Why the Yankees Beard Ban is a Good Idea!


In 1973, George Steinbrenner (1930-2010) bought the New York Yankees. Three years later, he instituted a no-beards policy Yankees players. Steinbrenner was not a nice man, but he did restore the team to its past glories–11 American League championships and seven World Series.


Whatever you might think of Steinbrenner, he put his money where his (big) mouth was rather than pocketing profits like so many MLB owners these days do. He was never the richest MLB owner, but no one ever heard him cry poverty. (How unlike the Pohlad family that owns the Twins and insists they are a “small market” risk, though they are baseball’s  8th richest ownership group!!)


George Steinbrenner was a conservative Republican whose no-beard rule was initially a reaction to the long hair/hippie look of the 1960s and 1970s. The policy has never been reversed. If you want to collect big New York bucks, ya’ gotta shave.


The Steinbrenner ban has been called anachronistic, an assault against freedom of expression, and a whole bunch of other things. It has never been called a good idea–until now! It turns out that old George was a wise arbiter of taste. He has saved home team fans from some of the worst beards ever to disgrace a human face.


Warning: The beards below are not just ugly, they’re downright scary. If you have small children, you should keep the below images hidden until they go to bed. A mere peek could distress their sleep worse than the monsters living under their beds. You too should limit yourself to an image or two at a time. It’s embarrassing when full grown adults need stuffed support animals to ward off nightmares.


Mike Fiers apparently fancies a post-MLB career in mathematics. He’s wearing the beginnings of a Fibonacci spiral on his face.



Jake Fraley will make you scurry to high ground to keep watch for invading Norsemen. Stay alert so you can flee with your family before they land.



Sergio Romo is retired now. He is presumably in search of Pancho Villa to help reclaim Aztlán on behalf of Mexico. 




Brian Wilson scalped an Amish guy.




Justin Turner isn’t human. He’s actually a deranged, possibly rabid leprechaun. 




Have you ever seen the movie Deliverance? Kevin Quakenbush was in it. Cue the banjos and run! 



If President Chester Arthur had added a full beard to his bushy sideburns, he would have been Brian Schlitter’s doppelganger.





Josh Harrison is what ‘bots will look like after the AI revolution conquers humankind.




Will someone please tell ZZ Top that their missing brother is hiding in Colorado under the assumed name of Charlie Blackmon?




It doesn’t get any more disturbing that Brandon Marsh. He was voted Most Likely to Became a Psychotic Murderer by his peers at the asylum. 






Now do you see why the Yankees ban beards? 


Murder Your Employer is Wicked and Funny



Murder Your Employer: Book 1 MacMasters Guide to Homicide

By Rupert Holmes

Avid Readers Press, 2023, 388 pages.



Who hasn’t thought, “I could just murder my boss?” Most people really mean they just want that boss to go away–preferably to a different solar system. But what if you actually meant it?


Murder Your Employer is a wickedly funny book filled with puns, ironic names, and ways to dispatch human targets. Some methods would make Rube Goldberg proud. The MacMasters Conservatory for the Applied Art is a Hogwarts for homicide. None of the students know where it’s located. If they are accepted, handlers meet them, blindfold them inside a windowless van, and drive, fly, and sail for several days in circuitous ways. Is the campus in North America, England, Eastern Europe, China, or just around the block? They will never know as they cannot leave the cloistered, sprawling campus and will exit the same way they entered. MacMasters has it all: a professional staff, a science center, laboratories, a market, a lake, athletic fields, a bamboo forest, hinged and unhinged fellow students, a castle, and gardens. Exercise care when visiting the gardens. Some plants are designed to “delete” (i.e. murder) an employer.


It's very expensive, but one of the four main characters, Cliff Iverson, has been sponsored by an unknown benefactor. Think Great Expectations with a nasty twist. He was rescued by watchful MacMasters staff after bungling an attempt to push his boss, into the path of a subway train. Cliff worked as an aeronautics engineer for Woltan Industries, but was fired by Merrill Fielder for pointing out a flaw in the design of a new aircraft that could kill hundreds. Fielder only cares about how profits would sink if the plane was taken off the market. He was also responsible for the suicide of one of Cliff’s close friends, hence Iverson believes Fielder worthy of deletion.


MacMasters holds sanguinary values, but it is not amoral, which is why some students are uniquely dismissed. Four “Enquiries” must be answered satisfactorily before a plan to delete an employer is approved: “Is the murder necessary? Have you given your target every last chance to redeem themselves? What innocent person might suffer from your actions? Will this deletion improve the life of others?” The narrative is told via Iverson’s journal and from the voices of two other students and that of Dean Harbinger Harrow. The time period is not specified, but internal clues suggest the early 1950s.  


The other two students are Gemma Lindley, who works in the health care industry. Her boss at St. Ann’s Hospital, Adele Underton, is a gorgon and blackmailer. Adele steals all of Gemma’s ideas and passes them off as her own, uses Gemma as her personal lackey, and does virtually no work of her own. About the only people who tolerate her are men she attempts to snare, though most don’t last long.


We also meet “Dulcie Mown,” who strikes everyone as familiar. She’s actually Doria Maye, a fading but attractive actress who dearly wishes to delete Leon Kosta, a movie producer who sleeps with every aspiring actress and makes Harvey Weinstein seem a candidate for the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. He has it out for Maye because she rebuffs his continuing carnal advances, refuses an order to have sex with an executive to seal a business deal, won’t give her a role from a script she discovered, tells her she’s a has-been, and wants to demean her by making her do cartoon voices. Kosta also employs a spy to watch Doria and tries to ban her from the studio lot.


Could the world do without such creatures? MacMasters enrollees had better hope so. It has the ultimate pass/fail system. Students undergo a rigorous curricula in everything from weapons training, handling reptiles, and deadly uses of erotica to concocting untraceable poisons, devising disguises, and feigned incompetence–the latter a useful skill if, for example, you wish to dispatch someone with a bow and arrow. They must produce a “thesis,” individual plans for executing their bosses. That thesis is only complete when they do so; if they are unsuccessful, a MacMasters staff member will delete the student with a painless injection!


Author Rupert Holmes has also worked in films and penned “The Piña Colada Song.” This novel is a bit like that novelty tune: clever, goofy, and sometimes cheap. I loved it!


Rob Weir


The Briar Club: Another Great Read from Kate Quinn



The Briar Club (2024)

By Kate Quinn

William Morrow, 432 pages



The Briar Club is another affirmation that Kate Quinn is one heck of a writer. In her latest novel she takes us the Washington, D.C. in the 1950s, a time of both optimism and the Red Scare. The title derives from Briarwood House, ousHousea boarding home for women. Leave it to Quinn to personify the house without making it sound hokey. The house “speaks” to readers in interstitial chapters, an important mystery-building device.


Quinn excels at characterization. Briarwood House is run by Mrs. Nilsson, who is so grumpy and rulebound that boarders nickname her “Doilies.” To say that she cuts corners does an injustice to right angles. Her husband’s absence is somewhat enigmatic, but young Pete and his maligned, cross-eyed sister Lina also live at Briarwood and are as delightful as their mother is acerbic.


Quinn populates Briarwood with a cast that brings mayhem, sisterhood, and color that contrasts with the stodgy grayness of Doilies. Grace March is the first to add touches of lightness. She’s gregarious and the proverbial “pistol,” a rulebreaker who can charm with offers of sun tea. Choose your metaphor for Grace’s room-freshening project that evolves into painting vines that extend down the staircase from her fourth floor rental. When Mrs. Nilsson is absent for her weekly card game, Grace holds impromptu parties in her room that become ever-more-elaborate dinners in which each resident, Pete included, cook a specialty. You could add “by hook or crook,” as no one has a lot of money. One of the book’s more unusual features is the inclusion of recipes–from colcannon to strawberry fool–used by the Thursday night cooks.

The other core residents are Nora Walsh, Reka Muller, Felicity Orton, Beatrice Verrette, Claire Hallett, and Arlene Hupp. Quinn gives each her own chapter that provides deep background. Grace is the pivot around which most things occur, including men sneaking in and out, a no-no in Doilies’ book. Nora is there to escape from her family, including her crooked cop brother who steals from her. She works at the National Archives and finds herself pursued romantically by Xavier Bryne, who is either a gangster or a “businessman.” Reka, once Professor Muller, is a widowed Czech refugee struggling to make ends meet by shelving library books whilst grumbling over the constant bawling of Orton’s baby. (“Fliss” is English and her American doctor husband is stationed overseas.) Bea is a junior high phys. ed. teacher who pines for the days when she was a star in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. (Think A League of Their Own.) For their parts, Claire works for Senator Margaret Chase Smith, which irks Arlene, a diehard nationalist who works for the House Un-American Activities Committee and thinks Rep. Joseph McCarthy is a hero.

Count on everyone having secrets they hold close to the vest even while bonding with each other (except the snitty Arlene). Among the things that makes Quinn an engaging writer is that she parcels out information in drips rather than rushing torrents. She also makes ancillary characters come alive, even those with mere cameos. In The Briar Club, most of those in supporting roles are male, with the notable exception of Sydney Sutherland, the wife of the social-climbing Barrett who hopes to be a communist-hunting U.S. Senator like his father. Other men who play roles in The Briar Club are Pete, Xavier, a hood named George, Nora’s male family members, jazz musician Joe and his Black friend Claude, Bob McDowell, and FBI agent Harland Adams who dates several of the Briarwood House women.

If this sounds complex, allow me to tantalize you with more: criminal gangs, Gustav Klimt, an overwhelmed mother, women trying to break the 1950s glass ceiling, stolen tomatoes, baseball, battering, forbidden love, a Betty Crocker bakeoff, Operation Longhorn, two in-house murders, spies, and a surprise ending that leads to an even more unexpected coda. All of this takes place against the Korean War and the rise and fall of McCarthyism. It is to Quinn’s credit that none of these seems labored or didactic, even when Quinn slips on occasion with a few details that seem too modern.  Add splashes of humor and The Briar Club is like The Thursday Murder Club meets a satire of the 1950s, murder, espionage, and proto-feminism.

Rob Weir