August 5, 2011

Friday 5: "Whisker Wars"

Plenty has been made about facial har and baseball. Hell...this site alone has posted more than its fair share on the subject.

So, with "Whisker Wars" debuting tonight on IFC...I reached out to one of its stars, Bryan Nelson, to get his take on the recent trend of facial hair in baseball.

And while the ginger-haired member of the Austin Facial Hair Club was less enamored with some of today's bearded ballplayers...he does have favorites from yesteryear.

"Did you ever hear of the House of David baseball team...Horace Hanaford, Percy Walker?" Nelson asked me. "One if those guys pitched a no-hitter against Babe Ruth or something like that."

Admittedly, I had not. So I looked them up!

Here's what Wikipedia had to say:

1913, the Israelite House of David began to play competitive baseball and by 1915, they were following a grueling schedule. The House became famous as a barnstorming baseball team, which toured rural America from the 1920s through the 1950s, playing amateur and semi-pro teams in exhibition games. They were motivated by the need to make money for their families and colony back home and by the opportunity to share their beliefs. The team members wore long hair and beards as they played.

By the late 1920s, needing more skilled players, the House began hiring professionals; the most notable being Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige, and Mordecai Brown. Some professional players grew their beards out to show respect towards the God of Israel, while others wore false beards. They were known for their skill and played against some of the greatest teams in the country. The House of David played against Major League, Minor League, independent and Negro League teams, with all the same spirit of competition and fair play. At one point, the community had three separate barnstorming teams touring the county, playing and evangelizing wherever they went.

The House of David continued to sponsor barnstorming teams well into the 1930s and then sponsored weekend semi-professional teams until the 1940s. Mary's City of David sent out barnstorming teams from 1930 until 1940 and then again from 1946 until 1955. Throughout this period, there were numerous teams which bore the House of David name and wore beards. The most famous was probably the Black House of David, an all African-American barnstorming team that played solely within the Negro Leagues.

And if you head over to the House of David Museum website...you can find out exactly what Nelson was referencing.

Percy Walker signed a baseball bat along with Babe Ruth that year stating that he was the only one who had ever struck out Babe Ruth twice in one game! The bat that he signed used to be stored at the House of David, but has been missing for many years now.

Curious if I could find out anything else about Walker and his travelling band of bearded ballplayers...I had to see what Baseball-Reference.com wrote about the House of David.

MYTH: A House of David pitcher once struck out Babe Ruth.

TRUTH: There is no evidence to support Babe Ruth ever visiting Benton Harbor, nor the barnstorming teams ever visiting Yankee Stadium.

Now I'm thoroughly confused...did this happen or didn't it?

We'll never know!

But what we do know is this..."Whisker Wars" debuts tonight on IFC and if the first episode is any indication...award-winning producer Thom Beers (the same dude who brought us "Deadliest Catch", "Ice Road Truckers" and "Ax Men") will have another hit on his hands.

I know, I know...it's a shameless plug for "Whisker Wars" and this really wasn't a true "Friday 5", but, oh well.

Now, watch a preview for the show!


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