Tag Archives: House of David

Roy Counts

30 Apr

The Arizona State League was formed in 1928—the four-team league had teams in Bisbee, Miami, Tucson, and Phoenix.

There seemed to be little information about Phoenix Senators second baseman Roy Counts in local papers.  Counts had spent the previous two years in the outlaw Copper League with the Fort Bayard (NM) Veterans where he was a teammate of banned White Sox pitcher Claude “Lefty” Williams, but otherwise little was written about Counts.

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The Fort Bayard Veterans in Juarez, Mexico after a 1926 game, Claude “Lefty” Williams is sixth from left, Roy Counts is 14th (with arms crossed)

The Arizona Republic said after an April exhibition game with the barnstorming House of David club, that Counts and third baseman Henry Doll:

“(H)ave been working out in good style and appear in perfect condition.  Both are fast fielders and have wicked pegs to the initial sack.”

On May 20, the Senators beat the Tucson Waddies 11-0.  Counts was 1 for 4 with no errors in five chances at second—it was his final professional game.

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Roy Counts, 1928

Roy Counts it turned out was not really Roy Counts.

Roy Counts was actually Laster Fisher—an Arkansas born fugitive who had previously played professional baseball under his given name.

Fisher—his unusual first name a result of his mother’s maiden name, Lasater—was born in Mulberry, Arkansas on October 8, 1901, and broke into professional ball with the Salina (KS) Millers in the Southwestern League in 1922.  Fisher played third base and shortstop, he hit .269.  In October, the Minneapolis Millers purchased his contract.

That same month, Fisher was arrested in Salina for passing a bad check for $10.50 at a local restaurant.  Whether he was only charged with the writing the one bad check was unclear, but The Salina Evening Journal said his father, “Settled all claims against his son.”

Despite the brush with the law, Fisher spent the spring of 1923 with Minneapolis but was farmed out to the Clarksdale Cubs in the Cotton States League before the season began.  In mid July, he joined Minneapolis, he appeared in 69 games—67 at shortstop—he hit 273 and committed 34 errors in 365 total chances.

The Minneapolis Star said of Fisher’s performance he was, “not of the double A caliber yet.”

He was let go by Minneapolis and signed by the Tulsa Oilers in the Western League—according to The Houston Post he was the first player to arrive at Tulsa’s spring training camp in Marlin, Texas—Fisher appears to have been let go before the season started.

In May, The St. Joseph (MO) News-Press said:

“Lester [sic] Fisher, former Tulsa Western League shortstop, who was reported missing a while back with a drive-it-yourself car…(was) returned to Tulsa and sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.  Fisher is only twenty-two years old and gave promise of being one of the best shortstops in the Western League.  He told the judge who sentenced him that at the time he stole the car he was drunk, and when he got sober he was afraid to return it.”

Fisher had driven the rented Maxwell automobile to Greenwood, Mississippi, and according to The Greenwood Commonwealth left the car in that town; he was later arrested in Leland, Mississippi and returned to Oklahoma.

After entering the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester, Fisher joined the prison baseball team.  On May 13, 1925, according to The Associated Press, Fisher “Kept running after a game in Holdenville.”

His three year run over, Fisher was returned to prison in Oklahoma.  He never returned to pro ball.

He moved to Texas after his release and was working as a maintenance man at the Victory Baptist Church when he died of congestive heart failure on July 5, 1959.

Lost Pictures–1924 House of David

26 Apr

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A 1924 promotional photo of the House of David baseball team, from the Israelite House of David, the Adventist sect based in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  The photo was distributed to Midwest newspapers during the barnstorming team’s tour that season.

Promotional materials promised, “Some wonderful baseball players are on the House of David team,” including Jess Tally, “The bearded Babe Ruth.”  And “Cookie Hannaford the phenomenal first sacker.  “The team claimed Tally had hit 34 home runs in 132 games in 1923, and 11 through the team’s first 31 games of 1924.

 

tally

Tally

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Hannaford

The team always claimed that several members of the club, “Rejected major league jobs, refusing to clip their whiskers.”

Dick Jess, who had managed Babe Ruth’s 1921 barnstorming tour, was the promoter for the House of David tour, and described the team as:

“Bewhiskered, barberless, shaveless baseballists, and foes of the barber trust.”

Adventures in Barnstorming—Fake Cuban Stars

27 Mar

One of the pitfalls when trying to book a famous barnstorming team to play your local club was making sure you were actually getting what you thought you were getting.

Fake House of David teams crisscrossed the country for years; there were reports of fake Negro League teams and fake versions of the Nebraska Indians.  Most made an attempt to field a competitive team who could at least pass for the team they were fraudulently representing;  some didn’t even bother.

Charles A. Mills thought he was getting the authentic Cuban Stars for a May 1910 game against his St. Louis Giants; the Cubans roster included the great pitcher Jose Mendez, and well-known players like pitcher-outfielder Luis Padron, first baseman Augustin “Tinti” Molina and shortstop Luis Bustamante.

None of them arrived in St. Louis.

Jose Mendez

Jose Mendez

The Freeman said:

“Much talk is going the rounds over the way in which the management of the St. Louis Giants were deceived by a bunch of get-rich-quick schemers, who claimed to be the real Cuban Stars, when in fact there was not a Cuban in the club.”

More than thirty-six-hundred fans came to Kuebler’s Field to see the famous barnstormers play the hometown team, but:

“Mr. C.L. East, advance agent for the supposed Cubans, brought to the city a set of misfits to fool the public and get the money.”

The Freeman insisted that Mills, who bore the brunt of the reaction from angry fans, was an innocent victim of a scam and that the impostors were “in no way the fault of the St. Louis Giants.’”

Mills called it a “high-handed game to defraud the public,” an “unpleasant occurrence that has caused (The Giants) to be unjustly criticised (sic) by some of our best followers.”

There is no record of the outcome of the game or a mention of whether the game was even completed.

The legitimate Cuban Stars, with Mendez, played in St. Louis the following year.

Luis Bustamante

Luis Bustamante