock any boats. There's nothing in it for him, anyway. Casey looks like he's about 12. Any stubble appearing on Casey's gaze would be asked for ID.)

        With one stroke Tuesday, Reds General Manager Jim Bowden tapped into the local anxiety over do-nothing sports ownership and made the Reds worth watching. This was Bowden at his impatient best. Winning now is not always compatible with winning later. But later is ... later.

        With Vaughn, the Reds leave baseball's Third World. Au revoir, Montreal. Vaya con dios, Marlins. With Vaughn, fans have a reason to believe. Let's not give him a reason to shave.

Past its prime
        This anti-facial hair thing, it's a little dated, don't you think? Even for Cincinnati. Country Joe and the Fish are gone, man.

        It served its purpose when Bob Howsam introduced it in 1967. That was the Vietnam War Era, the turbulent '60s and all that. Howsam wanted his players to project a wholesome image that conservative Cincinnati could relate to.

        “To me, a stadium is like a theater,” Howsam said Wednesday from his Arizona home. “It's a stage. If a person has to sit there for three hours to view a game, you want them to enjoy the attractiveness of it.”

        Howsam's heart was in the right place. For a long time, it was nice to look at the Reds and believe you were watching Wally and the Beav. But the times, they are a changin', to quote Bob Dylan, who has a goatee.

        Actually, the times, they are a'changed. But part of what makes Cincinnati Cincinnati is its longstanding tradition of proudly remaining the last train out of an era. It's great living here, but nobody drives DeSotos anymore.

        The Reds have had players who have pushed the face-hair envelope. Tom Browning never shaved between starts. He always looked like Don Johnson's character on Miami Vice.

        Jeff Reardon, who did look like the Wolfman, pleaded with Bowden to keep his beard. “My kids have never seen me clean-shaven,” Reardon said. They have now.

        Jim Kern whiskered his way out of town, refusing to shave because he knew it would force a trade. Rollie Fingers wanted to be a Red, until they told him he could no longer resemble a barbershop quartet. And so on.

        “We were lucky to have eyebrows,” a catcher named Dann Bilardello said. When he was at St. X High, Chris Welsh pitched batting practice for the Reds. But only after he shaved his mustache.

Marge's decision
        It's Marge Schott's call; neither Bowden nor acting CEO John Allen can change the policy. Each has a clause in his contract forcing him to uphold the facial hair ban.

        But it has reached a point, even in Cincinnati, where such a rule is neither needed nor relevant. Nobody's burning flags on the White House lawn.

        Seven of the original nine Reds of 1869 had facial hair. They looked like they should have been singing “Sweet Adeline” with Rollie Fingers. Compared to those guys, Greg Vaughn is Al Gore.

        The ban on facial hair was useful in its day; so were slide-rules and corsets. But it's something Marge should change, just because it's time.

        Then if Vaughn doesn't hit his 50, we can call him Van Gogh.

        Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.

        Enquirer columnist Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at 768-8454.