A couple days ago, Kevin Youkilis, AKA Yooooooooouuuk, AKA The Greek God of Walks, AKA Shemp McManus, announced he was retiring from baseball. As someone who thought he retired a couple years ago, this was news to me. But it also made me nostalgic. And — dare I say it — melancholy. Because he was our dirty bearded bastard before it became cool. And because he had that goofy, caveman charm that transformed him from a gruff journeyman into a lovable cult figure.
Not to totally sweep the man’s baseball legacy under the rug — let us never forget that quirky batting stance! Or, uh, that time he did that thing! — but the lasting memory of Youk, at least in my yard, will always be the beard.
Think Mike Napoli looks lost without his facial hair? Dude, Kevin Youkilis is like a completely different person without his. In many ways, he’s also a different player. I don’t know if Bearded Youk’s numbers versus Shaved Youk’s numbers bear this out — and, frankly, I’m far too lazy to figure it out — but going strictly on appearances, as superficial and inconsequential as it may sound, I’m gonna say Bearded Youk kicks Shaved Youk’s ass.
I submit the following as evidence:
I’ve got nothing against the guy in the photo on the bottom. But that beard gave the Sox some serious edge. Sure, guys like Manny and Ortiz were intimidating in their own ways when they stepped to the plate. But where was the real fear? I’ll tell you where it was. In Youk’s beard. Along with traces of red meat, cheap beer and, I’m guessing, human flesh. Because Bearded Youk looks flat-out crazy. Like a deranged hillbilly who somehow wandered onto the field. Like a guy who has to leave practice early to shoot a scene in the latest Guy Ritchie film. Like a guy who hangs in shopping mall parking lots with a fake arm-in-a-sling, asking college chicks if they can help him get a sofa into a van. Like a guy who brags that he can eat his weight in hot wings, whiskey and cement.
Shaved Youk? With all due respect, that’s the guy who serves you tacos at the airport. Not the guy I wanted up in the top of the ninth down two runs with bases loaded in the Bronx.
I’ll just leave it at this: When the game was on the line, who would you have rather seen at the plate? Bearded Youk, or clean shaven Youk?
I thought so.
Godspeed, Youk. Thanks for giving this team some character.