Wilson’s beard bringing added attention to Giants

Brian Wilson’s bushy facial hair is attracting serious attention

for the San Francisco closer. His bright orange good-luck shoes

have become a sideshow these days.

Dyed black – though he won’t even admit to that – Wilson’s

lumberjack beard is equal parts creepy and amusing. It makes him

look unkempt, then he goes out in the ninth inning and blows the

ball by opposing hitters. Wilson led the majors with 48 saves this

season, the first Giants pitcher to do so since the save became an

official statistic in 1969.

He’s a big reason the Giants are back in the playoffs after a

six-year drought. They open their best-of-five series against the

wild-card Atlanta Braves at home Thursday night.

Wilson was clean-shaven in late July, then began growing the

beard in August. It was brown until early September, when it

suddenly became black.

What inspired the scruff?

”I’m just rocking a beard, keeping it fun,” Wilson said. ”I

had a beard in 2007, but I had to shave it because I got sent down.

I just never grew it back. I just said it was bad luck. Not this

year. I wouldn’t say the beard got us here, but I wore it

here.”

Whatever the look, he’s been downright effective.

Fans at AT&T Park wave signs reading ”Fear the Beard!” and

chant it, too. One young woman last week waited outside the Giants

clubhouse with a makeshift beard hanging from cardboard Nos. 3 and

8 – Wilson’s jersey number is 38. She happened to stop team

President Larry Baer and asked him to approach Wilson for an

autograph. Baer entered the clubhouse, interrupted Wilson’s

dominoes game and got the right-hander to sign the numbers.

Wilson insists he doesn’t notice it, but appreciates all the

support.

”Fans finding something to get into, and that’s one of them,

that’s awesome,” Wilson said.

An All-Star in two of his first three seasons as a full-time

closer, Wilson went 3-3 this season with a career-best 1.81 ERA and

converted all but five of his 53 save opportunities.

”We need him,” fellow reliever Sergio Romo said.

Nothing about Wilson surprises Romo, who dresses next to the

eccentric pitcher. From Wilson’s funky outfits to his tricked-out

truck and choices in music, he is quite a sight.

”You can’t really describe this guy. Unique is the only way I

can think of it,” Romo said. ”I’ve never met anybody like him.

There are so many things that make him so distinct and all right,

‘He’s over here, this is Brian’s world.’ It’s easy to say he’s in

his own world all the time. You gotta love him, though.”

A couple of fans sporting panda outfits for Pablo Sandoval,

nicknamed ”Kung Fu Panda,” added beards to their costumes at a

recent game.

”I like it,” Sandoval said of the pitcher’s beard. ”It’s one

of those things where he did it for good fun. He’s got a good

beard.”

Wilson’s playful demeanor in the clubhouse and intensity on the

mound fits in well with these Giants, a loose bunch that knows when

to turn serious come first pitch.

The 28-year-old Wilson – a 24th-round draft pick by the Giants

in 2003 – has often made things interesting in the ninth, working

out of jams to earn his saves. Are things any better with the

beard? He did throw a perfect inning in Sunday’s clincher against

the Padres.

”I really haven’t thought about it as far as the beard,”

manager Bruce Bochy said with a chuckle. ”I will say it was nice

to see him go 1-2-3 Sunday.”

Reliever Jeremy Affeldt, for one, does not fear Wilson’s

beard.

”He’s a teddy bear,” Affeldt said. ”A good actor, you

know?”