Doc Tally: A House of David Great


HOUSE OF DAVID, 1914-1950

Jesse Lee “Doc” Tally of Sumner, Mississippi was a BL/TR pitcher/outfielder for the famously bearded House of David barnstorming baseball club, incredibly in itself,  from 1914 until 1950. As the back of the later shown card here says, Tally quickly found himself billed as “The Bearded Babe Ruth” – a clear “knock off” attempt to steal some gate thunder from The Bambino, but also apparently pretty well earned at his level of play. As the same card says, Tally hit 29 home runs in the 44 games that the House of David played during the 1922 season.

29 HR in a 44 game season works out to a percentage HR rate of .659 over the club’s much shorter season. Still, transposition of statistical performance for the same result at the big league level is always fun, even if flawed by too many intervening variables to even list in a brief column. The gross result is still a mind spinner. Had Babe Ruth homered in 65.9% of the 154 games of his American League season, he would have had 102 homers on the season, if we round off the last one to help him make that reach.

Clearly, there’s little to no chance that a player with that kind of potential would have been left to get lost on the back roads of America for thirty-six years, if he actually possessed that kind of insane talent.

Tally-Scan 3

Left handed slugger Doc Tally is also credited with being inventor of the famous House of David “Pepper Game” – and he also served his club as their ace knuckle ball pitcher. Unsurprisingly, House of David insiders for years considered Tally to have been their greatest player.


Thank you again, Bob and Daryl Blair, for the two contributing card images.

Thank you again, Bob and Daryl Blair, for the two contributing card images.

The history of the bearded ball club that grew as a sort of traveling ambassadorial baseball team extension of  the Israelite House of David in Benton Harbor, Michigan has been fairly widely documented. If you are interested in reading further about the club, you may want to search for a copy of “The House of David Baseball Team” by Joel Hawkins and Terry Bertolino (2000) as a place to start.

Here is an ancient SABR newsletter review (We do not have the date of same.) that also points to another possible supply source. I haven’t yet read this book either, so I cannot recommend it until I do and make my own decision on its merits:

“The House of David Baseball Team by Joel Hawkins and Terry Bertolino is one of the Images of America Series by Arcadia Publishing. Hawkins and Bertolino selected over 150 black & white photographs to illustrate the story of these traveling bearded ballplayers from Benton Harbor, Michigan. Also included in the 128-page book is a list of House of David and City of David ballplayers.”

The Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) newsletter


Postscript Addendum: Wow! Were those really the “good old days” when a “perfect for boys” .22 caliber pistol could be mail ordered for $17.95? Of course, we have to remember, back in the “good old days”,  people, especially immature, always angry, drug-addicted and drunk people weren’t around to use guns to kill other good people. The kids just used them for target practice, shooting squirrels out of trees, and the old lady’s cat from next door when it trespassed into their own back yards. If it didn’t want to die, the damn cat never should have invaded the kid’s territory. – Besides, it was just a cat. – Right? – And more than that, remember, it was only a single shot pistol! – If the kid was a lousy shot, the cat had a better than sporting chance of getting away before the kid could reload!

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3 Responses to “Doc Tally: A House of David Great”

  1. Al Doyle Says:

    A piece on Doc Tally? That’s another baseball obscuria home run for you, Bill. My favorite trips down the back roads of baseball include WWII fill-ins and guys who played at least a decade in the minors before getting a short time in the majors.

    The ad for the Sheridan Knocabout (correct spelling) tells me the card was issued sometime between the late 50s and early 60s. The Knocabout is a simple single-shot .22 pistol that was made in Racine, Wisconsin.

  2. Michael Sheroff Says:

    A study of the complete record probably indicates House of David was not major league caliber, yet they posted wins against the St Louis Cardinals, and the Negro Leagues’ elite Kansas City Monarchs. A better team would be the 1935 Bismarck Churchills,
    which was one of the first integrated teams, featuring Satch Paige.

  3. Bell of the Ball – TALES OF BASEBALL Says:

    […] and the Kansas City Monarchs came to Edmonton for a late June, two-game exhibition series against Doc Tally and the House of David squad at Renfrew Park in 1948, baseball fans were eager to fork over $1.10 […]

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