Sunday, September 28, 2014

Maybe the "T.S." Stood for "Terribly Similar"...

Jesse Lee Tally, known as “Doc” Tally, played baseball for the barnstorming Israelite House of David team from 1914 to his death in 1950. The House of David was a religious commune founded in Benton Harbor, Michigan, in 1903 and thrived through the 1920s and 30s. Its founders—not the most visionary of religious leaders—declared sex a sin (even for procreation), in principle dooming their movement after a single generation.

The House of David became a national phenomenon during that time for fielding a long-haired, long-bearded evangelizing baseball team (actually, several teams) that crisscrossed the country playing amateur; semipro; and professional opponents, including squads from the major, minor, and Negro Leagues. Sort of the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball, the House of David team grew famous for its fancy, yet very formidable, play. It even, for a time, boasted several former Major League greats, including Three Finger Brown and Grover Cleveland Alexander, as well as the legendary Negro Leaguer, Satchel Paige—all of whom were required either to grow their whiskers or don a fake beard.

The House of David even beat the Major Leagues to night baseball, playing its first game under electric light in 1930—five years before the Bigs. (Ever shrewd in enlarging opportunities to play for paying customers, the House of David brought portable lights on its buses to allow night games.)

Anyway, I find Jesse Lee Tally the spitting image of the recently deceased Robin Williams. Reputedly the House of David’s best player, Tally invented the famous pepper games with which players would wow crowds with their acrobatic and dexterous skills before, and during, contests. Tally thus seems like the same type of good-natured, entertaining ham that Robin Williams came to be. Interestingly, Williams was born little more than a year after Tally’s death and just a hundred miles from Benton Harbor (in Chicago).*

* Perhaps stranger still, Williams starred in the resemblant-named 2004 “dramedy,” House of D.

It’s almost as if Jesse Lee Tally’s spirit entered the newborn Robin Williams’ body in 1951—all it had to do was float to the far side of Lake Michigan, and it had more than a year to do so…

So, it is entirely possible that Robin Williams possessed great baseball potential, even if he never sensed it. However, the world is a better place for him taking the route that he did—not only because he left a legacy of laughter, but because Williams’ natural inclination to field a batted ball, then toss it in the air while declaring, “Fly, be free!” would have led to a catastrophic amount of unearned runs…      

(Image from Good Will Hunting copyright Miramax Films; image from Mork and Mindy copyright ABC.)

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