Looking Back At Benton Harbor’s House of David Baseball Team
In 1903 Benjamin Purnell had a premonition after waking up from a dream. This dream led him to form the Israelite House of David, which was established to reunite the 12 lost tribes of Israel to await the Millennium. But furthermore, from this little community in Benton Harbor, MI came a baseball team that has been cherished for over 100 years and is celebrated in the Baseball Hall of Fame. As the Ken Burns documentary detailed, many people from Chicago & Kalamazoo would come out to watch them play:
The House of David began playing organized baseball by 1913 as a weekend activity drawing impressive crowds at their home field in Benton Harbor, and by 1920 they were a regular feature on the American barnstorming circuit. The baseball team served several functions, the two primary purposes being to raise money for the community, but also as a means of recruiting new members to the faith. The basic tenets of the House of David included physical labor, celibacy, refraining from haircuts and shaving, and a strict vegetarian diet.
Big Leaguers In The House of David
During their tenure and heyday, many incredible professional athletes were asked to join their team. Grover Cleveland Alexander, Chief Bender, and Satchel Paige were just a few of the players who were invited. Funny enough, even though switching faiths wasn't mandatory to join, they did ask the players to wear a fake beard if they couldn't grow a real one. There's an infamous picture of Babe Ruth wearing a fake beard, which led many to believe he too played for the team.
Unfortunately, the rumor is false. An offer was submitted by the House of David and was never responded to by Ruth or his management, as the Pepper Game recalls:
Many people claim that a House of David pitcher struck out Babe Ruth in an exhibition game. However, the House of David Baseball Team Research Project has never found any documentation to support this claim.