NOT EXACTLY a rabid baseball fan, I got interested in the American League playoffs recently when it looked as if the Texas Rangers had a good chance to play in the World Series.
Alas, it was not to be. As the world knows now, the Baltimore Orioles brought down the Rangers with a 5-1 win in a wild-card playoff game at the Rangers’ home ballpark in Arlington.
This gave the Orioles the chance to take on the New York Yankees, who, winning, then lost to the Detroit Tigers for a spot in the World Series.
(Or “World Serious,” as a certain Dallas sportswriter once dubbed it.)
I was basically indifferent as to whether the Tigers or the National League Champion San Francisco Giants would end up as world champions, — the Giants prevailed Sunday night after winning four straight games — but I had acquired a baseball- watching habit, So I began focusing on some of the interesting details.
FOR EXAMPLE, I wondered about Tim Lincecum, the rail-thin, long-haired, 28-year old Giants pitcher who was used as a relief pitcher in the third game.
Although Tim’s hometown is Renton,Wash., he has a last name that I have heard only once before, and that with a Texas connection.
According to the Texas State Historical Association website, Gideon Lincecum (1793–1874) was a physician, philosopher, and naturalist, born in Georgia, who moved to Mississippi in 1818 and in 1846 joined an exploring expedition to Texas. In 1848, after years of practicing medicine with herbal remedies learned from Indians, he moved to Texas with his wife and 10 children.
IN TEXAS Lincecum continued to practice medicine, made geological explorations, assembled a plant collection including 500 species with medicinal properties, kept a meteorological journal that charted drought cycles, and observed and recorded the daily activities of insect life.
He became recognized as an astute naturalist, corresponded with internationally known scientists, and contributed valuable collections to the Philadelphia Academy of Science and the Smithsonian Institution.
THEN THERE was the matter of facial hair. In the World Series, the appearance of a clean-shaven man was exceptional. You had either full beards, such as the one sported by Giants first baseman Prince Fielder; smaller beards, or a few days’ worth of unshaven stubble.
My generation can remember when pro baseball players were clean shaven and beards were seen only on the likes of the House of David team.
The Israelite House of David 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 continued to sponsor barnstorming teams well into the 1930s and then sponsored weekend semi-professional teams until the 1940s.
There were numerous teams that 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 how about all that gum-chewing? One player was even shown in a close-up blowing a bubble with his gum A lot of spitting accompanied the gum chewing—not chewing tobacco spitting, which would have been obvious.
The AP baseball writer, Ben Walker, commented in his report on the third Series game that the Giants pitcher, Ryan Vogelson, “seemed completely calm while chewing gum.”
Whatever works, seems to be the message.