By Maury Z. Levy
THERE WAS NO REAL SENSE in splitting hairs over it. The decision to get rid of the moustache was made by a very distinguished committee. Danny Ozark, the new manager of the Phillies, told him he’d rather see him without it. He told him this to his face. He said he just didn’t care for moustaches on ballplayers but that, of course, he wouldn’t demand that he shave. It’s hard to demand anything from the best pitcher in baseball, from the man who was voted the professional athlete of the year, from a guy who makes $165,000 to start. You can only suggest.
This is what Paul Owens, the second member of the three-man committee for the resolution of the moustache, did in his office at Veterans Stadium while he was packing up to go to spring training. Owens is the general manager of the team. Last year he was field manager for a while too, after they finally got rid of the Italian guy. Owens is looking over a pile of publicity pictures to help decide what will be used in this year’s yearbook. There are some with the moustache and some without. He separates them into two piles.
“I think we’ll be safest going with these,” he said, holding up the clean-shaven shots. “Now don’t quote me on that. I mean, he doesn’t know about this yet. He’s still got the moustache, you know.”
The third and deciding vote came from a 46-year-old schoolteacher from Buena Park, California. Larue Harcourt is president of the Athletes Financial Services Inc., a company of some 35 highly trained professionals who help make such momentous decisions. Larue Harcourt would like to see him take off the moustache because at this very moment he is working on getting him lined up with a big sponsor to do a shaving commercial. The marketing men have decided that people prefer to buy shave cream and razors from people who shave their whole face. There are just a couple inches more credibility in it.
The selling of Steve Carlton will call for a flawless product. There’ll be no trouble selling him locally. But the national picture is too fuzzy. Joe Namath could have a moustache because he’s a bachelor who plays for a winning team. On those counts, Carlton has two strikes against him.
The only one who had no real say in the moustache matter was Steve Carlton himself, in spite of the fact that it was his lip. But Carlton really didn’t care that much. “I don’t like to think about those things,” he said. “I just want to go out there and pitch and win. The moustache is only a distraction. I hate distractions. I can always grow a moustache. I can’t always win 30 games.”
Last year, Steve Carlton won 27 games for the Phillies, which came out to almost half of what the whole team won. It is indeed something to win 27 games for a team that ends up in dead last place with the worst record in baseball. Steve Carlton came out of last season like a perfectly cut 27-carat diamond in a setting of zircon baguettes.
He won the Cy Young Award, which meant he was the best pitcher in the league. And he won the Hickok Belt, which meant he was the best athlete in the country. He became quite an item. This shy guy who’d spent the first six years of his major league career in St. Louis, piling up a not-so-overwhelming 77-62 record, needed only a few weeks after his trade to Philadelphia to show that he was going to be the biggest thing to hit this town since Robin Roberts. Read the rest of this entry »