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
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