August 15, 2008

More Indian baseball lore

Exhibit chronicles American Indians in baseballFrom the day in 1897 when he first donned a uniform for the Cleveland Spiders, Sockalexis suffered more than his share of racial slurs.

"If the small and big boys of Brooklyn find it a pleasure to shout at me, I have no objections," Sockalexis told the Brooklyn Eagle during his rookie season. "No matter where we play, I go through the same ordeal, and at the present time I am so used to it that at times I forget to smile at my tormentors."
And:American Indians were introduced to baseball in several ways. Lewis and Clark are said to have tried to teach an early version of baseball to members of the Nez Perce during the famed explorers' trek across North America from 1804-06. And in the late 1800s, Native American prisoners of war at Fort Sill, Okla., played baseball, including Apache warrior Geronimo.

An integral part of early attempts at formal education, religious conversion and assimilation into white society was the playing of sports such as baseball at federally operated boarding schools. More than 100,000 Native American children attended the 500 boarding schools that followed the opening of the first in Carlisle, Pa., in 1879.
And:Native Americans were expected to ignore racially charged ridicule. Nearly every player of Indian descent who stepped onto a ballfield during the first half of the 20th century was called "Chief." It wasn't the only taunt: "Redskin," "Heap-Big Injun" and chants of "Back to the reservations," "Dog Soup" and "Whoop, Whoop" were part of the racist cacophony that emanated from the stands.

Bender didn't win games--he scalped opponents. After throwing one of the best games of his career, Bender was depicted wielding a tomahawk and wearing a headdress.
Comment:  For more on the exhibit, see Invisible History of Indian Baseball.

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