Since 1973, the New York Yankees Major League Baseball (MLB) club has enforced an appearance policy regulating how their players must be presented. It states that players must have their hair cut above the collar of their baseball jersey and no beards are permitted. The policy has raised some controversy and there have been calls for its abolition.
The policy was started in 1973 by former club owner George Steinbrenner, reportedly after seeing several players' hair covering their numbers during performance of the "Star Spangled Banner" and noting down their numbers (as he did not know their names) to instruct them to cut their hair. As a result, he introduced an appearance policy for the Yankees. The official policy states "All players, coaches and male executives are forbidden to display any facial hair other than mustaches (except for religious reasons), and scalp hair may not be grown below the collar. Long sideburns and 'mutton chops' are not specifically banned." This was because Steinbrenner wanted the Yankees to adopt a corporate attitude. The appearance policy may have been inspired by Steinbrenner's veteran status with the United States Air Force, which like other military branches also has a similar appearance policy.
The policy raised some objections from the team. Don Mattingly openly defied the Yankees' management's requests for him to cut his hair. In response they removed him from the starting lineup and fined him repeatedly until he promised to trim it. An incident that had mirrored a story in The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" where Mattingly was a guest star and was benched in the episode for having long sideburns (that only Mr. Burns, the team manager, could see) was written months before the Yankees incident. Lou Piniella challenged the rule during spring training in Fort Lauderdale, citing that Jesus had long hair. Steinbrenner responded to this request for exemption by pointing at the nearby swimming pool and saying "If you can walk on water, you can wear your hair any way you want."
The policy has become a prominent symbol of the New York Yankees. An example of the symbolic clean-shaven look came when Johnny Damon cut his "caveman" hair and beard when joining the Yankees from the Boston Red Sox with Steinbrenner commenting "he looks like a Yankee, sounds like a Yankee, he is a Yankee". This policy has led to media speculation that when a player cuts his hair, he is going to sign with the Yankees. One example of this was San Francisco Giants' Tim Lincecum. Some players, such as David Price, have openly stated that they would never join the Yankees as long as the policy was in place.
There have been several calls for the New York Yankees to drop the policy. The New York Yankees players themselves skirted around the policy in 2015 by adopting the practice of growing moustaches in line with the wording of the policy. Manager Joe Girardi stated that he would join the players if they won 10 in a row. This was despite Girardi stating that he would continue Steinbrenner's policy after Steinbrenner had died.
Other baseball clubs also had an appearance policy. Until 1972, there were no MLB players that had facial hair due to fashion dictates at the time. The Cincinnati Reds had a policy against beards as an unwritten rule until 1999. In 2016, when Mattingly became the field manager of the Miami Marlins, he introduced a complete ban on any facial hair on any players. In 2017, the policy was abolished.
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