Beards and baseball: House of David Baseball Museum opens in SJ

baseball

Chris Siriano, owner of the House of David Baseball Museum, stands in front of his favorite memorabilia Tuesday inside the St. Joseph museum. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — The walls in a tall, white house along Main Street in downtown St. Joseph are covered in baseball posters, jerseys and other memorabilia.

Chris Siriano has been working to fill those walls since July, a short time after he closed on the building at 922 Main St. As of last weekend, the building is now home to the House of David Baseball Museum, which offers a historical rundown of the sport and its affiliation with the religious society founded in Benton Harbor.

Siriano ran the original House of David Museum in 1997. Upon returning to this side of the state, Siriano began working toward opening the House of David Baseball Museum. He’s also spent his time sharing history of the Twin Cities and Silver Beach.

Baseball is large part of the House of David story, Siriano said. The religious society had a baseball team it assembled every year, which was the only white team to play in the Negro Leagues.

“Players (on the House of David team) couldn’t play in the majors because they didn’t shave,” Siriano said in reference to their signature beards and long hair. “They had whiskers and wouldn’t cut their hair. It was part of their faith. It’s a fascinating part of baseball history.”

The entire upstairs portion of the house along Main Street is devoted to the baseball team that won more than 70 percent of its games from 1914 to 1955.

Siriano spent the last 30 years collecting House of David baseball memorabilia that ranges from myriad posters to uniforms still dirty from when they were used on the diamond.

The House of David holds a special spot in baseball’s ledger of history – however, it is often forgotten, Siriano said.

“The Negro League Baseball Museum teaches about these long-haired whisker white guys from Benton Harbor, Michigan, that helped break the color barrier before Jackie Robinson made it to the majors,” he said. “The House of David was such a huge draw for baseball because of what they did for the game.”

Among their breakthroughs in history came when they invented the first night lighting system in baseball. Prior to 1931, Siriano said most baseball games ended when it became dark.

“They traveled around the country with a portable lighting system on the back of giant trucks,” Siriano said. “If they showed up to your town, they lit up the stadium to finish the game. They were referred to as ‘twilight games.’”

The hours for the nonprofit baseball museum are from noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. While the museum is closed on Sundays, Siriano said he can make appointment accommodations for group tours. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 per child.

To schedule an appointment for group tours, call 269-325-0039.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 2, 2016)

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