The long and short of Blackmon's beard

September 12th, 2017

DENVER -- Charlie Blackmon has heard the murmurs relating to the beard that cloaks nearly his entire face, and the mullet that has morphed with it. He's been called a lumberjack look-alike and confused for an extra on "Sons of Anarchy," among other far-flung comparisons.

"It makes my face really dark," Blackmon said of the beard, slowly beginning to grin. "Like, it's hard to know what's going on under there. I wear the eye black and sunglasses a lot of times, so I kind of like that persona -- like I'm a machine or something. I don't have a face or facial expressions. I'm just a 'Terminator' or something."

In his second All-Star season, Colorado's bearded wonder has become one of the most recognizable players in baseball, and it's not just because of the beard. While the Rockies try to get to the postseason for the first time since 2009 -- they led for the National League's second Wild Card berth by 1 1/2 games over Milwaukee entering Tuesday's game against the Marlins -- Blackmon is leading the Major Leagues in hits, runs, triples and total bases, and he is trying to become the first player in history to lead the Majors in all four categories (Stan Musial was the last player to lead the NL in all four categories in 1948, and Snuffy Stirnweiss did it in the American League in 1945, but no one has ever done it across both leagues).

For sporting one of the game's signature looks, Blackmon is noncommittal when asked what it would take to shave. A meticulous baseball junkie, the Rockies center fielder said, "I think I just grew it and liked it, and I just stuck with it. I haven't put that much thought into it."

Elaborating on its foundation, Blackmon said renditions of his beard have cropped up via various personal and career milestones through the years, birthed from superstition and self-discovery.

Blackmon grew his first beard after his first season in the Majors, in 2011, which was cut short due to a broken leg. Shelved for the season, and with Colorado's blessing, Blackmon returned for his final semester at Georgia Tech that fall, completing his finance degree with the school's highest honors.

"I kind of told myself I wouldn't shave it until I could walk again, which took like four months," Blackmon said. "And then when I was able to move around a little bit and showed up at school, I shaved it into some like really awful-looking sideburn chops, like a mustache. I was like the creepy old guy on campus there."

Gif: Blackmon Beard progression

Fully healed the next spring, Blackmon returned to the Rockies clean-shaven, hopping around the club's farm system the next two seasons and sprinkling extended stints with the big league club in late summer. It was during an excursion to Australia when the genesis of his current beard came to form, loosely in conjunction with the '13 World Series, as Boston's bearded bunch marched to a title. Admiring the Red Sox's rugged collective, though not necessarily with intent of mirroring their montage, Blackmon kept it, and arrived at Spring Training in '14 with an early draft of the beard seen today -- grungy, yet reasonably groomed, not quite distinct.

With admitted struggles in four Cactus League stints to that point, Blackmon broke camp with the big league club for the first time despite a wealth of outfield depth -- six total players, including , Michael Cuddyer and Corey Dickerson. Cuddyer was among those who challenged the superstitious Blackmon to keep the beard, and he hasn't gone clean-shaven since, with only minor trimmings in between.

"I didn't expect it to go this far, that's for sure," Cuddyer said. "I didn't expect things to be living in it. I'm sure he probably keeps a couple days worth of lunch in there. At the time, when he came into Spring Training with it, it was not nearly as long, so it actually looked pretty good. It looked pretty clean. He used the beard lube and all that stuff. I told him he needed to keep it. Now he has to keep it, there's no doubt."

Blackmon was named National League Player of the Week for the first week of the 2014 season and went on to earn his first All-Star selection that summer. With the backing of Colorado's social media team, propelled behind a trending tag of #FearTheBeard, the phenomenon took off.

"All of a sudden, you've got branding on your face," said Myron Blackmon, Charlie's dad. "And hey, I don't think he would've shaved anyway, because I think that's him now, but it really made him kind of a known entity there in the city and the region."

In the three years since, Blackmon has blossomed into a fan favorite, going from a Rocky Mountain secret to a burgeoning star. At 31, he's budded at a later-than-usual career stage, his rugged façade and national presence growing in sync. The only person who can't get on board with the look is Grandma.

"God bless her, she's 92 now and she's old-school," Myron said of his mother-in-law. "She's just not getting it. She's like, 'Charlie, you're so good-looking under there, you need to shave that beard.' You can't explain branding to Grandma. She doesn't care. She's looking for that clean-shaven little boy she remembers."

The look, many close to the outfielder say, is reflective of his style of play. Anchoring the Majors' largest physical outfield at Coors Field, Blackmon -- who has referred to himself as "the tired-est guy in baseball" -- empties the gas tank every day.

"When you see how he goes about his routine and see how he works, you realize how good he is," said teammate . "He's naturally good, but he's put in a lot of work to be as good as he is."

If the look is reflective of Blackmon's play, it's equally so for his public presence. With the social-media moniker "Chuck Nazty" -- which was on the back of his jersey for the inaugural Players Weekend -- he shows audiences an unfiltered vantage, mostly to his life away from baseball. Among the throng of photo gems include Blackmon's fly fishing escapades, "Call of Duty" campaigns and getting stranded in his 2004 Jeep Cherokee, his first car, which he still drives.

"That's him. That's Charlie," said Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who used to share an apartment with Blackmon in downtown Denver. "That's just who he is. It just works. Every day, it's out of hand."

"Charlie, he's a player that I think a lot of fans can relate [to] and love," Arenado said. "They appreciate him because he's outgoing, he's funny, he's got the beard. He looks pretty crazy out there, so I think he brings a lot to the table."

Blackmon's unique flair is equally appreciated in the clubhouse, where his simplistic style is widely cast as the most unique. Without flash in his wardrobe or wheels, Blackmon says he often isn't recognized away from the immediate ballpark vicinity, and even then, with only a rare run-in.

From here, the Bearded Wonder seeks continuity and his first career postseason berth. And though the beard was initially a milestone marker, don't expect Blackmon to break out the clippers any time soon.