Wahooism in the USA

By David Nevard

In October 1991, as the Atlanta Braves were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Championship Series, Boston Globe columnist Michael Madden noted the following:

Only a few yards away from Hank Aaron's statue outside Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, not far away from the incessant tom-toms that have been booming nonstop for two weeks, was a sole man, Aaron Two Elk, of Cherokee blood. Aaron Two Elk had posted several cardboard signs _ none of them the familiar well-scripted placards of organized protests across the world, but rather crude signs _ that detailed his protest of the word Braves, the tom-toms, the war chants and the tomahawk with its chop.

All this was offensive, Aaron Two Elk had said. Native Americans were all being depicted as bloodthirsty killers tomahawking scalps hither and yon, the entire Indian culture was being mocked and he was insulted for the travesty this was of his forebears' lives. (_Boston Globe 10/17/91)

The Tomahawk Chop is an audience-participation routine that came to Atlanta from the Florida State University Seminoles, with Deion Sanders, perhaps? To do the Chop, thousands of people perform an abbreviated Karate-chop while singing the Hollywood version of an Indian war chant. The Atlanta-Fulton County organist began leading the chant, and the fans could soon buy foam-rubber tomahawks outside the stadium for $5.00.

The Braves had suddenly risen from a decade of obscurity to win the NL West, and the Chop was the fans' way of expressing their delirium. Observed doing the Tomahawk Chop were Braves owner Ted Turner, his wife the actress Jane Fonda, former President Jimmy Carter, and Senator Sam Nunn. Wyche Fowler, Georgia's other Senator ,was seen autographing a giant tomahawk.

When the Braves went to Minnesota to meet the Twins in the World Series, there were 200 protesters in front of the Metrodome, carrying signs saying ''500 Years of Oppression is Enough,'' ''Stop the Tomahawk Chop'' and ''No Native People Mascots.'' Joining the protest were several local officials, including the mayor of Minneapolis and the local chapter of the NAACP. Police said the Twins asked them to move the demonstrators away from the Metrodome, but the police refused.

Several placards read ''Shame on You, Jane Fonda.'' Ms. Fonda, known for her political activism, had been arrested in 1970 as part of a Native American protest at Fort Lawton, Washington. Jane Fonda told a local television station that she would no longer perform the Tomahawk Chop. ''I'm sorry I offended them,'' she said. ''I'm not going to do it anymore.''

''We're calling for the Atlanta Braves to change their name,'' Clyde Bellecourt, director of the American Indian Movement, told reporters. ''It is wrong for sports teams to be using the symbolism and regalia that we use for ceremonial purposes. Why don't they just call them the Atlanta Negroes? Or the Atlanta Klansmen? Do you think that American Jews or blacks would stand for this kind of treatment?''

The Globe's Michael Madden saw things differently: "I am Irish," he wrote, "and there are two sports teams that make a gross caricature of Irish tradition, the Celtics and Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Each uses that little leprechaun as a symbol, a leprechaun often with red cheeks, and this symbol hints at stereotypes but describes nothing of the Irish. Yet I have never been offended by it." Mike Barnicle, a columnist for the same paper, turned to ridicule: "This is nothing more than a cheap shot at Irish-Americans. The Celtic mascot looks like someone you might see hanging around the bus station begging for nips. They might as well have the little jerk throwing up on his shoes or falling down Broadway during the annual St. Patrick's parade."

The protests only succeeded in making Jane Fonda stop doing the Tomahawk Chop, but the controversy has been simmering among baseball fans ever since. At the Buffalo Head Society we were incited to do some research:

What's in a name?

[First printed in The Diamond Angle, Kaunakakai, Hawaii.]

Expanding on Merritt Clifton's letter, regarding the nicknames of Boston sports teams (TDA May-June 1993): The Boston Irish story about the Celtics is only half true, and the Braves had little to do with the Tea Party. Both nicknames actually originated in New York.

The most famous basketball team of the pre-WWII era was known (even in its own time) as "The Original Celtics". The New York Celtics were formed around 1917 with players from a New York neighborhood between 23rd St. and 29th St. Most of them had Irish surnames. This group evolved into a barnstorming outfit which added the word "Original" to its name, because like the Cuban Giants they were often imitated. And like the Cuban Giants, as time went by their nickname did not accurately describe their ethnicity _ their greatest players were Dutch Dehnert, Joe Lapchick and Nat Holman _ but the name was a drawing card, so they kept it. When Boston joined the NBA after WWII, the new team appropriated the name of the now-defunct Celtics, as much for its winning connotations as for the large numbers of local Irish. (Just as new American League clubs recycled the old names of Red Stockings, White Stockings, Orioles, etc.)

Enough of basketball. Now for the Braves. They were once called Red Stockings, then Beaneaters. When a man named Dovey took over, they were nicknamed the Doves. Dovey sold to Russell (the Rustlers, believe it or not) and Russell sold to a New York political contractor named Jim Gaffney, who was a Tammany Hall bigwig. Now, Tammany Hall began as a New York patriotic organization in American Revolution, named after a wise Indian chief ,Tammanend. The New York revolutionists, like the Boston Tea Party folks, identified themselves with Native Americans as opposed to British Americans. [Or according to Grolier: "Founded in 1789, the Society of St. Tammany or Columbian Order, named after a legendary Delaware chief, was an antiaristocratic fraternal order."]

By the late 1800's Tammany had become a synonym for political corruption. Bosses like Gaffney were popularly referred to as Chieftains, while the lads of the rank and file (mostly Irish-Americans) were called Braves. They all wore a lapel pin with an Indian head on it. When Gaffney bought the Boston NL franchise in 1912, he put a replica of the lapel pin on his players' uniforms, and called the lads his Braves.

Indian heads and Tomahawks

 

As noted in Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century by Mark Okkonen, the Braves wore a small Indian head patch on the sleeve, and then the front, of their uniform from 1912 through 1920; the Indian was in side profile wearing a full headdress, reminiscent of the old Indian head penny. The Indian disappeared until 1929, when it returned as a large patch on the back of the shirt_this was just before numbers became standard. The familiar pictures of Babe Ruth as a Brave show him in the 1935 uniform, with an Indian head on the sleeve and a small one in the front, between the BRA and VES. But that team did so badly that in '36 its name was changed to the Boston Bees, and Braves Field became the Beehive.

In 1941 the name Braves returned, although not on the uniform. That came in 1945, along with an Indian head patch on the sleeve, and in 1946 some genius designed the uniform they wear today: red, white and blue, with an Indian head shoulder patch and a script Braves underlined by a tomahawk.

The post-war Braves had ambitious owners and an imaginative PR man named Billy Sullivan, and they heavily promoted the team and its Indian identity. They made a promotional film called Take Me Out to the Wigwam. According to Harold Kaese (in The Boston Braves), a highlight of 1947 was "the appearance of Chief Wild Horse in full regalia at the season's opening game." Later on, wigwam was set up in the bleachers for Chief Noc-a-Homa, who came out and danced whenever a Brave hit a home run. He survived, with some controversy, well into the 1980's in Atlanta.

The tomahawk uniform brought them luck_a pennant in 1948_and they took it to Milwaukee, where it won a world championship in 1957. That year the shoulder patch changed from the old Indian head to what looked a screaming Mohawk. The tomahawk was dropped from the uniform in 1963, although the screaming Mohawk lasted through 1971. The mid-1970's Atlanta Braves featured only a stylized feather on the shoulder, and by the early 80's all Indian references had disappeared_this was during the "America's Team" marketing campaign. But in 1987 after several bad seasons, the hapless Braves, hoping to change their luck, reverted to the old tomahawk uniforms; Marc Okkonen described the public response as "enormously favorable".

The score for the tomahawk: 1915-1945, no tomahawk, no pennants; 1946-1962, tomahawk on uniform, 3 pennants, 1 world title; 1963-1986 no tomahawk, no pennants; 1987-1995 tomahawk on uniform, 3 pennants, 1 world title. Maybe the "ceremonial" properties of the weapon are working some sort of magic for the Braves...

But remember that modern professional sports is an image business, and that apparel sales bring in more money than tickets or television. Taking away the Braves Tomahawk would be like taking away the Nike "Swoosh". There are subconscious properties built into a logo, meanings built up over a long period of time, invisible forces which influence us in the split second we decide to buy a product. The tomahawk and the name Braves have come to symbolize success to buyers of sweatshirts, baseball tickets, and cable TV. You can't replace the symbol and the name overnight_there's too much money at stake. The tomahawk has become a ceremonial object in capitalist consumer culture.

Chief Wahoo

Controversy over use of Native American names and images has also focused on the Cleveland Indians, who wear a grinning caricature Indian on their caps. In 1992 Cleveland fan John Roca wrote:

I initially intended to address why the use of Native American names for sports teams in general, and the use of "mascot" caricatures of such persons in particular, was and is wrong. So I began a long winded essay on the subject. But I realized that no matter the reasons, and no matter the particular origins of the practice, it's simply wrong. And nothing that I would elaborate on would make it right.

The fact is that the practice is grounded in racist views of the American Indian; while the original rationale may not have been passed to future generations, the practice certainly has.

In regard to the Cleveland Indians, the party line is that the name was intended to honor Louis Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian from Maine, who played for the National League Cleveland Spiders from 1897 to 1899. Sockalexis was supposedly the first Native American to play in the majors.

In 1915, after Nap Lajoie was released by the then Cleveland Naps, a Cleveland paper ran a contest to select a new name . A fan submitted the winning entry, "Indians", to honor Sockalexis.

Well, does this seemingly honorable intention make it right? No. But_I don't think that it's an absolutely terrible thing either.

Yeah, yeah, just imagine the uproar if a team had named itself in a similar way to "honor" the first Catholic in the majors. What would many Roman Catholics say if fans jangled rosaries in the stands and threw wafers onto the field to encourage the boys to play harder?

Although being a Papist myself, I think that it would be kind of funny. But that's me. So, I definitely have mixed feelings about the whole subject.

The same goes for Chief Wahoo, the caricature logo of the Indians, which was created by a cartoonist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the 40's.

As offensive as the logo and the name may be to some (and to part of me), I know I'll miss both if they're ever changed. Sure, since the 50's they haven't represented the finest in baseball, but I know that I'll miss that goofy looking guy with the toothy grin.

I can't reconcile my feelings on this subject. So_I'll continue to refer to the "I" word as I've always done. Not because I'd have to change the name from Tribe Tract & Testimonial to Native American Notions & Nervous Breakdown, but because I've got to accept my own instincts. Call a spade a spade, and go on. If it's any consolation, at least the Cleveland team doesn't have the same nickname that is carried by a particular professional football team out of Washington, D.C.
(_
"The Chief Wahoo Controversy", Tribe Tract & Testimonial, Summer 1992).

Although named Indians in 1915, the Cleveland team didn't begin wearing an Indian head patch until 1928, and it was usually just a small one on the shoulder, similar to the Braves' Indian head. Even that disappeared during World War II, just as it did for the Braves. (WWII uniforms were patriotically austere.)

In 1947, the year after the Tomahawk first appeared in Boston , the Cleveland players started wearing a cartoon Indian on their sleeve_the original Chief Wahoo. The first Wahoo had a thinner face and a very long nose, kind of geeky. In cartoon terms he was like Original Bugs Bunny compared to Classic Bugs Bunny. The postwar years were a golden age for the development of cartoon characters_perhaps inspired by the fertile imaginations of Air Corps artists who decorated the B-17's.

Like Braves owner Lou Perini, Cleveland's Bill Veeck was promoting his team aggressively to lure the thousands of young postwar families who were hungry for entertainment. He used Cleveland's Native American imagery flamboyantly, and changed the stoic, mysterious Indian Head to a "fun" cartoon Indian. Just as in the Braves case, a pennant happened to follow the adoption of a Native American symbol, so the symbol was retained. The Wahoo on the uniform was redesigned in 1950, to the form which we know and love or hate today.

In 1951 Wahoo made his way inside the C on the Cleveland cap, where he stayed until 1958. The cartoon Indian has appeared on the shoulder or shirtfront, in some form, every year except 1972. For a while he shrank into a tiny Indian swinging a bat on a shoulder patch, but he was always there. In 1983 the grinnin' Injun returned to full size, and in 1986 he replaced the C on the team cap.

The team's owners have been remarkably faithful to Wahoo, considering how little luck he has brought them_three pennants in 50 years, plus some of the worst baseball teams of the half century. But now that Wahoo has made it back to the World Series, he may be tough to dislodge. For a long time now, a guy named Adams has been beating an Indian drum in the Cleveland bleachers. In old Municipal Stadium, he was lonely_sometimes his echoing drum was the only sound you could hear. The tom-tom has a place in the new Jacobs Field, but the crowds are so big you can't hear it on TV.

Other Tribes

As John Roca points out, even Wahoo is not as distasteful as the nickname for the Washington football team. (The Portland Oregonian, in the interest of "sensitivity", announced in 1992 that it would no longer print the hated name in its sports stories.) The team began life at Braves Field in Boston in the 1930's, and like other NFL clubs, this one was a pun on the local baseball team. Detroit had its Tigers and Lions, Chicago its Cubs and Bears, New York its Giants and Giants. Boston owner George Preston Marshall combined the names of the two local baseball clubs. What do you get when you cross a Red Sox and an Indian Brave? A Redskin, get it?

Sports are full of Indian nicknames. Minor league baseball has the Indianapolis, Canton-Akron, Kinston, Watertown, Spokane, and Burlington Indians; Richmond, Greensville, Macon, Burlington, Idaho Falls Braves; Syracuse and Peoria Chiefs; and Memphis Chicks. Then there are Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks, Golden State Warriors, and the colleges (before politcal correctness): Dartmouth Indians, Florida State Seminoles, Illinois Illini, Iowa Hawkeyes, Marquette Warriors, Massachusetts Redmen, North Dakota Sioux, Omaha Indians, St. John's Redmen, William & Mary Indians. Most colleges have dropped their Native American names_although not the Seminoles, who invented the Tomahawk Chop_in favor of noncommittal monikers like Big Green or The Cardinal. No major professional team has changed its Indian name, showing that pressures in the business world are quite different from those in academia.

Native Americans Speak Out

Some critics of this revisionism have asked,
Q. Why can an Indian reservation high school have an Indian logo and nickname such as 'the Warriors' and other teams can't?
Yes, I've seen pictures of this. I've also seen a TV documentary about teenagers on a reservation, and one of them wore a Washington Redskins cap. We found the answer in a pamphlet ("What is the Point to all of this Protesting?_" A Primer) from HONOR, Inc., 2647 North Stowell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53211, an Indian organization recommended to us by Gene Carney.
A. "Ethnocentric insensitivity and disregard for opinions of Native people is the continuing saga of American history. Only Native people should have the rights to say how their images are projected to the outside public." _Paul Devlin (Oneida-Ojibway), Editor, News from Indian Country
A. "The whole point is that NATIVE AMERICANS can and should make the decision about how they are portrayed. If they choose to use an appropriate symbol for their school, that is their prerogative. It is not a matter for non-Indians to decide."_ Sharon Metz, Director, HONOR

Only Indians should decide? Which Indians? How will they enforce their decision? Political correctness, as its least harmful, is merely a request to be polite. At its worst, it is an attempt to control people's thoughts by controlling the words they may use. Do Native Americans also have "copyright" on places which were named "in honor" of Indians? Should we rename Indiana, Indianapolis, and Sioux City?

Q. How does it harm Indian people?
A. "As a group of professional mental health providers, we are in agreement that using images of American Indians as mascots is damaging to the self-identity, self-concept and self esteem of our people." _American Indian Mental Health Association of Minnesota

A. "The issue of the Indian mascot has affected the perceptions of both Native Americans and non-natives toward the image of Native American people, as well as leaving emotional and psychological scars in those parents and students involved in the continuous struggle of unlearning Indian stereotypes." _Cornel Pewewardy (Comanche-Kiowa), Principal, American Indian Magnet School, St. Paul, Minnesota.

There are certainly psychological scars related to being a Native American in the United States, and stereotypes persist. The lives and symbols of whites and Indians have been woven tightly together for 500 years, and images have found their way into our language:
Indian, mestizo, brave, redskin, Indian pudding, red man, American Indian, Indian red, Indian file, half-breed, Indian summer, Red Indian, happy hunting ground, Indian giver, Indian club, squaw man, wooden Indian, Indian paintbrush, Indian sign, Indian wrestling.

Probably the most offensive phrase here is Indian giver, which means a false giver (in truth, it describes the way the white man gave things to the Indian). Indian summer could mean a false summer, or it might have the meaning "strange, unusual, not like our weather in Europe." Half-breed has definite negative connotations_in movie Westerns, half-breeds were usually social misfits and troublemakers. Compare the Spanish equivalent, mestizo, which is merely descriptive. In many Latin American countries a large portion of the people are mestizos, and to be Indian is more a matter of how one lives than of appearance or ancestry.

Overall, the Indians don't fare too badly in our language. Even the Dutch were given more negative images_Dutch courage, Dutch uncle, to get in Dutch. We could fill entire dictionaries with derogatory phrases about Jews and African Americans.

Q. What's the point of all this protesting? It's honoring the Indians_
A. "Would you paint your face black, wear an Afro wig and prance around the football field trying to imitate your perceptions of Black people? Of course not! That would be insulting to Blacks so why is it okay to do it to Indians?" _Tim Giago (Lakota), Editor-in-Chief, The Lakota Times

Actually, what Mr. Giago describes happens all the time in the music business. What were the Blues Brothers except two white guys prancing around trying to imitate our perceptions of Black people? Some Blacks probably found them as offensive as Amos & Andy or a minstrel show (just as some music fans found it a ripoff). But the Blues Brothers were accepted by mass popular culture as a "tribute" to black music.

Sports teams usually want to project the image of fierce fighters, and if they go for a human rather than animal mascot, they reach into the past for inspiration. Hence we see the Spartans and Trojans. (No one seems to have named their team the Athenians, not even the school from Athens, Georgia). If we look for examples in the American past, we find Cowboys and Indians. Not Blacks, because Blacks were historically slaves in this country, and that makes a pretty depressing sports image. The Indians are chosen as fierce, fanatical fighters who possess some kind of mystic power. Is the Indian mascot, with his feathers and chanting, a "tribute" to the brave warriors of the past?

Historical Roots

Perhaps what Native Americans really resent, is that sports teams can choose Indian mascots because all the real Indians are DEAD. Just like the Spartans and Trojans, they're a vanished race, existing only as a symbol. And the survivors have no control over the symbol. They have played their part in history and have left the stage.

In the 1870's, the Comanche Chief Toch-a-way (Turtle Dove) was brought to General Philip Sheridan of the US Cavalry. "Me Toch-a-way," he said. "Me good Indian."

General Sheridan replied, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead"_a phrase that is more commonly quoted as "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

One of the enduring characteristics of Indian-White relationships has been the susceptibility of non-Indians to thinking about Native Americans as stereotypes_They have been regarded successively as innocent children of nature, noble savages, subhuman demons, untrustworthy thieves and murderers, stoic warriors, inferior and vanishing vestiges of the Stone Age, depraved drunkards, shiftless, lazy, humorless incompetents unable to handle their own affairs_ reducing them in the non-Indians' mind to something faceless, akin to the trees and wild animals that the builders of the American nation felt compelled to clear from the land. (_Alvin M. Josephy Jr., Now That the Buffalo's Gone, 1982)

Josephy describes one of the first conflicts between Indians and Whites in this country, the Pequot War of 1637 in Connecticut: "That atrocity-filled war, in particular, hardened many of the Whites' attitudes, fears, and expectations." The Pequots inhabited southeastern Connecticut, and controlled the trade in wampum, the strung-together seashells produced along Long Island Sound, that were a form of money for Indians throughout the northeast. The Whites came, and began using wampum to trade with the Indians. A shortage developed in the White man's own currency, so Connecticut and Massachusetts colonies declared wampum legal tender. With expanded trade the Pequots became the wealthiest tribe in New England, but their wealth brought envy among other tribes, and distrust from the whites. War broke out through a series of insults and misunderstandings. The Pequots killed six men and three women at Wethersfield, Ct. The English sent an invasion force to the Pequot town of Mystic:

A dog barked, and a Pequot lookout, suddenly making out the advancing armored figures, shouted, "Owanuks! Owanuks! {Englishmen! Englishmen!]" He was too late. The English pulled aside brush guarding the entranceways and rushed pell-mell into the village, awakening Indians in the wigwams. At first, many cowered in panic in the lodges, but the English stormed in, hacking at people with their swords and firing blindly at knots of screaming men, women and children. In the wild terror and confusion, some Indians fought back with knives or anything else they could grab, but most tried desperately to hide or tumbled over each other in an attempt to scramble to safely. Exhilarated and out of breath, the English raced in and out of the wigwams, pulling people from hiding places and swinging at jabbing their swords at everything that moved. Above the turmoil, [Captain] Mason suddenly shouted, "We must burn them"_

The massacre was soon over. No one knows how many Pequots were killed, but almost the entire population of the village_perhaps as many as 700 men, women, and children_died in the flames or by the Puritans' muskets and swords. _ Now That the Buffalo's Gone

The Pequots from other villages tried to escape to the Hudson River Valley. Most of them were killed along the way or were absorbed into other tribes. In 1667 a small band of surviving Pequots asked the English for protection and were given a reservation known as Mashantuxet, "at the headwaters of the Mystic river near the site of the village that the English had burned during the Pequot War." Their descendents dwindled to a few families living on 164 acres.

The last "battle" between whites and Indians in this country took place at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in December 1890. It went pretty much as the battle described above, except that the weapons used by the Whites were more modern.

Indian Ballplayers

Only five years after Wounded Knee, a young Native American began playing college baseball at Holy Cross College. Louis Sockalexis grew up on Indian Island, a reservation in Old Town, Maine. He hadn't graduated high school, but college athletics were even looser then than they are now. After wowing them in Worcester for two years, the big outfielder transferred to Notre Dame, but he was only there for a month before he was expelled for public drunkenness.

The Cleveland Spiders signed Sockalexis for $1500, and he made his major league debut in 1897. According to Microsoft Complete Baseball:
although Sockalexis was not the first Native American to play major league baseball, he was certainly the first to be treated like one. Opposing fans went crazy. They took to wearing Indian headdresses and screaming war whoops every time Sockalexis came to bat.

In the four games before July 4, 1897, Sockalexis was 11-for-21. He was hitting .335 on July 4 when he apparently got drunk and injured himself. His fielding deteriorated, and he was benched for most of the rest of 1897. He played only 28 games over the next two seasons, and was gone from the majors. By 1903 he was out of baseball, working as a laborer, and suffering from alcoholism. Luke Salisbury has written a novel based on his life, The Cleveland Indian: The Legend of King Saturday. He died in 1913; his story must still have been fresh in the minds of Clevelanders as they searched for a new nickname two years later.

The aim of the United States government, once the frontier was gone and the Indian wars over, was to assimilate the Indians as quickly as possible into U.S. culture. The chief agency for "eradicating Indian culture and instilling American ways" was the government boarding school. Harold Seymour writes:

By 1900 the government operated 113 boarding schools, 88 on reservations and 25 off them. The growing influence of the boarding school coincided with the early flowering of baseball as the national game. Participation in it, or at least appreciation of it, had become the badge of being an American, so it is unsurprising that school administrators used baseball as one of the tools to accomplish their goal of deracination. (_Baseball: The People's Game, 1990)

The boarding schools were similar to reformatories. Students were given white people's haircuts and white people's names (Spotted Eagle became John). They were forbidden to speak Indian languages; members of different tribes were put together to discourage native communication. The curriculum was mostly vocational, and the students served three-year stretches without leave. Little wonder that in such a harsh environment they took up sports enthusiastically. The most famous of the Indian schools was Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, where Jim Thorpe played football and Pop Warner was a coach. One Indian school story is that of Charles Albert Bender, son of a Chippewa mother and a German-American father, born in 1884 at Crow Wing County, Minnesota. At the age of eight he was sent to a mission boarding school near Philadelphia, and didn't see his family again until he was thirteen. Upon returning he was "so distressed by the deterioration of life on the reservation," writes Seymour, that he ran away to Carlisle Indian School. He played baseball and football there from 1898 to 1901, and then enrolled at Dickinson College. To help play his tuition, he played semi-pro baseball under the name of Charles Albert.

Charles Albert beat the Chicago Cubs in an exhibition game, attracting the attention of a scout who got him a contract with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1903. He became a star pitcher, winning 210 games and 6 more in World Series play. He is known in the record books as Chief Bender, though Connie Mack always called him Albert, and he signed his autographs Charles. Bender bore teasing and taunts with good humor_according to Microsoft Complete Baseball children would follow him down the street with whoops and rain dances. He stayed in baseball long after his playing days, serving as a coach, scout, and minor league manager. Chief Bender was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953, the year before he died.

John Tortes Meyers, born in 1880, was a Cahuilla Indian, from the mountains of Southern California. His family moved to Riverside when he was eleven or twelve, and John went to public schools there. After high school he played semipro baseball, as a catcher, for various teams in the Southwest. Meyers told Lawrence Ritter:

After a few years of that I applied for admission to Dartmouth, and was accepted. I was a few years older than the average college student, and getting accepted at Dartmouth was a great thrill for me. You know that Dartmouth originally started back in King George's time as Moor's Indian Charity School. It was a missionary school, staffed by missionaries sent over from England to convert and educate the Indians_

The Earl of Dartmouth_set up a sizable fund with the stipulation that it was to be used for the purpose of teaching any Indian who was qualified to matriculate at the school. That fund still exists today, although few Indians know anything about it. I didn't know about it myself until I came in contact with Ralph Glaze while I was playing in a tournament in Albuquerque late in 1904. Ralph was on Walter Camp's All-American Football Team when he was at Dartmouth, and later became a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. (_The Glory of Their Times)

In September 1905 John Meyers headed to East Hanover, New Hampshire, to begin his college career. Having already played semipro, he was ineligible for college ball_he was going to be a student. The summer after his freshman year he was playing ball in Pennsylvania when he received word that his mother was seriously ill, so he returned to California. She recovered, but by then it was too late to return to Dartmouth ("the biggest regret of my life is that I never finished my college education").

Meyers went back to playing baseball, and in 1908 he was signed by John McGraw's New York Giants. Like Bender, John became known as "Chief". The two Indian ballplayers met in the 1911 World Series: "Chief Bender was there with the A's. I knew Charlie quite well. He was a Chippewa from Minnesota, one of the nicest people you'd meet." A few years later Jim Thorpe joined the Giants:

_ he never got over what happened after the Olympics were finished. When they took all his medals and trophies away from him. They claimed he had violated his amateur status by playing semipro ball during summers. _I remember, very late one night, Jim came in and woke me up_He was crying, and tears were rolling down his cheeks.

"You know, Chief," he said, "the King of Sweden gave me those trophies, he gave them to me. But they took them away from me, even though the guy who finished second refused to take them. They're mine, Chief, I won them fair and square." It broke his heart, and he never really recovered.

_Nowadays, you can't ridicule an Irishman on the television, you can't ridicule a Jew, and you can't ridicule a Negro. But they can kill us all the time_make everything out of us they want. Every night you see them on television_killing us Indians. (_The Glory of Their Times, 1966)

Meyers caught nine seasons for Christy Mathewson and the Giants. According to Harold Seymour, "Meyers is recorded_as saying after his career that in baseball he was treated like a foreigner, and an inferior foreigner at that." Microsoft Complete Baseball says that while Meyers was managing a semipro game in 1920 when he was booed. "Disgusted, he quit baseball." He later worked for the Interior Department, and died in 1971.

In Baseball: The People's Game, Harold Seymour compiled a list of American Indian or part-Indian ballplayers in the pre-World War II era (team listings are partial):
Louis Sockalexis (Penobscot), OF, Cleveland NL
Charles "Chief" Bender (Chippewa), P, Phila. AL
Zack Wheat, 3B, Brooklyn NL
Bobby Doerr, 2B, Boston AL
Jay "Nig" Clarke (Wyandotte), C, Cleveland AL
John "Chief" Meyers (Cahuilla Mission), C, NY NL
Thornton Lee, P, Cleveland AL, Chicago NL
Johnny Whitehead, P, Chicago-St. Louis AL
Elon Hogsett (Cherokee), P, Detroit AL
Odell "Bad News" Hale, IF, Cleveland AL
Johnny Hodapp, IF, Cleveland-Boston AL
Rudy York, C-1B, Detroit-Boston AL
"Indian" Bob Johnson (Cherokee), OF, Phila-Bos. AL
Roy Johnson (Cherokee), OF, Detroit-Boston AL, Boston NL
Ben Johnson (?)
John "Pepper" Martin, 3B-OF, St. Louis NL
Jim Thorpe (Potawatamie, Sac & Fox), OF New York-Boston NL

Other Indians with brief careers: Jim Bluejacket, Louis Bruce, Lee Daney, George Johnson, Louis LeRoy, Billy Phyle, Moses Yellowhorse, Euel Moore, Ben Tincup _ all pitchers; Mack Wheat, Michael Balenti, Frank Jude.

Incidentally, there is another well-known "Chief" who was not a Native American. Charles Zimmer once captained a team called the Poughkeepsie Indians, and was forever after called "Chief " Zimmer.

We can offer no confirmation on the Indian heritage of some of these players_ "part Indian" covers some wide territory, including the author of this article. Red Sox PR director Dick Bresciani had not heard before of Bobby Doerr being Indian. Roy and Indian Bob Johnson were brothers [raising the question: why didn't they call him Indian Roy?]. Both played for the Red Sox at different times in the 1930's.

Rudy York once said of his background, "They say in that record book that I'm Indian-Irish, but there's durn little Irish in me. I'm a Cherokee Indian, and I'm proud of it. Of course when I was in the big leagues, that didn't help me out much." Born in Alabama in 1913, he left school in the third grade to help support his family. He was playing baseball for a mill team at age 13, and signed a pro contract at 17. He made his debut with the Detroit Tigers in 1934. York was a good slugging first baseman on a team with a great slugging first baseman, Hank Greenberg. The Tigers played Rudy at catcher and the outfield to keep his bat in the lineup; he was described by sportswriter Tom Meany as "part Indian, part first baseman." Finally in 1940 the Tigers paid Greenberg a $20,000 bonus to move to the outfield. York drove in 134 runs, Greenberg 150, as Detroit won the pennant.

Rudy helped bring a pennant to the Red Sox in his only full-season here, 1946, when he hit 30 homers with 119 RBI's. He was traded to Chicago in '47, and released by the A's in 1949.

Rudy wrote, along with Furman Bisher, an article in Sport magazine entitled "A Letter to My Son". (It was later collected by Charles Einstein in The Fireside Book of Baseball and The Baseball Reader.) It contains a lot of advice for his teenage son, who wanted to be a ballplayer:

_Son, there are some things about my baseball career I'm proud of, and some I'm so not proud of. They gave me a reputation for boozing, but you can take any story about ballplayers and drinking with several grains of salt. Sure, I had my drink when I wanted it. So did a lot of other fellows. But remember this_I'm an Indian, so that means you're part Indian, too. All an Indian's got to do is be seen drinking a beer and he's drunk. Any time an Indian puts on a baseball uniform he becomes about six times as much of a character as any other player.

We're Cherokee and I'm proud of it. I've run into some pretty good Indian ballplayers in my time, like Bob and Roy Johnson, Ben Tincup, Chief Bender and Elon Hogsett, who was my roommate at Detroit for a while_ You've noticed that scar on my left cheek. I got it when I was nine years old. I ran into an axe my brother was swinging while he chopped wood. It makes me look tough, I guess, so I didn't have to do much to be called a bad boy.

But son, leave that liquor alone. I can tell you it never helped anybody, and if I had to do it over again that's one thing I'd use a lot less. I'd have had a couple more years of baseball left in me if I'd stayed away from it.

York made as much as $40,000 in one season (1941), and at least $250,000 in his career. A poor boy dazzled by the big city, he never saved any of it. When he told his story to Furman Bisher, in the early 1950's, he was broke and earning $150 a month fighting fires for the Georgia Forestry Commission.

Rudy did get back into baseball, though. He served as a scout for the Yankees, and as a Red Sox coach from 1959 through 1962, hired by Pinky Higgins, his old teammate with the Tigers and Red Sox. (Del Baker, their manager in Detroit, was also a Sox coach in those years.) Rudy York served as an interim manager of the Red Sox, going 0-1, during the 1959 season_between Higgins and Jurges. He died in 1970 at Rome, Ga.

Who is an Indian?

There were other Indians after those on Seymour's list, like Allie Reynolds_the "Superchief"_outstanding pitcher for the postwar Yankees. And there are still Indians playing baseball today, like Jayhawk Owens, catcher for the Colorado Rockies. But after so many generations of mixed marriages, who would we still call an Indian? Would he have to grow up on a reservation to qualify? Would his "blood" have to be full, half, quarter, sixteenth? And what about Latin American ballplayers, probably most of them mestizo? Dennis Martinez might be called an Indian in this country...

U.S. Census experts say the number of people calling themselves Native American is rising faster than would be explained by the birth rate.

In 1970, the US Census counted fewer than 800,000 American Indians. By 1980 there were almost 1.4 million, and by 1990 the Census counted roughly 1.9 million American Indians, a 20-year increase of nearly 140 percent. By the year 2000, Census officials project there will be roughly 2.3 million Indians, or triple the 1970 population.

Demographers, Census officials and Indian leaders say the dramatic increase is the result of an interplay of social, political and economic forces, compounded by the Census policy of allowing people to claim any race.

Among the causes cited most often for the boom are romanticism about native culture _ a so-called "Dances with Wolves Syndrome;'' outreach to "lost'' tribe members raised by non-Indian families; and a desire to qualify for Indian-only scholarships and job opportunities through affirmative action programs.

In addition, putative Indians have been inundating tribes that run casinos. In Connecticut, where the Mashantucket Pequots own the wildly successful Foxwoods Casino and High Stakes Bingo complex, one tribal official last week said the tribe receives as many as 100 calls a week inquiring about membership. (_Boston Globe, 4/18/95)

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed by Congress in 1988 gave Indian tribes the right to operate gambling establishments. This law is based on "sovereignty"_the principle that Indian tribes are and always have been sovereign governments, nations within a nation. U.S. law, since the founding of the country, has said that only the federal government could approve the transfer of Indian land. The principle, neglected for many years, was fought for in the courts throughout the 1970's by Indian organizations and their lawyers. The result has been settlements of land or cash for tribes in many states_including Sockalexis's Penobscots in Maine, and the Mashantucket Pequots in Connecticut (the remnants of the tribe that was massacred in 1637).

Mashantucket Pequots started with a bingo parlor. They opened Foxwoods Casino opened in 1992, and three years later it employs (these are not misprints) 11,000 people and is expected to gross $800 million this year, with a 20% profit going to the tribe. The tribe has grown from 180 to 328 members, with thousands applying for admission. The Pequots require one-sixteenth ancestry for enrollment.

Not all tribes are getting rich on gambling, but Native Americans may have more influence in this country than they've had for a hundred years. A generation or two ago, everyone thought the Indians were gone, so it was OK to use their stuff. Now we're not so sure. The Mad TV show recently joked about Indians buying a sports team and renaming it the Rednecks. This year with two Native-named teams in the World Series, there were renewed protests from Indian groups. Paul White reported:

The protest is now in its fourth postseason in Atlanta, and "I've noticed a great change in the number of people who taunt us," says Michael Haney, a Seminole and executive director of the National Colition on Sports and Media.

Haney says that while the teams haven't changed names and Cleveland still uses the Chief Wahoo -- which the protestors find particularly offensive -- both baseball clubs "are making progress" in the reduction of things such as face-painting and the use of feathers or public appearances by someone in the Wahoo costume.

"These are small but significant gains for us." --Baseball Weekly 10/31/95

Protests were enough to influence the colleges, but it will take economic muscle to move the big corporations who profit from the Tomahawk and Chief Wahoo. The muscle could come fro the Indians themselves, or from the real target of the protests - the next generation of baseball fans.

...and the great Wahoo debate continues: Wahooism Revisited: Louis Sockalexis by David Nevard; with Janice Forsyth, Jerry Strothers, James Floto & David Marasco

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