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Old 05-23-2008, 08:41 AM   #1
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The Story Of Louis Sockalexis

Anyone ever heard of him?

I hadn't heard his story until this morning on the way to work.

I'm listening to the audible version of "That's Not in My American History Book: A Compilation of Little Known Events and Forgotten Heroes".

Amazon.com: That's Not in My American History Book: A Compilation of Little Known Events and Forgotten Heroes: Thomas Ayres: Books

One of the chapters discusses Louis Sockalexis. So I thought I would post his story in case others hadn't seen it.
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Old 05-23-2008, 08:42 AM   #2
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The Baseball Reliquary - The Story of Louis Sockalexis

Although it was discovered in the 1960s that the first Native American in the major leagues was James Madison Toy, who played in the American Association in 1887 and 1890, the first man known and treated as an American Indian was Louis Sockalexis. Born on October 24, 1871 on the Penobscot Indian reservation outside of Old Town, Maine, Sockalexis displayed incredible athletic talent in his youth. Tales abounded of his great throwing arm, with descriptions of him hurling a baseball over 600 feet across the Penobscot River. He went on to become a star pitcher and outfielder at both Holy Cross and Notre Dame, where life and legend continued to intertwine. One of his colossal home runs was estimated at 600 feet, while another reportedly broke a fourth-story window in the Brown University chapel. He stole six bases in one game; pitched three no-hitters; and one of his outfield throws, measured by two Harvard professors, traveled 414 feet on the fly.

Sockalexis was signed to a professional contract in 1897 by the Cleveland Spiders baseball club of the National League and was an immediate success, hitting an impressive .338 with eight triples and 16 stolen bases in his first 60 games. He appeared to be on target to fulfill the enormous promise predicted for him by New York Giants manager John McGraw, who described Sockalexis as the greatest natural talent he had ever encountered in the game. But his rookie season and his professional baseball career were soon ground to a halt. A drinking problem that had begun in his college days resurfaced, and on July 4, 1897, during a party, an inebriated Sockalexis jumped from the second-story window of a brothel, severely injuring his ankle. He played only sporadically during the next two years, and his last game in the major leagues came in 1899 at the age of 27.

The challenges faced by an athlete breaking racial barriers in any sport are intimidating, and it is difficult to comprehend the sense of loneliness that would be part of such an athlete’s experience. Jackie Robinson’s travails as the first African American major league ballplayer are well documented. Although Native Americans were accepted in professional baseball a half century before African Americans were, they were still subjected to racism. In his brief major league career, Sockalexis was a sideshow attraction. Tapping into a public consciousness that still remembered the Indian Wars of the 1870s, spectators for opposing teams were reported to have showered racial slurs and invectives on the Penobscot Indian when he stepped to the plate. Fans imitated war whoops and war dances when Sockalexis came to town. He was exploited by those who had a business interest in baseball (i.e., the club owners and the press) and who, aware of the public’s great curiosity in Sockalexis, cultivated his Indian image for the purpose of selling tickets and newspapers. Sportswriters later attributed his rapid decline to an inherent "Indian weakness," the abuse of alcohol, which continued to perpetuate one of the most dominant and enduring Native American stereotypes, that of the drunken and lazy Indian.

Sockalexis spent his final years on the Penobscot Indian reservation, teaching Native American boys how to play baseball. It was reported that when he died of heart failure at the age of 42 on October 24, 1913, his yellowed press clippings were found inside his shirt pocket. Sockalexis was buried at the Old Town cemetery, with his name burned on a wood cross. In 1934, the State of Maine erected a stone marker on his grave.

In 1915, two years after the death of Sockalexis, the Cleveland ballclub (then nicknamed the "Naps," after their long-time player-manager Napoleon Lajoie) changed its nickname to the "Indians." Over the years, the club and major league baseball have claimed the name was changed to honor the memory of Sockalexis. In recent years, however, some researchers have called into question this long-believed story, much as an earlier generation of historians debunked the myth that Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball. In an essay published in 1998 in the Sociology of Sport Journal, entitled "An Act of Honor or Exploitation?: The Cleveland Indians’ Use of the Louis Francis Sockalexis Story," author Ellen J. Staurowsky argued that the name "Indians," and its attendant logos, were more likely chosen for exploitative purposes. This was a period in American history when Native American images were frequently used as distinguishing marks for products and when Native Americans were often equated with animals, as seen in a common expression of the day, "No Dogs. No Indians." A Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoonist at that time hinted that the nickname was bestowed on the club by sportswriters who hoped the team would emulate the Boston Braves. The sensation of the baseball world in 1914, the Miracle Braves, as they were called, rose from last place on July 4 to win 60 of their final 76 games and capture the National League pennant. One Cleveland writer reported, "We’ll have the Indians on the warpath all the time, eager for scalps to dangle at their belts."

In recent years, the story of Louis Sockalexis has usually been brought up in connection with protests by many citizens who have argued that the Cleveland Indians nickname, and the club’s smiling Chief Wahoo mascot, are manifestations of racism. These protesters charge that spectators today, just as they did a century earlier in Sockalexis’ time, don headdresses, wear "war paint" and sing "war chants," and chop tomahawks in a display of behavior that is demeaning to Native Americans. The very things that are sacred to Native Americans -- the wearing of eagle feathers and religious chanting and dancing -- are made comical or quaint in the confines of the ballpark.
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Old 05-23-2008, 08:42 AM   #3
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Sockalexis, Louis

It was a sultry summer day in 1897, and at New York City's sweltering Polo Grounds, the spectator stands burst into taunting war-whoops as a bronzed, brawny Indian strode solemnly to the plate.

Before him stood the New Yorker's smirking fast-ball pitcher; behind him stretched tables of cynical sports-writers; and far beyond the centerfield fence, the blue sky beckoned. The pitch--the swing--and in that instant a legend was born in the crack of a bat.

Life and legend forever intertwine in the tragically short career of Penobscot Indian Louis Francis Sockalexis (1871-1913), the first American Indian to play professional baseball on a major league team.

Born on Indian Island, October 24, 1871, Sockalexis was the grandson of the Chief of the influential Bear Clan. Even as a boy, his strength was legendary. He could hurl a baseball over 600 feet across the Penobscot River from Indian Island to the Old Town shore, and at the Bangor Race Track, it is said, father and son amused the crowds by pitching an easy game of catch--across the width of the entire oval.

At the urging of a local priest, Sockalexis attended college first at St. Mary's in Van Buren and in 1884-85 at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he batted .444 in two seasons and honed his skills in the summer playing ball in the Trolley League along the coast of Maine. In 1896, his Holy Cross coach moved on and Sockalexis followed, transferring to the famous Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. There, a sharp-eyed scout quickly signed the strapping, 6-foot, 197-pound Sockalexis, against his father's wishes, to the outfield of the old National League's "Cleveland Spiders."

Sockalexis' rise to fame was the stuff of romance. His first time at bat in a major league game, at the old New York City Polo Grounds, he faced a stadium full of taunting, war-whooping spectators and the New York club's grinning fast-ball artist Amos Ruse, who had pledged to strike the "damned Indian" out. Lounging sportswriters laughed at the delegation of proud Penobscots in beadwork and full feathered regalia who had travel from Old Town to see the city debut of their native son.

Amid the cat-calling Sockalexis strode to the plate, hammered the first pitch over the center field fence clear out of the park, and brought the stands roaring to their feet.

Thereafter, war-whoops shook the stands in salute when Sockalexis took the field. He hit .338 his first Cleveland season and stole 16 bases in 66 games. He hurled record 400-foot outs, knee-high and hard, from centerfield to home plate. Sportswriters dubbed him "The Deerfoot of the Diamond" and hailed his team, now in admiration, as the Cleveland "Indians."

He was celebrated in poetry and in song:

"We New Englangers...

Like the bison on the prairie,

Plunging from the flames upleaping.

Sockalexis! Sockalexis!

Sock it to them, Sockalexis?

And even readers of "Frank Merriwell At Yale" were soon dazzled by the deeds of a new fictitious sports hero, "Joe Crowfoot," a thinly disguised salute to Louis Sockalexis by the author, fellow Mainer Gilbert Pattern.

"He should have been the greatest player of all time," Detroit Tigers manager Hugh Jennings once wrote, "greater than Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Roger Hornsby, or any other man who ever made history for the game."

Then, suddenly, it was over. A man of pride and intelligence, Sockalexis' sheltered education and trusting nature left him unprepared for the pressures and exploitation of a big business game. Alcohol and high living took their toll, and in 1899 he played only seven error-riddled games before fading back into the bush teams and minor leagues.

He returned to Indian Island in 1901. There, he coached juvenile teams and proudly sent five Penobscot boys into the New England League before tuberculosis and heart trouble took his life on Christmas Eve, 1913. He was barely 41.

Fame came again, posthumously, for the powerful man thousands once cheered at the plate. Like a long, high hit, Sockalexis' story came soaring home again in later years. In 1956 he was inducted into the Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame, and in 1969 was a charter member of the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1985, he was named to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame, there joining his cousin Andrew Sockalexis, a U.S. marathon medal winner in the 1912 Olympics.

And in 1915, the Cleveland Spiders, the team he once made famous, officially changed their name to the "Cleveland Indians."

But he would be proudest, perhaps, of his hometown's 2,500 seat Sockalexis Ice Arena, where Indian Island youth still learn the love of competition and the joy of sports, and the ring of challenge in the heart.

Source: Reproduced from Maine's Claim To Fame.
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Old 05-24-2008, 06:13 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul G View Post
The Baseball Reliquary - The Story of Louis Sockalexis

Although it was discovered in the 1960s that the first Native American in the major leagues was James Madison Toy, who played in the American Association in 1887 and 1890, the first man known and treated as an American Indian was Louis Sockalexis. Born on October 24, 1871 on the Penobscot Indian reservation outside of Old Town, Maine, Sockalexis displayed incredible athletic talent in his youth. Tales abounded of his great throwing arm, with descriptions of him hurling a baseball over 600 feet across the Penobscot River. He went on to become a star pitcher and outfielder at both Holy Cross and Notre Dame, where life and legend continued to intertwine. One of his colossal home runs was estimated at 600 feet, while another reportedly broke a fourth-story window in the Brown University chapel. He stole six bases in one game; pitched three no-hitters; and one of his outfield throws, measured by two Harvard professors, traveled 414 feet on the fly.

Sockalexis was signed to a professional contract in 1897 by the Cleveland Spiders baseball club of the National League and was an immediate success, hitting an impressive .338 with eight triples and 16 stolen bases in his first 60 games. He appeared to be on target to fulfill the enormous promise predicted for him by New York Giants manager John McGraw, who described Sockalexis as the greatest natural talent he had ever encountered in the game. But his rookie season and his professional baseball career were soon ground to a halt. A drinking problem that had begun in his college days resurfaced, and on July 4, 1897, during a party, an inebriated Sockalexis jumped from the second-story window of a brothel, severely injuring his ankle. He played only sporadically during the next two years, and his last game in the major leagues came in 1899 at the age of 27.

The challenges faced by an athlete breaking racial barriers in any sport are intimidating, and it is difficult to comprehend the sense of loneliness that would be part of such an athlete’s experience. Jackie Robinson’s travails as the first African American major league ballplayer are well documented. Although Native Americans were accepted in professional baseball a half century before African Americans were, they were still subjected to racism. In his brief major league career, Sockalexis was a sideshow attraction. Tapping into a public consciousness that still remembered the Indian Wars of the 1870s, spectators for opposing teams were reported to have showered racial slurs and invectives on the Penobscot Indian when he stepped to the plate. Fans imitated war whoops and war dances when Sockalexis came to town. He was exploited by those who had a business interest in baseball (i.e., the club owners and the press) and who, aware of the public’s great curiosity in Sockalexis, cultivated his Indian image for the purpose of selling tickets and newspapers. Sportswriters later attributed his rapid decline to an inherent "Indian weakness," the abuse of alcohol, which continued to perpetuate one of the most dominant and enduring Native American stereotypes, that of the drunken and lazy Indian.

Sockalexis spent his final years on the Penobscot Indian reservation, teaching Native American boys how to play baseball. It was reported that when he died of heart failure at the age of 42 on October 24, 1913, his yellowed press clippings were found inside his shirt pocket. Sockalexis was buried at the Old Town cemetery, with his name burned on a wood cross. In 1934, the State of Maine erected a stone marker on his grave.

In 1915, two years after the death of Sockalexis, the Cleveland ballclub (then nicknamed the "Naps," after their long-time player-manager Napoleon Lajoie) changed its nickname to the "Indians." Over the years, the club and major league baseball have claimed the name was changed to honor the memory of Sockalexis. In recent years, however, some researchers have called into question this long-believed story, much as an earlier generation of historians debunked the myth that Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball. In an essay published in 1998 in the Sociology of Sport Journal, entitled "An Act of Honor or Exploitation?: The Cleveland Indians’ Use of the Louis Francis Sockalexis Story," author Ellen J. Staurowsky argued that the name "Indians," and its attendant logos, were more likely chosen for exploitative purposes. This was a period in American history when Native American images were frequently used as distinguishing marks for products and when Native Americans were often equated with animals, as seen in a common expression of the day, "No Dogs. No Indians." A Cleveland Plain Dealer cartoonist at that time hinted that the nickname was bestowed on the club by sportswriters who hoped the team would emulate the Boston Braves. The sensation of the baseball world in 1914, the Miracle Braves, as they were called, rose from last place on July 4 to win 60 of their final 76 games and capture the National League pennant. One Cleveland writer reported, "We’ll have the Indians on the warpath all the time, eager for scalps to dangle at their belts."

In recent years, the story of Louis Sockalexis has usually been brought up in connection with protests by many citizens who have argued that the Cleveland Indians nickname, and the club’s smiling Chief Wahoo mascot, are manifestations of racism. These protesters charge that spectators today, just as they did a century earlier in Sockalexis’ time, don headdresses, wear "war paint" and sing "war chants," and chop tomahawks in a display of behavior that is demeaning to Native Americans. The very things that are sacred to Native Americans -- the wearing of eagle feathers and religious chanting and dancing -- are made comical or quaint in the confines of the ballpark.
gahhhhhhhhhhhh for a min. there I thought you was talkin about Louis Souncosi..............my old man.............LOL
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Old 06-02-2008, 02:06 PM   #5
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I know a couple of Sockalexis' from Old Town
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Old 06-12-2008, 08:49 PM   #6
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Sockalexis brothers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul G View Post
Anyone ever heard of him?

I hadn't heard his story until this morning on the way to work.

I'm listening to the audible version of "That's Not in My American History Book: A Compilation of Little Known Events and Forgotten Heroes".

Amazon.com: That's Not in My American History Book: A Compilation of Little Known Events and Forgotten Heroes: Thomas Ayres: Books

One of the chapters discusses Louis Sockalexis. So I thought I would post his story in case others hadn't seen it.

Yeah. His relatives still live over in Indian Island. Louis also had a brother (Andrew) who was a pole vaulter and a marathoner and did quite well as well. The stories about Louis' arm are all true from what I'm told. Another story about his arm involved him showing off for the press in Cleveland. He would throw the ball from home plate over the centerfield fence from a standing position....and he could ruuuuuunnnnnnnnnn.....
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Last edited by Noodlz; 06-12-2008 at 08:52 PM.. Reason: fixed my info
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Old 06-28-2008, 09:18 PM   #7
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The Baseball Encyclopedia

Quote:
Originally Posted by Noodlz View Post
Yeah. His relatives still live over in Indian Island. Louis also had a brother (Andrew) who was a pole vaulter and a marathoner and did quite well as well. The stories about Louis' arm are all true from what I'm told. Another story about his arm involved him showing off for the press in Cleveland. He would throw the ball from home plate over the centerfield fence from a standing position....and he could ruuuuuunnnnnnnnnn.....
Yep, just looked him up in the Baseball Encyclopedia. His first year stats are something else!

Louis Sockalexis Baseball Stats by Baseball Almanac
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