American Indians and Baseball

Discussion created by madmax on Apr 4, 2013

There have been alot of posts regarding famous ballparks and famous firsts such as the first African American to make an impact on the game. Since I live in Oklahoma and there are no major league baseball parks here or even close to here, and because there are alot of American Indians from Oklahoma, I thought I might go a little different way and highlight a few of the American Indians that had an impact in Major League Baseball.

Tribes have a long tradition of playing baseball on and off the reservation. The first full blooded American Indian noted in the Baseball Almanac was Louis Sockalexis, born in 1871, beginning his career in the Majors at age 25 for the National League Cleveland Spiders. He played 3 years in the Majors.

There are only two full blood American Indians in the Baseball Hall of Fame as of today, Charles Albert "Chief" Bender from the Chippewa  or Ojibwe Tribe and Zack Wheat from the Cherokee Tribe.

Chief Bender as he was known, even though he hated the nickname, pitched in 5 World Series games in the American League for the Philidelphia Athletics. He started his career at age 18 in 1903 and played with the Athletics from 1903-1914, starting out at a yearly salary of $1200.00. He ended his career with the Chicago White Sox in 1925 with a reported yearly salary of $3000.00.

Zack Wheat from Hamilton Missouri, began his career in 1909 at the age of 21 for the Brooklyn Superbas. He played from 1909-1927 and was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1959.

Another great American Indian athlete from that era was Jim Thorpe, born in 1887 in Prague, Oklahoma, a member of the Sac and Fox Tribe. In 1913, he started his Major League career at age 25 with the New York Giants for a reported salary of $5000, and played 6 years in the Majors. Before Major League Baseball, Jim competed in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden and won the decathlon and pentathlon. King Gustav of Sweden proclaimed him "The greatest Athlete in the World", but Jim later forfeited his medals as well as his amateur status when in 1913 was declared a professional because he had played Minor League baseball in 1909 and 1910.

There are many American Indian Tribes represented in the Major Leagues. Some from Oklahoma are Sac and Fox; Creek; Cheyenne; Choctaw; Chickasaw; Pawnee; Pottawatomie; Muskogee and Osage.

A few players born in Oklahoma are: Paddy Mayes born in 1885 and started his career with Philadelphia Phillies; Jim Thorpe born in 1887, New York Giants; Mike Balenti born in 1886, Cincinnati Reds; Ben Tincup born in 1893 pitcher for Philadelphia Phillies (quote from Joe Giovannetti: "when he was 70 years old and pitching coach for the New York Yankees, he threw 9 strikes out of 10 pitches blindfolded from the mound"); Virgil Cheeves born in 1901 pitcher for Chicago Cubs; Chief Yellow Horse born in 1898 pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates; Ike Kahdot born in 1899, Cleveland Indians; Emmett Bowles born in 1898 pitcher for the Chicago White Sox; Pepper Martin born in 1904 pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and won the 1st AP Athlete of the Year Award given in 1931; Roy Johnson born in 1903 4 time .300 hitter for the Detroit Tigers between 1929 and 1938; Allie Reynolds pitcher played for the Cleveland Indians from 1942-54, reported yearly salary in 1950 $25,000 and in 1951 $41,500.

There are still others that reportedly have fractions of Native American blood from Oklahoma: Johnny Bench catcher for the Cincinnati Reds who won 9 Golden Globe Awards and was inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989; Willie Stargell from Earlsboro, OK played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1962-1982

Thank you all American Indians that helped make this sport what it is today, America's favorite pastime.