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Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Talking To Mark Gubicza About Pandemic Mullets, ’80s Metal, And Mike Trout

Illustration for article titled Talking To Mark Gubicza About Pandemic Mullets, ’80s Metal, And Mike Trout

One of the weirdest complaints about life under quarantine is not being able to cut your hair. This actually came up in a Deadspin staff meeting: If there was one business you could bring back safely, what would it be?

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One notable person said he’d like to go to the barber.

Seems ridiculous. If there was ever a time to go “long hair don’t care,” it’s now.

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Former major league ace Mark Gubicza is down with it. Gubicza came of age in the 1980s and was a metalhead.

“I was a big fan of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath,” he said. “And then I got into Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crue.”

“I’ve been letting it go again,” said Gubicza, who for 14 years has been doing color commentary for the Angels, the team he ended his career with.

“It worked for me back in the day, with the long hair, just letting it grow. It’s not quite as dark as it used to be but it’s getting pretty long right now,” he said. “Think I got a haircut just before going to Tempe for some spring training stuff, like mid-February.

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“When I was a kid, growing up, my dad had a barber shop. I had three older brothers and we would have the crew cuts going. Finally, when I was 13, 14 years old and saw the kids with longer hair, and my dad was busy, I just let it go.”

Illustration for article titled Talking To Mark Gubicza About Pandemic Mullets, ’80s Metal, And Mike Trout
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Recently, a fan on Twitter posted a baseball card of Gubicza from the mid-80s, when he was a young flamethrower with the Kansas City Royals.

The fan complimented Gubicza on his mullet.

“It’s funny, we didn’t call it a mullet back then,” Gubicza said, adding that his favorite card was a Studio 1991.

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“I’ve got the Jaromir Jagr (hair) going.”

Gubicza’s hair even became a point of contention with his general manager at the time, John Schuerholz.

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“I think it was ’87. I had a so-so year (13-18, 4.03 ERA) and went into arbitration against the Royals. I won and John Schuerholz said, ‘You better get your hair cut.’ I said, ‘Sure.’

(Gubicza won his arbitration battle to get $635,000 in 1988, which is less than the league minimum today.)

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“I get into spring training and he says, ‘Excuse me, did you get one haircut?’ He said, ‘You better win 20 games this year. Lo and behold, I end up winning 20 games.”

When you win 20 games, you get to do whatever you want.

Like the rest of us, Gubicza is really missing baseball.

“It’s really hard … we would be well into the season now. It’s so exciting with the players now. Back in my day we had unreal players, so many tremendous athletes. But today there’s (Giancarlo) Stanton hitting the ball 900 feet, or Cody Bellinger doing the same. Mike Trout doing his thing. Shohei Ohtani throwing the ball 100 miles and hitting the ball 450 feet. This was going to be a fun baseball season.

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“Baseball has always been driven by numbers and history, and at this point in time you’re talking about taking away numbers for Mike Trout. And Albert Pujols, although he’s certainly toward the end of his career.”

Speaking of Trout and all-time greats, Gubicza shared a story about a legendary player who passed away recently, Al Kaline.

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“Every time we went into town to play the Tigers, we would see Al Kaline, and he was such a gentleman. One day he tells me, “I would love to meet Mike Trout. I text Troutie, “Al Kaline wants to meet you.”

Gubicza set up the meeting, though he has too much respect to pry into the conversation between two of the greatest hitters in the game’s history. But Kaline told Gubicza that Trout reminded him more of Mickey Mantle than any player he’d ever seen.

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“Trout is like a little kid,” Gubicza said. “He’s a lot like Derek Jeter, from my times talking to him. When someone of that stature comes to talk to you, they’re giving you priceless information. ‘What do I do similar to Mickey Mantle?’ type thing.

“I can only imagine what their conversation was like.”

Listening to Gubicza makes it easy to understand why he does color commentary. His love and reverence for baseball comes through in every word.

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I hope he keeps his long hair when he gets back into the booth.

Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.

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