Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 44

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Countdown to Opening Day – 44 days

There is something magical about a large number of the Indians players who have worn the number 44 during their Cleveland careers.

Many were well known for having glorious facial hair.

It’s a strange correlation, no doubt about it. Forty players have worn the number (most recently Ross Detwiler at the beginning of the 2016 season) and the most memorable of the bunch can be remembered for the beards and mustaches that they sported on the field.

Rob Tringali/Getty Images
John Axford – Rob Tringali/Getty Images

In 2015, Brandon Moss wore the number and wore a beard for stretches of his stay. While his time in the city was short, it did lead to a trade for a young left-handed arm in Rob Kaminsky that will hopefully be a fruitful acquisition for the future.

John Axford came to town to close in 2014 and he did it with some of the flashiest facial hair arrangements known. While his looks were memorable, his stay wasn’t, as the Ontario, Canada native headed out of town towards the end of the season after falling out of favor in the bullpen, passing the torch to Cody Allen, who has also been known to rock the bearded look during his time with the Indians.

Carl Pavano’s stay was short in 2009, just like the above-mentioned players, but he managed to rock the facial hair, sometimes going with the chin stubble while at other points going with a goatee or the solo mustached look.

When Sal Fasano joined the Indians for the final 15 games of his big league career the previous year, he may have been best known for his longer hair and a thick Fu Manchu that started above his upper lip or even the horseshoe mustache, looking like a baseball equivalent of Hulk Hogan behind the plate.

Cleveland Scene
Fasano – Cleveland Scene

Even young Richie Sexson took pride his hair, both that on his chin and on the top of his head. In addition to a partial goatee look, the soul patch, and sideburns, he had a bleached-blonde top hidden under his hat and helmet. His four seasons in Cleveland from 1997 to 2000 were arguably the best stretch of a #44 in Indians history, but he took his looks and his power bat with him when he was dealt to Milwaukee.

Kevin Mitchell wore the number before Sexson claimed it and he sported a mustache, soul patch, and the circle beard during his stay. A former National League MVP in 1989, his best years were behind him by the time that he came to town as he hit just .153 in 20 games for the club and after two months, was released after hitting four homers in 59 at bats.

Ken Hill and Reggie Jefferson both fulfilled the expectations of a 44 in Cleveland with mustaches while both contributing in their own ways to the 1995 World Series Tribe club. Hill pitched for the staff, while the trade of Jefferson brought in Omar Vizquel, who was obviously a significant piece of the Indians’ success in the 1990’s.

Cleveland Indians promotional material
Indians promotional material of Ed Vande Berg (in case you can’t read the picture caption).

The 1980’s and even the 1990 season were dominated by mustaches on 44’s. Ken Phelps, Ed Vande Berg, Neal Heaton, and Ed Glynn championed the look, as did Rick Sutcliffe in his first of three seasons with the club in 1982.

The 1970’s weren’t exempt from the look at all. Jim Strickland had a notably thick mustache, as did Don Hood to follow, and catcher Cliff Johnson combined the look with the soul patch in 1979 and 1980.

Vince Colbert may have been the first to usher in the look for the number for the Tribe with his sideburns in the early ‘70’s. He was the fourth to wear the number, which had come into more regular use beginning in the mid-1960’s after a lengthy layoff from Ben Chapman (1940) and Les Webber (1946).

Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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