Yankees Aug 22, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; General view as Washington Nationals starting pitcher Josiah Gray (40) pitches against New York Yankees designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) during the third inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

So, let’s get this out of the way: I’m a New York Yankees fan. Thanks to my Nana, I have been since before the turn of the 21st Century. Wednesday would have been her 89th birthday had she not passed away in the summer of 2021. So, it was neat that the Yankees acquired Juan Soto in a blockbuster trade. She certainly would have appreciated that as a birthday present.

Now, let’s move to the next phase and why what I said is relevant here. The Yankees are among the most recognizable sports franchises in the world. They’re also the most decorated North American sports franchise in history. You’ve probably heard “27 rings” enough in your lifetime. I won’t boast loudly; I’m more moderate. Living out in St. Louis, Missouri, right now helps (but it hurts my bank account).

Throughout their history, the Yankees have been known for several things: Winning, dominance, the pinstripes, and the iconic interlocking NY logo. In addition to all that, the Bronx Bombers are known for something else, too: Their facial hair policy. Many other franchises don’t have anything resembling these “clean-cut” policies. So you start wondering: How much sense does it make for this to exist anymore? Yankee fans who double as opponents of the arguably archaic policy found out on Thursday that they weren’t necessarily alone.

Former YES Network analyst, and current MLB Network personality Cameron Maybin let his thoughts on the policy be made clear, and he dropped a potentially fascinating nugget: The policy might really be working against the team.

“This might be an unpopular take to Yankees fans, but you’d be surprised how much more attractive the Yankees would be if they got rid of that facial hair rule. You wouldn’t believe how many quality players just think it’s a wack rule to have,” Maybin said. “I mean, c’mon, we’re coming up on 2024. Let that go already, and I swear it would be more appealing. Again, this only comes from conversations I’ve had and experience from actually playing.”

In 1973, George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees from CBS for what amounted to $8.8 million. “The Boss” identified his issue with making out who the players were. Steinbrenner later demanded a clean look for his players. Tanner Garrity outlined this for Inside Hook over three years ago:

“The policy dates back to 1973, when George Steinbrenner (who had acquired the team that exact season) was having trouble making out the numbers on the back of players’ jerseys during the national anthem. Apparently, there was just too much hair in the way. Inspired by his time in a different sort of uniform (Steinbrenner served in the Air Force after college), he introduced a new code: ‘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.'”

Steinbrenner later stressed that it wasn’t necessarily that he despised long hair, but in his mind, “order” had to be maintained. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch outlined this in an article from 2019. Fittingly, it came after the Yankees signed ace pitcher Gerrit Cole. Cole later had to cut his long locks:

In 1978, Steinbrenner explained the policy to The New York Times: “I have nothing against long hair per se, but I’m trying to instill a certain sense of order and discipline in the ball club because I think discipline is important in an athlete.”

The policy was pieced together in 1976 and has remained in place for the last 45 years since that quote by The Boss in ’78. Among the most famous challengers was Don Mattingly, whose quarrels with Steinbrenner were later spoofed in one of the most popular episodes of ‘The Simpsons’ in the show’s illustrious history. Johnny Damon signed with the Yankees after winning the World Series with the rival Boston Red Sox. And, of course, as history sourly reminds Yankee fans, Damon drove the knife through the hearts of many with his Game 7 Grand Slam amid the worst collapse in North American sports history. He had to chop his long hair.

After a trade, former MVP Andrew McCutchen also had to chop his hair. And in his case, the policy really is deeply flawed. You know it exists when you choose to sign with the Yankees, even if you disagree with the policy. So a player like a Damon or Cole won’t fetch as much sympathy if he signs but bemoans the policy.

When you’re traded, you’re forced to comply with it. And so, unless you specifically requested to go to The Bronx? Well, you’re out of luck. That aspect should draw much more attention.

When you read Maybin’s words about the policy scaring off high-caliber players, one recent target absolutely comes to mind: Bryce Harper.

Harper’s long hair and bearded face play into his loud personality. They would have been completely removed if he had signed with the team several offseasons ago… for, really, not a good or strong reason. Yankee fans have panned the team’s decision not to do whatever it took to get Harper. If the facial hair policy had anything to do with it? You’d figure, realistically, that it’s a tiebreaker situation and not a dealbreaker scenario. Players are chasing a lot more than just their facial hair. But on the other end, you want to come out ahead in these things. So if that’s stopping it? Then, you might need to consider cutting loose.

The Yankees would still exist just fine if they did away with this outdated policy. While it may have made sense at the time, with “The Boss” influencing the decision, it’s a different world right now. A facial hair and “clean-cut” policy doesn’t jibe as well in 2023 as it might have in the 1970s.

Maybin, perhaps, is wrong that it’s an unpopular take. As a fan, I can honestly say I have never been bothered by seeing players with facial or long hair. So the policy has made no sense to me. The coding in the policy is unsavory at best, and that has been called out before. In fact, someone who had to cut his hair was the one who voiced their concerns.

Maybin calling out the policy publicly isn’t insignificant either, as he had appeared frequently on YES and on MLB Network—visible platforms, to say the least, especially the former for all things pinstripes (Maybin now works for MLBN and on coverage for the Detroit Tigers).

It’s beyond time to retire this policy. And especially time to do so if it’s meddling with signing elite free agents in any way. As a fan, that would bother me way more than a player daring to sport a beard or let the lettuce on their head grow out longer.

About Chris Novak

Chris Novak has been talking and writing about sports ever since he can remember. Previously, Novak wrote for and managed sites in the SB Nation network for nearly a decade from 2013-2022