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Sunday, June 11, 2017

The House of David Baseball Team

Okay, what's going on here? These guys have hairstyles from the 1970s, but they're wearing baseball uniforms from the 1910s. Indeed, this photograph was taken around 1915. The players are from the Israelite House of David, a cult founded in 1903 in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Members were not allowed to engage in sex, drink alcohol, or cut their hair. But they were allowed to play baseball, and so the House of David baseball team became famous in their day -which lasted into the 1950s.
Famous professional players occasionally donned fake beards and joined the team for games, including Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige, and even Babe Ruth.(They considered signing the Sultan of Swat in 1934, but decided his hedonistic lifestyle would be a poor fit for the ascetic team.)
The hirsute athletes also popularized the art of the “pepper game,” a collection of Harlem Globetrotters-esque antics where they juggled and tossed balls, made them vanish only to pull them out of their beards, and even played innings while mounted on donkeys.
Playing as far afield as Hawaii and Mexico, the House of David continued to draw crowds until the 1950s, when the splintering of the scandal-wracked commune and rise of Major League Baseball led to a decline in popularity.
You can see plenty of pictures of the House of David baseball team and their junior league trainees at Retronaut.

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