Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Baseball Trivia: My Spider Sense Is Tingling.

The name of the first known Native American major leaguer is the answer to today’s trivia question.

He was born on the Penobscot Reservation – sometimes referred to as Indian Island, Maine – in 1871. Like just about every other First Nations player to reach the big leagues before the 21st Century, he was nicknamed “Chief,” a pejorative that further undermines any authority that a real chief would have had, delegitimizing some final shreds of potential humanity in the larger American societal sphere. This is ingrained in White Mainstream American culture, so much so that even his Baseball Reference page officially listed his first name as “Chief” in the bold header until recently, despite listing his full given name in smaller print below. Another of his nicknames was “Deerfoot of the Diamond.”

This right fielder was a multi-sport star, including track and field (sorry, this isn’t Jim Thorpe, but the parallel brings him to mind) at Holy Cross University and then the University of Notre Dame.

Before the 20th Century arrived, before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, our mystery man endured the fierce racist derision as the lone identified American Indian playing on a major league diamond.

Interestingly enough, the entirety of his major league playing days would be in Cleveland. It seemed fitting with the so-called news that “Indians” will be dropped from their official name sometime around when the next pandemic strikes. Yes, Chief Wahoo was previously removed from hats and jerseys. However, the caricature still exists to this day as a healthy reminder of how easily we as a society accept the rugged, brutal buffoonery of the Vaudevillian racist tradition. Even in the so-called post-racial America. He did not play for the Cleveland Indians, but rather their Northeastern Ohio predecessors, the Cleveland Spiders. He roamed the outfield for the Spiders from 1897-99.

There are rumors that the current Cleveland ballclub has, at some time or another, claimed that their name of Indians was in honor of this pioneer.

In part due to the constant barrage of racist epithets, the rightfielder took to drinking heavily. It is the sad Catch-22 that out of depression, anger – and presumably a lack of mental health services – he came to be seen through the stereotypical lens as just another “drunk Indian.”

He only played in 94 big league games, totaling 395 PAs. He had 0.7 career bWAR, a .313/.355/.414 slash line, and a 101 OPS+.

Sadly, he would die at the young age of 42, resultant of a heart attack, six years before Jack Roosevelt Robinson was even born.

I don’t expect anybody to know who this guy is…fancy a guess?

Here’s the ANSWER!

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