Dave Heaverlo

February 4, 2010

Heaverlo, normally a blithe spirit, who shaves his head and wears rubber noses, was disconsolate.

That sentence, which would make a great first line in a short story, perhaps one about a circus employee with suicidal ideations, was a part of the April 22, 1980, sports page of Washington’s Ellensberg Daily Record. Dave Heaverlo, a native of Ellensberg, dominated the sports page of his hometown paper that day, showing up not only in the recap of the Mariners game he had lost the night before (and which presumably caused the temporary moratorium on the brandishing of rubber noses) but also in a feature story titled “Dave Heaverlo: Glad to Be Out of Oakland” and in a large photograph in which his notoriously clean-shaven dome is being rubbed by an unidentified teammate.

When I was a kid, Dave Heaverlo definitely barged deeper into my consciousness than a journeyman reliever for distant second division teams otherwise might have, mostly due to his last name, which for reasons I can no longer fully access always made me laugh. “Heave” is kind of a funny word already. People heaved up their breakfast sometimes. Grizzled hurlers with spare-tire midriffs heaved easily sluggable meatballs toward the plate. And then you add the “her low” to heave, and, well, I don’t know. I guess you had to be there. My brother would probably understand. In other words, Dave Heaverlo is one of the select Cardboard Gods, an ineffable inside joke between me and my brother and possibly shared, though I can’t say this with any certainty, with other kids who found him in packs of cards and laughed.

I never knew he shaved his head, because he always wore a cap in cards, and I wasn’t observant enough to notice that, as in this 1977 card, the total absence of hair (besides eyebrows and the cop mustache) below the cap suggested that some information on the back of the card (“Nickname is ‘Kojak’”) was not there because Heaverlo enjoyed solving gritty New York City crimes while sucking on lollipops. 

Oh, how I want to pause for a while and talk about Telly Savalas. There was no better decade than the 1970s! When else in the history of humankind could such a man, with a pear-shaped body, sloping shoulders, and liver-spotted, child-frightening head, become a famed sex symbol? But there is no time. I’m already running late for work and want to say a couple more things about Heaverlo.

First, the shaved head. The 1970s were renowned in baseball history for various grooming innovations, most notably for the first appearances of mustaches on major league diamonds since before Ty Cobb started gashing guys’ shins with his sharpened cleats, and for the Afros that began bulging out from under caps, but in both of those cases baseball was trailing behind trends in the wider culture. When Heaverlo shaved off all his hair, no one else was really doing it, except Telly Savalas. Heaverlo deserves some credit for that, I think.

I wonder if his iconoclastic tendencies hurt his career. In the edition of the Ellensberg paper quoted above, it is reported that in the spring Heaverlo “wouldn’t let his hair grow out until [A’s owner Charlie] Finley traded him.” The 1970s came full cycle in that situation, as it was Finley who played a huge part in the hair explosion earlier in the decade, when he encouraged players to grow facial hair (first doing it to coax a bearded, attention-seeking Reggie Jackson into losing the beard, then backing the encouragement with monetary rewards when the mustaches proved to be good for publicity). Heaverlo’s bald-man-alone stance did get him out of Oakland, but in the following season, according to another Heaverlo-heavy edition of the Ellensberg Daily Record, he was having trouble finding a team to employ him. This seems odd given Heaverlo’s decent stats and reputation for being able to pitch often and tirelessly. Maybe his head-shaving ways had gotten him a reputation as a troublemaker. I don’t know. But it seems odd to me that a guy who could still get outs had to struggle to find work. He did make a few appearances that season, with Oakland, of all teams, so maybe there wasn’t any attempt to steer clear of him. But his ERA in ’81 was below 2, and after that season he was restricted to the minors for a couple years and then out of organized ball altogether. I don’t know why, but it seems that major league teams, or big businesses in general, don’t really like the wearers of rubber noses. And now I’m a little disconsolate, too, and late for work besides, me and my conventional hair and humorless nose.


  1. I suppose it shows a disturbing lack of imagination and creativity on my part to never have thought of making a joke out of mispronouncing his last name.

    Or maybe that’s the point of the bald head–to distract us from thinking that his name could be pronounced “Heave-Her-Low”. Although, now that I think of it, “Have-Her-Low” is kind of funny in its own right.

    I guess being bald was so unusual in those days that every time I heard his name, I didn’t hear “Have Her Low”, I heard “Bald Bald Bald.” Kind of a magician-like redirection of attention.

  2. I thought his name was pronounced Hev-er-low, sort of a combination of heaven and halo. He should have played for the Angels. I also thought his name sounded like it should be the name of a dishwashing liquid. Maybe I was making the connection to Halo shampoo.

  3. Heaverlo was the the player representative in Oakland so that may have been his problem in Oakland. And the A’s in the late 70’s were a complete disaster of an Organization.

    Heaverlo was a good relief pitcher posting a career 113era+ for his career. He should have had a much longer career but the problem is he was born about 20-30 years to soon. His shaved head and relief pitching would have been much more appreciated in the 90’s-00’s.

    His shaved head uproar just reminds me of how dumb and reactionary we are in regard to fashion and hairstyles and how arbitrary the whole thing is. In the 1960’s you were perceived as a “radical/weird/freak” if you had long hair and “normal” if you had short hair. Then by the late 70’s if you had short/shaved hair you were perceived as a “radical/weird/freak” and “normal” if you had long hair.

    He’s also using an old Wilson A-2000 glove which was a great glove back then. This was when Wilson was still making their gloves in the U.S. with american leather. There’s a circular stamp to the left of the “W” symbol on his glove that read, “made in the USA”. Around the mid 80’s they stopped producing this glove in the US and that “stamp” disappeared.

  4. When I saw the name I thought “heave-ho”, as in “getting the old heave-ho” – which he seems in fact to have got.

  5. Dude, I remember Heaverlo too; just because of his unique name.

  6. berkowit28:
    Yes, the idea of “gettin’ the ol’ heave-ho” was definitely in the mix as to the reasons why his name seemed funny.

    On another subject, his son, also a number 1 draft pick and pro pitcher (minors only) got the heave ho from organized ball in 2007 after several years of toil. Here’s an article about his rough road:


  7. Also for further inspection is this video of Telly Savalas in his second career as a singer of songs. I found it terrifying and yet could not turn away. The song ends the only way it could–with the apocalypse:

  8. Nice work, Josh. I’m a big fan of Telly’s bizarro version of “If.” Does anyone remember those “Players Club Gold Card” tv ads he did in the 80s? You know, for people who love to visit casinos all over the world.

    When I was at NYU, Channel 5 used to Kojak on weekends at some ungodly hour, like 3 AM. That was always a great night – get bombed for a song at the Blue & Gold (not far from where Josh was probably drinking at the same time at the International Bar) and come home to watch Kojak in a bleary stupor.

    Ahh, youth.

  9. There’s a passage in Roger Angell’s piece about the then-owner of the Giants, where he describes fans at a spring training game yelling, “Heave her low, Heaverlo!”

  10. Holy schnikes, Josh! That reminds me of Shatner doing “Rocket Man.”

  11. I am amazed how many people (myself included) remember seeing Shatner doing “Rocket Man” on the Science Fiction awards. If you want to take it up a notch look for video of his version of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”. How much acid did he take before that one? The trifecta is completed by his version of “Mr. Tambourine Man”.

  12. Wow, those Shatner and Savalas clips are unbelievable. I’ve seen them before and I still can’t believe it.

    The 70’s was such a odd/bizarre decade to grow up in. Basically there was an anything/everything goes attitude. Meanwhile we were just a bunch of kids growing-up in that freak show decade.

  13. Yes, and as kids growing up in that freakshow decade — of all the disappointments we have faced in our lives — no disappointment was more harsh than the realization that anything/everything does not go. Oh, how it does not go…

    I’m also a bit aggrieved that no one has remade ROCKFORD FILES with Vince Vaughn as the new lead. James Garner can now play Rocky, and Dave Heaverlo would make one helluva of an Angel Martin.

  14. Actually, there has been talk of doing a new Rockford Files TV series. This to me seems like a grievous error. You don’t mess with what was done right the first time. Those shows hold up really well.

  15. The real question is whether Heaverlo would manage to eke out a middle relief spot on the all-bald guys team. (Guys have to have been bald *during their careers* to qualify, of course.)

    C Jim Leyritz
    1B Kevin Youkilis
    2B ?
    3B Matt Williams
    SS Cal Ripken
    LF Barry Bonds
    CF Torii Hunter
    RF Dave Justice
    Bench: Jay Buhner, Matt Holliday, Kirk Gibson
    SP David Wells
    SP Orlando Hernandez
    SP John Smoltz
    SP Tim Hudson
    CL ?
    MGR Joe Torre

  16. Eric,

    Not fuel the fire for the Red-Sox love fest that is “Cardboard Gods”, but Dustin Pedroia would make a decent candidate for the 2B position.

  17. Yeah, Pedroia’s a good one. And I somehow forgot Mariano who is the obvious closer.

  18. Pedroia’s pretty hairline-challenged, but Art Howe and Joel Youngblood, who both logged a fair amount of time at second, have him beat, I think.

  19. I think Matt Williams and John Smoltz would call those other guys cheaters — they came by their baldness honestly.

  20. Awsome post!

  21. Let us not forget Yul Brenner. I used to confuse him with Telly Savalas as a kid; they were the only bald headed guys out there. It really was a weird look back in the hirsute seventies, golden age of the toupee, I suppose. Nowadays I sometimes just shave my head for the hell of it, and nobody blinks an eye.

    I remember having a Heaverlo card where his jaw was severely distended from what I imagine was a snowball-sized wad of chewing tobbacco. And I agree that any remake of the Rockford Files would be a disappointment, as, come to think of it, all of those latter day remakes inevitably are.

  22. Well, Pete, then let’s not leave out Marvelous Marvin Hagler. There was an Oakland Raider with a shaved head back in the 70s too – was it Otis Sistrunk?

  23. Some of those players that were brought up weren’t really bald, they just shaved their heads for fashion reasons.

    Steve Balboni and Barry Lyons are two bald baseball players from the 80’s. Wade Boggs & Howard Johnson were going bald but I think they both got hair plugs.

    Brooks Robinson used to have that terrible comb over so did Johnny Bench. I think Warren Spahn was bald.

    Terry Bradshaw and Garo Yaprimian were bald in Football. Kareem Abdul-Jabaar from Basketball and Mark Messeir from Hockey.

  24. In The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons goes into great ecstasies about Rick Barry’s choice to face down his encroaching Kojakitude by wearing a full wig one season.

    In football, I think I’ve gotta go with Y.A. Tittle and his defeated bleeding bald head as the top bald guy.

  25. “There was an Oakland Raider with a shaved head back in the 70s too – was it Otis Sistrunk?”

    Yes, Sistrunk was bald. He never went to college. Alex Karras jokingly said that his alma mater was University of Mars on a MNL broadcast. He (Sistrunk) also had a bit part as a short order cook in the movie Car Wash.

    “Steve Balboni and Barry Lyons are two bald baseball players from the 80’s.”

    I remember when Balboni was on the Yankees that he would always put his hat on as quickly as possible after removing his helmet in the dugout after an at-bat.

  26. I used to work with a guy who looked just like Heaverlo, but sans the mustache. He was a carrot top too, and there just seems to be something funny about the absence of hair with them.

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