In honor of Movember, I present my top ten best sports mustaches of all time. The main criteria is that the player wore the mustache regularly while playing and in general, this is one of the main things each was known for. Sorry if I missed some of the other greats (and there have been many), but these are the top ten in my mind.
10 — Fred McGriff
Nicknamed the “Crime Dog” by Chris Berman (due to his last name resembling McGruff, obvs), McGriff is not only known for his awesome mustache. He was also one of the best to ever rock the Dad Hat. He was a very good ball player that will probably never get into the Hall of Fame because he is just this far on the wrong side of 500 home runs, a magic number when it comes to Cooperstown. He ended his career with 493 home runs and 2,490 hits.
Anyone around my age will remember him and his mustache as a fixture in the Tom Emanski baseball videos.
9 — Patrick Ewing
When the seven-footer from Jamaica first suited up for Georgetown in 1981, it was hard to believe that this mustachioed man was only an 18 year old boy. He played for four years there before embarking on a hall of fame career with the Knicks, where he played 15 years. He didn’t quite know when to call it quits, and meandered a couple of extra seasons with the Seattle Supersonics (they used to have a team in Seattle!) and the Orlando Magic. He then got into coaching, spending 15 years as an assistant for various NBA teams.
While he never won an NBA championship, he did win two Olympic gold medals. The first was as an amateur in 1984 and the second was in 1992 with the original “Dream Team”.
Presently, he is the head coach for Georgetown, where you can see him and his Fu Manchu mustache wandering the sidelines.
8 — George Parros
Admittedly, perhaps he should rank higher because damn, he has a sweet mustache. He is quite a fascinating person. He played for four years at Princeton University, an Ivy League school. After being drafted in 1999, he played three seasons in the AHL before being demoted to the ECHL. He then took boxing lessons in a last ditch effort to make it to the NHL as an enforcer, and he cracked the roster of the Los Angeles Kings the following season. In the end, he had a decent career, playing for ten seasons with five teams.
Following retirement, he started Violent Gentlemen, a successful line of lifestyle apparel and accessories. In a bit of irony, he also is the current head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, considering he finished his 474-game NHL career with 1092 penalty minutes. And let’s not forget his 18 goals and 18 assists as well.
Today when you see him, he still has his great mustache, but it is often accompanied by a “flavor-saver” (soul patch) as well. In my opinion, he should go mustache-only 24/7/365.
7 — Keith Hernandez
Hernandez had a 17-year career in MLB, mostly split between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Mets, and one year with the Cleveland Indians at the end. While remembered as a high-average hitter and a great defensive first baseman (he won 11 straight Gold Gloves between 1978 and 1988), he is mostly remembered for his mustache and appearance in the two-part Seinfeld episode “The Boyfriend”, where he asks Jerry to help him move and Jerry refuses.
He is another fringe player who will probably never make the Hall of Fame because of the type of player he was. In the end, he was a five-time all star and won two World Series: in 1982 with the Cardinals, and in 1986 with the Mets. Today, he is on the broadcast team for the Mets, where his mustache is still on full display.
6 — Mark Spitz
Before Michael Phelps, there was “Mark the Shark”. In the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, Spitz won seven gold medals, which stood as a record until Phelps surpassed that with eight at the 2008 Beijing Games. In his two Olympic appearances in 1968 and 1972, he won a total of nine gold medals, and adding one each silver and bronze. Following the Munich games he retired at 22, so we will never know how great he could have been.
He was once asked by a Russian coach if having a mustache made him swim slower. He made up some cock-n-bull story about how the mustache actually helped by deflecting water, and the next year the entire Russian swim team arrived with mustaches.
If you happen to see Spitz anywhere these days, it will be sans mustache. He decided to finally shave it off for good in 1988. RIP Mark Spitz’s mustache.
5 — Craig Stadler
With a nickname like “The Walrus”, you know he had to have a great mustache. A professional golfer, Stadler has had 13 PGA wins dating back to 1980, with eight from 1980 to 1984, four from 1991 to 1996 and an outlier in 2003. His career achievement was winning the Masters in 1982, and what most people think of is a mustache wearing a green jacket. You can still see an obese Stadler golfing on the senior circuits if you pay attention. Unfortunately, he often rocks a goatee over the mustache-only these days.
4 — Dick Butkus
Butkus was thoroughly Chicago. He was born and raised there, played college football at Illinois, then was drafted by and played for the Bears from 1965-1973. His is remembered as one of the best middle linebackers to ever play the game. After football, he has appeared in many roles in film and television and is easily recognized by his signature mustache, which he still sports.
3 — Dale Earnhardt
Dale Earnhardt is one of NASCAR’s most famous and popular drivers of all time. He raced in the top circuit (then the Winston Cup) from 1975 until his death in 2001. His death occurred during the Daytona 500 when his car impacted a wall at a sharp angle, killing him instantly.
Despite owning his own racing team (Dale Earnhardt, Inc.), he never drove for them. He always drove the number 3 car for Richard Childress Racing, known for his old-school open-face helmet and his mustache. Following his death, his son Dale Earnhardt, Jr. became one of the most popular drivers in his stead, in the number 88 car.
2 — Lanny McDonald
It’s hard not to call Lanny McDonald 1B. His bushy red mustache is just that good. Luckily for him, he was collateral damage when Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Punch Imlach traded him to the Colorado Rockies (today they’re the New Jersey Devils) as a way to punish his friend Darryl Sittler for refusing to waive his no-trade clause. McDonald played for three seasons with the Rockies before being traded to the Calgary Flames. He played there for nine seasons, culminating with the Flames 1989 Stanley Cup victory. He retired on top, finishing with exactly 500 goals and 506 assists in 1,111 games.
If you see him playing in old-timers games or on the news, you’ll see that the mustache is still as bushy as ever and going strong.
1 — Rollie Fingers
Who else could it be? His is in the handlebar style, often called a “Snidely Whiplash”, named for the character in the Canadian cartoon “Dudley Do-Right”. He often uses wax to curl the ends for his signature look.
He wasn’t a bad baseball player either. He played for only three teams over 17 seasons, with his most notable tenure being his time with the Oakland Athletics from 1968 to 1976. At that time, the A’s had many other colorful characters such as Reggie Jackson, Vida Blue and Catfish Hunter. Many of these men also had great mustaches, since it was the ‘70s after all. In fact, the Oakland A’s also had another great mustache that fell just outside of the top ten in Dennis Eckersley, in the late ‘80s into the early ‘90s. In the end, Fingers won three consecutive World Series with the A’s from 1972 to 1974, and was the MVP of the 1974 series. His number 34 is retired by both the A’s and his last team, the Milwaukee Brewers.
I met him in person in 2014, and his mustache was just as great as it ever was.
These are the other characters in sports with great mustaches, those that would have qualified but if they actually played professional sports…
Bobby Valentine – I mean, who else gets kicked out of a game and then returns to the dugout wearing a fake mustache. Brilliant!
Mike Holmgren, Andy Reid — Are these two actually twin brothers? And is Wilford Brimley their dad?
Mike Ditka – Slicked back hair, sunglasses, mustache, Bears sweater vest and cigar. This is the perfect Halloween costume for any toddler in Chicagoland. I know Ditka played tight end in the NFL but nobody knew who he was back then because he didn’t have a mustache.
Jay Davidson — When he has a mustache, the man should be banned from owning a van. So delightfully creepy in a ‘70s porn sort of way.