The good manager giveth, and a mere 21 months later, he taketh away. Back in May 2014, then-Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly dropped by The Tonight Show and acquiesced to a generation’s nostalgia by briefly reaffixing an epic stache that evoked fond memories of his legendary facial coif. For a moment, it seemed that perhaps — a la former crosstown rival first basemen Keith Hernandez — the ex-Yankee great had a revelation that he was better suited with a bushy upper lip. Alas, turns out he prefers it stiff.
Amid an uneventful start to spring training, news broke this past Sunday that Mattingly, set to begin his first season as Marlins manager, would enforce a no-facial-hair policy that applies to all player personnel. The clubhouse no doubt panicked, with thickly bearded (or, as is often his wont, goateed) bullpen man Mike Dunn acknowledging to the Miami Herald that, "Initially, not too many guys were happy about it."
But the real losers in all this are children of the 1980s, who viewed Mattingly's mustache — regardless of what team they rooted for — as iconic, and by extension projected an image of stoic cool onto Mattingly as concrete as our assumptions of Hernandez's suave machismo or the kind of beer-chugging badassery Wade Boggs was known for. It suggests that, perhaps the reason Mattingly endured for so many years amid George Steinbrenner's reign of terror was that he toed the line. Moreover, that he was in fact willingly groomed, as it were, to eventually help lead a roster of young athletes with an ethos rooted in benign uniformity.
Until yesterday, we could all conclude that Mattingly’s personal choice to go clean shaven after retiring was owed to myriad factors: aging gracefully, a change of pace, the feeling of cool breezes kissing his skin as he sails off into the open seas of independence from baseball. After all, this was the guy who once instigated a scandal within the Yankee organization after refusing to shear his mulleted mane. But it would appear that Mattingly was less rebel than dilettante, and as a coach has become — or possibly was always cut out to be — nakedly straight-laced.
Still, that stache was really cool looking when he had it.