SKOWHEGAN — Everywhere Mike Bruce goes people tug on his long beard for good luck.
Boston Red Sox luck.
“People grab it all the time,” Bruce, 27, said Tuesday. “Old ladies, older ladies do — it’s funny. They say ‘I’ve got to yank on it like the Red Sox do.’”
The Red Sox play Game 1 of the World Series Wednesday at Fenway Park against the St. Louis Cardinals, beards and all.
The beard thing with the Boston Red Sox reportedly started when newly signed outfielder Jonny Gomes showed up at spring training sporting a winter’s worth of whiskers.
First baseman Mike Napoli, also newly signed, followed suit.
And like the beards, the numbers of Sox players with facial hair just kept growing. Going into the final weeks of the regular baseball season and into the playoffs, Mike Carp, Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Dempster, Jarrod Saltamacchia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, David Ross, David Ortiz, Clay Buccholz, Jon Lester and other Sox players got into the act.
“It’s like a pregnant woman’s belly,” Dempster told Sports Illustrated in September. “Everyone wants to touch it.”
After each Red Sox home run, somebody’s beard gets yanked. Only Boston closer Koji Uehara is clean shaven.
“I have an unhittable splitter, so I don’t need a beard,” he told USA Today Sports.
“Mike Napoli’s got the biggest one,” said Bruce, whose wife, Michelle, is expecting their first child together Monday — Game 5 if necessary — in St. Louis. “I think mine might be longer than his.”
Even Bruce’s dad, Randy Bruce, 51, owner of Randy’s Auto Repair on Madison Avenue in Skowhegan, is growing a beard.
Bruce opened his company with one bay in 1990, when the Sox went 88-74 under manager Joe Morgan and won the American League East, but lost the pennant in four games to the Oakland A’s.
His company moved across the street several years ago, and now has 10 repair bays in two buildings, employing 12 people.
“I think it’s awesome going to the World Series,” said Randy Bruce, who started growing his beard a month ago. “I’m growing it to support the Red Sox team. It’s close to home so it’s our team. We support the Red Sox and the Patriots. Our faith is with the Red Sox.”
A year after losing 93 games last season, their worst season since 1965, the Red Sox won the American League pennant going from worst to first in 2013 under new manager John Farrell.
Fans are even wearing false beards to Fenway Park as a show of support for the chemistry the beards are bringing to the team — like “The Idiots” who “Cowboyed Up” in the victorious 2004 World Series.
Two other employees at Randy’s also are growing beards — Quentin Frigon, 25, of Bingham, and Dylan Adam, 23, of Skowhegan.
“I’m from New England and I like the Patriots and I like the Red Sox,” said Frigon, who’s been growing his beard for about two months. “My favorite player is Ortiz. I think they’re going to be a clean sweep, but it could be pretty close.”
Mike Bruce said he will watch the World Series — if he can find the time with a new baby.
“Obviously he must have hit a home run, because we’ve got a little girl coming, a little granddaughter,” Randy Bruce said. “I think it’s a home run, a little girl.”
Doug Harlow — 612-2367