You'd better believe it was through clenched teeth that Gussie Busch lifted St. Louis Cardinal manager Vern Rapp's gromming code to allow Dr. Jukyll, Al Hrabosky, to metamorphose back into Mr. Hyde, the Mad Hungarian.
Board chairman Busch, at 78 burning with desire for one more pennant to warm his winter years, put it in writing for the lefthanded reliever who claims he lost his effectiveness, a la Samson, with forced removal of the hirsute source of his strength:
"You said in the newspaper," Busch stated, "that you can only get batters out by being psyched out with your mustache and beard. Then go ahead and grow it but boy, are you going to look like a fool if you don't get batters out. By taking this course of action to make you happy, we will have the great Al Hrabosky defying everyone, saying to his teammates, 'I'm more important than you.' To me this is childish, and I hope you see it that way. . ."
The big boss went on in the vein of "to say I'm disappointed in you would be an understatement," but Hrabosky was delighted that he can grow back his long hair and Fu Manchu (with Rapp's blessing, too, now that Busch mollified the manager with a contract extension through 1978). Without "the look," Hrabosky was convinced "the fire wasn't there," and the 1976 ace's record for 1977 shows it: 2.4, 4.78 ERA, seven saves in 37 games.
"I really felt like I was being a phony," he said of the clean-shaven image imposed since spring. Somehow we get the feeling that if he were the Mad Bavarian, instead of Hungarian, brewer Busch would have met him half way long ago. . .