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From the

April 6, 2001
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Purchase the "House of David Baseball Team" here

On deck with House of David - Author's baseball fancy inspires book


LOU MUMFORD - Tribune Staff Writer

UNION -- In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of ... baseball.

OK, that's not exactly how Alfred Lord Tennyson put it a couple centuries ago. And, granted, Terry Bertolino, at 51, is a little beyond the stage when he might be considered young.

Union resident Terry Bertolino is surrounded by sports memorabilia, much of it related to the Benton Harbor-based House of David and its traveling baseball teams.
But there's a twinkle in Bertolino's eye when he welcomes visitors to his home on Long Lake and his collection of sports memorabilia. A quick glance around the room makes it clear that baseball is his passion and that the games played by Benton Harbor-based House of David baseball teams are closest to his heart.

Prominent in the display is the 2000 book "The House of David Baseball Team,'' a 128-page book of the 40 years in which the House of David religious sect and its City of David spin-off both fielded long-haired, bearded teams. The book was compiled by Bertolino and Joel Hawkins, a fellow baseball enthusiast from Des Plaines, Ill., whom Bertolino met through a mutual friend in California.

For Bertolino, the book project, likely to be followed by two related books, was a labor of love.

"The last baseball strike pretty much soured me on what was going on,'' he said. "This (the book) was supposed to be something to occupy my free time ... (but) now I'm trying to fit the House of David in its proper place in history.

"The team was probably as well recognized as Satchel Paige was.''

Paige was no stranger to the House of David, playing them on several occasions as a member of the Negro Leagues' Kansas City Monarchs.

George Anderson, one of only a handful of surviving House of David players, is quoted in Bertolino's book about facing the Hall of Fame pitcher.

"He was one of the greatest pitchers there ever was ... but I got lots of hits off him. I wasn't a big swing hitter, I was left-handed and I'd just punch his fast ball over shortstop,'' he said.

Unfortunately, the statistics of Anderson and his teammates were recorded haphazardly at best, unlike those of major league players. But Bertolino is doing his best to detail their accomplishments, pouring over scorebooks borrowed from the City of David's Ron Taylor in an attempt to determine who did what, and when.

He said his quest began five years ago when he attended a tag sale.

"I had a little knowledge about the team, but the tag sale is really how it began,'' he said. "I picked up George Anderson's traveling trunk, a couple broadsides (House of David baseball posters) and a piece of stationary.''

House of David baseball player George Anderson's trunk was obtained by Terry Bertolino at a tag sale five years ago. That started Bertolino on a path that led to a book on House of David baseball.
The items started him on a path of research that put him in contact with former players Anderson and Lloyd Dalager, the current president of the House of David.

Bertolino said he values those conversations more than anything in his sports collection, which includes an autograph of Detroit Tigers great Ty Cobb and a jersey from the House of David basketball team that once toured with the Harlem Globetrotters.

Bertolino's research revealed that the House of David played in the first night baseball game in 1930, signed the first female player -- Jackie Mitchell -- to a professional contract and was the first to perform sleight-of-hand "pepper games.''

The games usually featured three players who'd stand in a circle and throw balls to one another from behind their backs, between their legs and over their shoulders

Bertolino said it was only in the early years that the teams were comprised entirely of members of the House of David. While most team members wore their hair long, in accordance with the sect's religious beliefs, House of David players after 1930 generally had no connection with the House of David or City of David other than the name on their uniforms, Bertolino said.

"At first, when they'd go out on the road, they found they'd have to pick up a pitcher or catcher occasionally,'' he said. "Some players, too, played on the (House of David) band, and the band took precedence. If the band had a gig, they'd have to find other players to fill in.''

Bertolino said House of David teams often played about 200 games a year. Perhaps the best measuring stick of their talent, he said, was a two-month stretch against the Monarchs, the reigning champion of the Negro Leagues.

Bertolino said the Davids won about one-third of those games.

"On any given day, they could beat anybody, but they didn't have the depth of major league teams,'' he said.

Published by Chicago-based Arcadia Publishing, "The House of David Baseball Team" book is available for $18.99. Signed copies can be obtained through Bertolino's Web page or by writing Bertolino at Pepper Game, P.O. Box 71, Union, MI 49130.

Staff writer Lou Mumford: lmumford@sbtinfo.com

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