In 1903, Benjamin and Mary Purnell founded the Israelite House of David, a religious society in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
The House of David had many of the characteristics of a typical cult: a charismatic leader, apocalyptic beliefs, communal living, and strict prohibitions on sex, alcohol, and cutting one's hair.
But they also allowed women members to vote and hold office, ran an amusement park, sent traveling bands on the vaudeville circuit — and formed a sensational baseball team.
With their long hair and beards, the House of David players drew massive crowds as they barnstormed around the country.
Famous professional players occasionally donned fake beards and joined the team for games, including Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige, and even Babe Ruth. (They considered signing the Sultan of Swat in 1934, but decided his hedonistic lifestyle would be a poor fit for the ascetic team.)
The hirsute athletes also popularized the art of the "pepper game," a collection of Harlem Globetrotters-esque antics where they juggled and tossed balls, made them vanish only to pull them out of their beards, and even played innings while mounted on donkeys.
Playing as far afield as Hawaii and Mexico, the House of David continued to draw crowds until the 1950s, when the splintering of the scandal-wracked commune and rise of Major League Baseball led to a decline in popularity.
While the baseball team is no more, fractions of the religious society, and the communes they built, still exist today.