Categories
NDN All-Star Profile

NDN All-Star #4 – Louis Sockalexis (Penobscot)

NDN All-Star #4 - Louis Sockalexis (Penobscot)

There is a lot to be said about being FIRST.

Louis Sockalexis – he should have been as big of a deal as Jackie Robinson.  “Sock” as he was called, broke the major league baseball color barrier in the 1890s, becoming the first Native American to play major league baseball.  Yet – not many people have ever even heard of him!

Sockalexis took the baseball world by storm when he began playing for the then Cleveland Spiders in 1897.  He was a media darling when he began his career and played stellar baseball on the field.  He hit .338 and stole 16 bases in just 66 games his first season.

Sockalexis had to endure endless racial taunts and war whoops from heckling baseball fans.  But he handled them well.

People who saw him play in person said he could hit like Babe Ruth, run like Ty Cobb and throw like Tris Speaker.  Actually, they said “better than” – but I didn’t want to lay it on too thick…

Sadly, Sockalexis’ career was cut short by alcoholism.  While it was said that he could do all of those baseball things better than anyone else, Hall of Fame baseball general manager Ed Barrow also said that he was “also the best drinker.”  His play suffered greatly and after parts of just three major league seasons, his promising career ended.

Oh, what might have been…

He went home to the Penobscot reservation and became a minor league player until 1907, when he played his last game in organized baseball.  After his playing days ended, he coached baseball for the youth on the reservation for a time and worked doing manual labor.  He died in 1913 at the age of 42.

One of the many stories attached to Louis Sockalexis is that the Cleveland Spiders, the team that Sock played for, changed their name to the “Indians” in 1915.  Legend has it that the name was an honor to the bright – although brief – stellar career of Louis Sockalexis.  There are many people who debunk this story – but I have decided to believe it.  ‘Nuff said.


#ndnallstars #louissockalexis #baseball #MLB #cleveland #Penobscot


If you enjoy the content here and would like to help support our mission of celebrating great Native athletes of the past and present, please take a look at our NDN All-Stars Shop. Proceeds from every purchase help us continue to retell these stories. Also, if you would like to donate to this effort, please visit our Patreon page.
Thank you for your support!

Categories
NDN All-Star Profile

NDN All-Star #3 – Shoni Schimmel (Umatilla)

NDN All-Star #3 - Shoni Schimmel (Umatilla)

As a Pacific Northwest guy, it is easy to root for this basketball phenom from eastern Oregon.

I followed her career to Louisville (along with her sister) where they were college stars – and a “feel good” story to boot.  Two sisters from the “Rez” go to college and have success!  Good stuff!

Some of you may know this – but in case you don’t – there was a documentary made about her basketball journey from tiny Mission, Oregon on the Umatilla Reservation to an NCAA Division 1 college.  It is called “Off the Rez”.  (I found it on Youtube here: https://youtu.be/UEj2WSmDFGQ)

And then, when Schimmel got drafted by the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream in the 1st round, it was great to see her take her talent to the highest level!  A highlight of her professional career was being named the Most Valuable Player of the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game!  Shoni put on a show with her shooting and ball handling skills that day.

Shoni has devoted a lot of time in recent years to running basketball camps for kids in Indian communities throughout the country.  A few girls I know have attended her camps and found a new hero – someone who started out just like them, little girls with a basketball and a dream.

#ndnallstars #shonischimmel #wnba #basketball #umatilla


If you enjoy the content here and would like to help support our mission of celebrating great Native athletes of the past and present, please take a look at our NDN All-Stars Shop. Proceeds from every purchase help us continue to retell these stories. Also, if you would like to donate to this effort, please visit our Patreon page.
Thank you for your support!

Categories
NDN All-Star Profile

NDN All-Star #2 – Sonny Sixkiller (Cherokee)

NDN All-Star #2 - Sonny Sixkiller (Cherokee)
This image was taken from the cover of Boys Life magazine.

As a huge football fan AND a huge University of Washington Huskies fan, my #2 draft choice for my NDN All-Stars team was pretty easy – the legendary UW quarterback Sonny Sixkiller!

Sonny Sixkiller was one of the first Native American athletes that I knew of or about as a kid.  While my dad wasn’t a huge football fan back in the day, he did make sure that I learned who that Indian kid was that was throwing the football all over the place on tv…

In the early 1970s, Sonny was the face of college football and led the nation in passing!  His winning personality and bright smile made for great publicity and photo ops!  Sports Illustrated featured Sixkiller on their cover, with an article that – looking back thru today’s lens – is almost laughable in places in its attempt to be “cute” using stereotypical “Indian” terms.

Sixkiller was such a sensation that there was even a SONG written about him!  Check it out!

After college, Sonny played professional football in the World Football League for the Philadelphia Bell and The Hawaiians.  After the WFL folded, Sixkiller had a tryout with the San Diego Chargers but then hung up his cleats and moved on to other pursuits.

You may recognize Sonny from his role in the 1974 football movie “The Longest Yard” alongside Burt Reynolds.

If you follow Washington Husky football these days, you are sure to see Sixkiller on tv, or hear him on the radio talking about his beloved Huskies…

Sonny Sixkiller – #2 on the list, and #1 in our hearts!

#ndnallstars #sonnysixkiller #huskies #football #chrokee #quarterback


If you enjoy the content here and would like to help support our mission of celebrating great Native athletes of the past and present, please take a look at our NDN All-Stars Shop. Proceeds from every purchase help us continue to retell these stories. Also, if you would like to donate to this effort, please visit our Patreon page.
Thank you for your support!

Categories
NDN All-Star Profile

NDN All-Star #1 – Jim Thorpe (Sac & Fox)

My first selection in the NDN All-Star Draft is… Jim Thorpe.  NFL Hall of Famer, 2 time Olympic Gold Medalist and Major League baseball player… and just about any other athletic activity known to man… Thorpe was just THE BEST!

In this blog post let’s talk about football.  Jim was a BRILLIANT football player!  He was the best runner, the best receiver, the hardest tackler and he even kicked field goals using the old “drop kick” method!  (He frequently toured in later years giving clinics on his drop kicking technique – routinely making field goals from 50+ yards…)

Thorpe dominated the game – and almost single handedly built professional football from a loose, rag tag organiztion with very low attendance to a spectacle almost on par with the king of sports at the time – baseball.  People would come from miles around and pay to see “Ol’ Jim run!”  As a matter of fact, there is a good story about the legendary football coach Knute Rockne, during his playing days, and his encounter with Big Jim.  Rockne bragged how he would stop that big Indian!  And on the first couple of plays, he tackled Thorpe for losses.  Each time, Jim got up and said something to the effect of “Nice tackle.  But – you better let Ol’ Jim run. That’s what people paid to see.”  Rockne laughed!  So, on the third play, “Ol’ Jim” took the ball, planted his foot and turned up field.  He blasted right over Rockne on his way to a long touchdown.  On his way back to his side of the field, Thorpe walked by a crumpled and groggy Rockne who was being helped up by his teammates and said “Good job, Rock.  You really let Ol’ Jim run!”  CLASSIC!

He was so respected in the football world that when the National Football League was formed in 1920, Thorpe was unanimously elected as the first President of the league, as well as being the main superstar and ticket draw!

Jim Thorpe meant so much to pro football, he was elected to the first class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – there is a cool life sized statue of him right in the middle of it – and was voted to the 50th Anniversary All-Time team!

I could go on and on about NDN All-Star #1 Jim Thorpe, but I need to keep a few stories on hand for his two other roster spots, #16 for his track and field exploits and #21 for his baseball career.

Jim Thorpe – everyone’s #1 Draft Pick!

Click here for a short video from the NFL about the great Jim Thorpe!


If you enjoy the content here and would like to help support our mission of celebrating great Native athletes of the past and present, please take a look at our NDN All-Stars Shop. Proceeds from every purchase help us continue to retell these stories. Also, if you would like to donate to this effort, please visit our Patreon page.
Thank you for your support!


#ndnallstars #jimthorpe #football #sac&fox #nfl #carlisleindians #cantonbulldogs

Categories
NDN All-Star Info

Why NDN All-Stars?

NDN All-Stars Logo
NDN All-Stars – promoting great Native athletes from the past and the present!

Well, here is the story.  When I was 11 or 12 years old, I had some surgery and was laid up for a bit.  To help pass the time, my dad bought me a book – “The Jim Plunkett Story – The Saga of the Man Who Came Back”.  While I was not a big Raiders fan, my dad said “Read it.  You’ll like it.”  So – I read it.

It is truly an inspirational story, and I recommend it to anyone who is a football fan – or anyone who wants to read a story about overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds… that sort of thing.

Here is the thing that REALLY stood out to me.  Jim Plunkett is of Cherokee descent.  He is an INDIAN dude!  (Although he is also Hispanic – and that was the main “label” that was attached to him…)

I thought that was pretty cool!  And it got my 11-12 year old brain wondering… are there other Indian athletes out there? I knew of Jim Thorpe, of course. Doesn’t everyone? Particularly football fans? But – what about other athletes? Oh!  Wait! I am a University of Washington Huskies fan – and they had this great quarterback named Sonny Sixkiller! Yeah! That’s another one… I wonder who else?

And so it went. Time went by. I would think about this from time to time, and then put it on the back burner again.

Fast forward to 2017. I had been a commercial artist and graphic designer for a number of years and got the opportunity to become a high school art teacher – something I never thought I would do. The student population at Omak High School, where I currently teach art, is about half Native American, being located adjacent to the reservation of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Eastern Washington State.

After some months of interacting with about 150 students a day, I noticed something interesting. A LOT of kids – boys and girls – wore shirts and hats featuring sports heroes and teams. Michael Jordan. Kobe Bryant. Russell Wilson. Ichiro. Derek Jeter. Etc, etc, etc. That’s all well and good. But it struck me – do these kids know of any actual Native American athletes? Past or current? So – I asked. “Does anyone know who Jim Thorpe was? I know this is Art Class, but I am curious…” A couple of kids half-way put their hands up…“Didn’t he play football or something?”

So I took a couple of minutes and talked about how – yes, he DID play football, but was also the first Native American to win Gold Medals in the Olympics – AND he played major league baseball – and had a barnstorming basketball team – AND was the first president of what became the National Football League… an Indian guy – who grew up on the Rez (and went to Indian Boarding School) and had to deal with racism and a lot of the stuff that many of the kids I was talking to deal with.

That was the moment that really prompted me to take that kernel of an idea I had when I was 11 or 12 and do something with it.

Which brings us to NDN All-Stars. This is intended to be a platform where Native athletes from the past and the present can be featured and promoted to today’s youth – Native, white, black, purple – whatever label people feel they need to put on.  There are tremendous inspirational stories of kids coming from such humble beginnings – just like Omak, or Nespelem, or pick any number of small towns on or near Indian Reservations, and going on to reach the top of their game. I already mentioned gold medals, so there are  NDN All-Stars who have won world championships, thrown no-hitters, been elected to the Hall of Fame in their sport… and their stories need to be told and re-told – and reintroduced to today’s youth.

That is the humble beginning and basic foundation of  NDN All-Stars.


If you enjoy the content here and would like to help support our mission of celebrating great Native athletes of the past and present, please take a look at our NDN All-Stars Shop. Proceeds from every purchase help us continue to retell these stories. Also, if you would like to donate to this effort, please visit our Patreon page.
Thank you for your support!