March 28, 2007

Baseball Indians past and present

Native American Prospects Hold Key Between Past and PresentIt was in 1887 when the first American Indian is believed to have competed in the major leagues. James Madison Toy, of partial Indian ancestry played in the American Association League in that year as well as in 1890. Toy preceded Louis Sockalexis, the first officially acknowledged American Indian who competed for the Cleveland Spiders of the National League in 1897 until 1899.

Although Native Americans entered the world of professional baseball 50 years prior to African Americans, who competed in the Negro Leagues, until Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by signing his minor league contract with Dodgers in 1945, there have been less than 50 Native Americans of full Indian ancestry to compete in the Major Leagues since 1897.

Charles Albert “Chief” Bender is the sole Native American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, although Jim Thorpe was perhaps the best-known Native American player of the 20th century as he excelled in multiple sports.

There are, however, many well-known Hall of Famers who are of part Native American ancestry such as Johnny Bench, Willie Stargell and Early Wynn.

At long last, the drought of notable Native American future hopefuls in MLB may be over.


Rob said...

I'm reposting Russ's comments because he accidentally left a lot of blank lines after them.

Writerfella here --
We Natives here in SW Oklahoma used to be fairly proud of Johnny Bench, who at one point happily acknowledged his part-Caddo background, until he turned down the American Indian Exposition's honor for him as Indian of The Year back in the 1980s. Okay, but that wasn't the half of it. Garth Brooks did the very same thing in the 1990s and, in fact, after that told his concert management that Native Americans were not to be allowed into his concerts. Consequently, the two are anathema and apparently it satisfies all parties involved. Maybe there is something to Rob's distrust of those who only are part-Native, racial memories notwithstanding...
All Best
Russ Bates

My response: I wouldn't say I distrust part-Natives. I'd be as happy to acknowledge Johnny Bench's Indian ancestry as I am to acknowledge Burt Reynolds's or Robert Forster's.

Except if we're talking about the first Native (as opposed to the first person with Native ancestry) in a starring role on TV. That particular context calls for someone who has more than just a couple of Native ancestors.

Rob said...

Your cat seems to be causing a lot of typos lately. Are you sure there isn't some other problem?