How do you remember Leon Durham on the baseball field?

Slugging home runs for the Chicago Cubs, right?

Or maybe hunkered down at first waiting for a pickoff throw from Rick Sutcliffe or Steve Trout.

Or, since you’re a baseball card collector, maybe you remember him in Cardinals garb early in his career, like on his 1981 Topps rookie card. You might even remember that Durham finished off his Big League run with another try in St. Louis, appearing in 29 games for the 1989 Cards.

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And, all along the way, in your memory, you see that patented Durham facial hair … right? You know the cut — always a goatee (though I realize semantics may give it a different technical name), sometimes accompanied by sideburns.

You couldn’t have Durham without the beard.

But you know who you could have without the beard?

Cincinnati Reds players.

That’s because, even after baseball’s full-on beard dark ages ended in the early 1970s (thanks, Dick Allen and Oakland A’s), the Reds kept right on banning facial hair (and the Yankees picked up the practice in 1973, too).

So you won’t find any sort of lip decoration or chin carpeting on members of the Big Red Machine.

Or on — did you pick up on the foreshadowing???) — Leon Durham, circa 1988.

That’s right, in a little remembered move, the Cubs traded Bull to the the Reds in June of 1988 for Pat Perry and cash. Durham stayed on the Riverfront for the rest of the season before the Reds released him that winter — he signed with the Cards the next February.

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No one remembers Durham in a Reds uniform, though, unless they’re diehard Reds fans, or unless they run across his 1989 Upper Deck baseball card.

It’s his only 1989 baseball card, as far as I can tell.

It’s his last baseball card issued while he was active.

And it shows him in the batter’s box wearing Reds home whites, in front of a good-sized crowd.

Well, at least the card purports to show Leon Durham.

Because, that beardless wonder taking his hacks with the bat would be unrecognizable to anyone but his mother.

A smooth-shaven Leon Durham? It happened — purportedly — and 1989 Upper Deck captured the occasion.


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