February 28, 2011
MESA, Ariz. — When I first asked Hall of Fame closer Rollie Fingers for an interview on Sunday afternoon, he said to come back later.
Fingers was sitting at a booth inside Hohokam Stadium at the Cactus League home opener for the Chicago Cubs. He was next to fellow Hall of Famers Gaylord Perry and Fergie Jenkins. Former Cubs' player Pete LaCock was there, too, and they were all signing autographs.
When I returned a couple of hours later, Fingers still wasn't ready to answer any questions. Actually, he acted as though I had returned to yank out his fingernails.
"I told you, I don't do interviews," Fingers said, revising his earlier statement a bit.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to learn something about the most celebrated mustache in Major League history, I didn't take "get out of here" for an answer. I said I'd be brief, I put down my recorder, turned it on and started asking him questions. I was quite polite in my rudeness, I swear.
Q: Have you noticed Carl Pavano(notes), John Axford(notes) or Clay Zavada(notes) — a couple of whom have a little bit of a handlebar mustache going? Have you followed the general resurgence of the mustache in Major League Baseball?
A: I don't even know who the guy is; I don't watch baseball anymore. I couldn't tell you who has a mustache and who doesn't have a mustache. Someone told me there was a guy with the Diamondbacks [Zavada] who had a mustache with a handlebar, but I've never even seen him, so I’m not familiar with him.
Q: How come you don’t keep up with it anymore?
A: I live in Las Vegas and there’s no [major league] baseball teams there. I don’t go to games anymore, so that’s why. When I got out of baseball, I got all the way out. I might watch a World Series game or something.
Q: Now that you know there's a guy sort of emulating you — and he has said that your persona and your face was an influence — is that pretty cool, pretty flattering, to you?
A: Yeah, if he likes it and he wants to keep it up and it looks good on him and he likes it, go ahead and do it. That’s what I did.
Q: How much time do you spend maintaining?
A: Very little. Fifteen seconds a day.
Q: That’s it?
A: That’s it [laughs]. That's all.
Q: What do you use?
A: Just mustache wax. Pinaud Clubman Moustache Wax. It takes about 15 seconds. And I’m done. If it took any longer than that, I’d shave it off [laughs].
Q: All right, well, I really appreciate your time.
A: You bet.
So there it is. Fingers warmed up a little at the end, right? And notice anything about the close-up of the mustache? Wax isn't all Fingers applies to his famously hairy lip. I'd like to see his handlebar as white as the hair on his head.
He really didn't adequately explain why he doesn't watch baseball anymore. There's a Triple-A team in Vegas, and baseball's on TV every day during the season.
But if he's over it — except for the autograph game — to each his own. It's too bad, though, when contemporary baseball players love the game enough to reach back into history, but an old-timer isn't interested.
I didn't interact much with Perry, but I did snap a couple of pics — most notably this one:
It's like I caught him loading up a ball with Vaseline. My mother used to give me looks like this when I wouldn't clean my room or do my homework.
Truthfully, I think this photo is a little out of context. A second later, I smiled and he sort of smiled back, the old peanut farmer did. I like the MLB Network cap. Gaylord would have no excuses for not watching baseball, wearing that thing.