Eccentric reliever Wilson would rather keep beard than pitch for Yankees
NOV 14, 2013 3:52p ET
It's not so much that Wilson turned down a chance to play for the hallowed Pinstripes. We should admire him for the reason why. In a society overrun by opportunists, sellouts and politicians who check their principles at the Capitol door, Wilson stands up for what he believes.
In this case, he believes in his beard.
It's not just any beard. If you haven't seen it, picture a cross between Bigfoot and one of those Duck Dynasty guys. Wilson's chin is a magnificent work of whisker art, but the Yankees consider beards the equivalent of black-velvet paintings.
With Mariano Rivera retired, New York is shopping for a closer. Wilson returned from elbow surgery late in the season and looked like his old bearded self. He's one of the top relievers on the free-agent market. And you know how the Yankees cherish free agents.
"You can cross him off the list," Brian Cashman told reporters at the GM Meetings this past week in Orlando, Fla.
The Yankees don't do beards. Scruffy chins didn't seem to hurt the Boston Red Sox this year, but never mind that. The clean-chin policy was set long ago by George Steinbrenner, who believed in spit, polish and projecting the proper corporate image.
Over the years, hairy guys like Johnny Damon, David Wells and Kevin Youkilis begrudgingly conformed to the Yankee Way.
In the history of principled stands, this isn't quite like Sandy Koufax refusing to pitch Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. If anything, it makes Wilson seem more eccentric than ever.
This is a guy who had a shirtless man in a leather mask wander behind him as he did TV interviews. That is also reportedly against Yankees policy.
Wilson passed up a $1 million offer from a razor company to shave his beard. Sure, he has made more than $22 million in his career. But a million bucks is still a million bucks.
Ernest Hemingway probably would have taken it. Sigmund Freud would have given it a lot of thought. The bearded lady at any state fair would shave for far less.
To some, a beard is just a beard. To Wilson, it's something more.
He and his beard bonded during the 2010 playoffs. They propelled the Giants to the World Series title. All over San Francisco men and women grew whiskers and chanted âFear the Beard!â
It took on a life of its own. The beard has a Facebook page. It has 15,622 followers on Twitter as of this writing.
One follower wrote, "If Chuck Norris and Brian Wilson's beard were in the Justice League, Superman would be a janitor."
Keeping the beard is good marketing, but that's not why Wilson politely told the Yankees where they could stick their razor.
For whatever quirky reason, the beard is part of his soul. That's more valuable than money, fame or becoming a Yankee.
"It's who we are," Joe Girardi told the Wall Street Journal. "It was Mr. Steinbrenner's rule, and I respect that."
It's just not what Brian Wilson is. We can respect that more.