The ancients reputedly said that a man’s hair is the window to his soul. Indeed, a Mayan codex tells us that when a man has the heart of the eagle and the strength of the panther, his virtue will be seen to flow like a river from his scalp. Persian scholars claimed that follicular activity was stimulated by above-average cognitive abilities, and modern science has still failed to find a way of disproving that theory. Baseball, however, is a punishing activity for one’s hair. Constantly concealed and flattened by hat or helmet, a ballplayer’s hair will make only rare appearances on the field of play. Yet in those quotidian actions of wiping sweat off the brow, or a headfirst slide into third, there is sometimes a sudden moment of unexpected disclosure, the revelation of an inner glory that one only suspected – the hat is lifted, the helmet falls off. These moments might blend into the background noise of an everyday broadcast, but for those of us who believe that hair is the key to understanding a man’s character, and that with great hair comes great personal integrity, it’s why we watch the game. Without further ado, the greatest ‘do’s in the game today:
5. Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
Beckham’s star may have fallen dramatically, the White Sox having traded him to the Angels then bringing him back in a diminished role for 2015, but his hair has never yielded. There’s a hefty slab of vintage Americana hiding under that cap. Thick, voluminous, of course, but it’s Gordon’s styling that gets him onto this list. Often swooped across his forehead from left to right, his ample mane looks like it belongs on a Beach Boys’ album cover – not one of the 70’s ones, or the real early ones, but somewhere in that transition area. I keep trying to place it in time and I’m not sure if it’s more 60’s or 70’s. It strikes a nice balance. The shorter back and sides are an acknowledgement of the country’s fundamental conservatism, but the fullness of the top and front signal a desire to break free from those constraints – he’s not a full-on freak, but don’t worry, he’s not too uptight either. Nice work, Gordon.
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
With the demise of Timmy Lincecum’s ratty longhair look, McCutchen is probably the only star in the game today who has turned his hair into a kind of personal signature (note: beards don’t count, this is strictly about the hair on top of the head). The hairline is actually a little bit high, but that’s not where the show is, those dreads are visible in their full glory on every play of every game. And they’re excellent dreads, nothing like the unsightly fat and misshapen ones that Manny Ramirez was sporting at the end of his career, or Ervin Santana’s more whimsical but less impressive short locks. McCutchen would deserve to be here for the effort alone in preserving their neat symmetry and tinged ends over the course of a 162-game season. I also appreciate them for their regional specificity; McCutchen may play in Pittsburgh, but I bet you can guess what state he’s from in three tries.
3. Yoan Moncada, Boston Red Sox
Nobody’s yet seen his hair in game action in the United States, but scouts are hearing nothing but good things. What little photographic evidence does exist (as the Castro regime has a longstanding policy of only allowing photographs to be taken with Soviet-era Zenit cameras, of which vanishingly few remain), tends to back up initial reports. Close cropped at the sides, longer thick, black trusses up top, almost like a species of hi-top fade. The hairline grades out as excellent. All in all, he wouldn’t look too out of place in West Side Story.
2. Angel Pagan, San Francisco Giants
Pagan, last year, was a revelation. Unfortunately, much of America was denied a chance to bear witness as he was sidelined with an injury well before the Giants’ run to the World Series in October. For many years, Pagan was a very conventional high-and-tight kind of player, yet in some moment of perhaps-divine inspiration, he decided to set the hair buzzer aside and just let it grow out. The long locks he has now may look effortless, but it takes a special person to pull them off – you need good bone structure, a face just the right shape, and that expertly maintained short beard to bring it all together.
1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Ever since his debut, Harper’s hair has been as hyped as his famed power stroke. And just as with his bat, the hype is earned (hence his informal nickname around the Off Base Baseball office, ‘Bruce Hyper’). What more can be said that hasn’t been said before? He’s an absolute natural. We all watched him hit 500-foot homers off the back wall of Tropicana Field at age 16, but little did we know that at that precocious age, he already knew his way around a tin of pomade like he was Elvis Presley. It’s one of the small miracles of 21st-century America that Hyper is somehow able to preserve his labor-intensive styling in game situations. His hat falls off as he dives for a ball in the gap, and there it is, looking just like he’d never left the house. Maybe he wears a cap a couple sizes too big. He has many secrets, we can’t understand them. But we’re not meant to understand, only to marvel.