Get to Know the History of Native Americans in Baseball – NBC Chicago


Get to Know Native American History in Baseball Originally Appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The closing of the 2021 MLB season marked a momentous change in baseball’s connection to Native American culture.

In early November, Cleveland withdrew the Indians’ team name from Progressive Field. The organization had kept the name for over a century before changing to Guardians at the end of the World Series 2021.

The Atlanta Braves beat the Houston Astros in this series, which was starkly reminiscent of the sport’s use of Native American imagery. The controversial “tomahawk chop” echoed throughout Atlanta’s home stadium for Games 3-5 and was a topic of conversation that drew both protest and defense.

November being Native American Heritage Month, here’s a guide to American Indians in baseball and a little history behind the lingering representations in the sport.

How many Native Americans have played in Major League Baseball?

There were 52 major league players who were verifiable pure-blooded Native Americans, per Baseball Almanac. In addition to those 52 players, there were also a number of players with a Native American blood fraction, including Willie Stargell and Johnny Bench.

Zack Wheat and Chief Bender are the only two American Indians to be entered into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Are there Native Americans in baseball today?

There are two active Native American players, according to Baseball Almanac. St. Louis Cardinals reliever Ryan Helsley is a member of the Cherokee Nation and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Brandon Bailey has a Chickasaw heritage.

Who was the first Native American player in the MLB?

Louis Sockalexis was the first Native American professional baseball player and is also recognized as the first minority to play in the National League. He grew up as a member of the Penobscot Indian tribe of Maine.

The right fielder played for Cleveland from 1897 to 1899, hitting 0.313 with eight homers in 94 career games. The team, known as the “Spiders”, although team nicknames were rare at this time, was disbanded in 1899.

Who were the Cleveland Indians named from?

Once in the American League in 1901, the Cleveland organization was given two nicknames before landing on “Naps”, which was supposed to recognize Nap Lajoie. The team applied for a new nickname once Lajoie’s contract was sold to the Philadelphia Athletics after the 1914 season. On January 16, 1915, at a summit between team officials and representatives from four Cleveland dailies, the organization revealed its new nickname, the “Indians,” which was an evil nickname. bred for Sockalexis-era Cleveland teams under player-manager Patsy Tebeau.

“They called them ‘the Tebeau Indians’,” said reporter Ed Rice, who wrote the 2003 book “Baseball’s First Indian.” For victory. “But that wasn’t meant to be flattering, of course. It was to make fun of the spectacle that Cleveland was going to be in 1897, putting an American Indian on the ground. … It was not considered respectful.

While the direct connection between Sockalexis and the nickname has been disputed, the most conclusive evidence that the team’s nickname was inspired by him comes from an editorial in The Plain Dealer published the day after the announcement. The editorial said the nickname “also serves to rekindle the memory of a single great player who was herded together with his fathers in the merry hunting grounds.” The article was discovered by Morris Eckhouse, a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, and has no known writer.

After 106 years with the nickname, the organization now goes through the Cleveland Guardians. The new name was announced on July 23 and was officially implemented following the end of the 2021 MLB season.

Where does Cleveland chef Wahoo come from?

Team owner Bill Veeck hired 17-year-old Walter Goldbach to design a logo in 1947. Goldbach returned with the cartoon that became the more modern Wahoo chef.

However, some fans don’t believe Goldbach came up with an original design. Fifteen years earlier, The Plain Dealer had released cartoons with a similar portrayal, known as “Little Indian,” as well as scores from the previous day’s matches.

The nickname “Chief Wahoo” wasn’t used until 20 years after the logo first appeared. A comic book had used the nickname from 1936. The newspapers had also used the nickname for Allie Reynolds, a former Cleveland player who went to New York Yankees in 1947, as early as 1950.

The logo was first used on Cleveland hats and uniforms in 1954. Cleveland last wore the logo on October 8, 2018, when its season ended in a Game 3 loss to the Astros in the ALDS. This date also marked Indigenous Peoples Day.

Cleveland has retained the Indian nickname since then, but the team used a “C” on their hats and kept the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms. He kept the jerseys with “Indians” written on the chest even after the logo was removed.

What is the origin of the name of the Atlanta Braves?

The name of the Braves team dates back to 1912. The organization used the name of the team for its entire tenure less a five-year period from 1936 to 1940, when the new owners changed the name to the Boston Bees. .

The franchise has used Native American imagery in various ways since moving to Atlanta in 1966. The team had a living Indian mascot, Chief Noc-A-Homa, in the 1970s before retiring in 1986. The Braves also had an Indian Head in its logo from 1966 to 1986 before switching to its current writing and alongside a tomahawk.

Will the Atlanta Braves change their name?

While Cleveland has moved on to the Guardians, Atlanta has stuck to its name.

“At this point, those discussions are still ongoing,” said the President and CEO of Braves. Derek schiller said in July 2020. “… This is a topic that deserves a lot of debate and a lot of discussion and a lot of thought, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

What is the tomahawk chop?

The song was attributed to a 1984 Florida state football game against Auburn. Here is the explanation of the State of Florida on the university website:

“During an exciting match with Auburn in 1984, the Marching Chiefs began to perform the sleepy tune. Some of the students behind the group joined in and continued the war song part after the group ended.

“Most would agree that the vocals came from the brotherhood section, but many fiery Seminole fans added the hand movement to symbolize the wielding of a tomahawk. Singing continued among the student body during the 1985 season, and by the 1986 season it was a stadium-wide phenomenon. “

When did the tomahawk chop start in Atlanta?

The tomahawk chop attracted more attention over the World Series 1991 between the Braves and the Minnesota Twins, immediately sparking protests.

The vocals have persisted for the past three decades, but the franchise finally embraced a change in 2019 after Helsley spoke out against the chop.

The Braves responded by not handing out foam tomahawks or playing vocals through speakers at SunTrust Park (now Truist Park) for the team’s NLDS series against the Cardinals. St. Louis ended up qualifying for the NLCS with a dominating victory in Game 5 in Atlanta.

The tomahawk chop was back in the spotlight in the 2021 playoffs as the Braves made their run to the World Series.

“The Native American community in this area is totally supportive of the Braves program, including the chop,” Manfred said ahead of Game 1 between the Braves and the Houston Astros (h / t Chelsea janes from the Washington Post). “For me, that’s kind of the end of the story.”

The National Congress of American Indians quickly disputed what Manfred said.

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