There is something about a mustache that disorients a person. It is a grooming decision first and foremost, but also and in a broader sense it is a choice. Growing a bunch of hair on your upper lip and then getting like marinara sauce and old bits of cake in it is, at bottom, a decision that you make for yourself—for your own reasons, and between you and your God. It is a decision that ballplayers have made with more defiance than discernment over the last few decades, but it is their decision to make. We should not be surprised that they have made the decision that ballplayers would make.
This week’s installment of Let’s Remember Some Guys is not quite a celebration of those men and that decision, but it is an attempt to use it for good, as opposed to for the aforementioned keeping-crumbs-of-old-cookies-in-play purpose. These are, if you’ll pardon the unbearable phrasing, Proustian Mustaches—regrettable grooming choices that, through the magic of memory and the work of the Topps Chewing Gum Co., open onto striking and powerful views of the past. I don’t want to overstate it too much because at one point I say that it looks like Rafael Palmeiro is carrying a baguette instead of a bat and also because these are just kind of Dense ’80s Baseball Boys we’re talking about here. But these mustaches did more than get kind of sticky whenever their owners drank Gatorade—they helped me remember Rick Cerone’s brief glory days as an icon of Italian-American excellence in the tristate area, and of the time Topps randomly put a mean painting of Greg Minton onto a card, and of just how big ballplayer eyeglass frames used to be. In the interest of housekeeping: Mike Davis was less good than I remembered, and Rick Cerone’s country song, which is real, is called “A Long Run Home.”
I don’t know that Lauren really got much out of any of this, but that’s kind of always the case. For me, these mustaches worked. I, and indeed we, are all in their debt.