Sockalexis Addendum

Hat tip to author Ed Rice and Cleveland VP of Public Affairs Bob DiBiaso: I mentioned in my story about Louis Sockalexis and the naming of the Indians that I could not find Sockalexis named a single time in the 1915 newspapers I searched. That included more than 300 papers around the country.

As it turns out, my search engine did not include the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In an editorial on the day after the team was named Indians, it turns out that Sockalexis very specifically was mentioned in an editorial under a headline “Looking Backward.”

Here is the item in full:

http://joeposnanski.com/joeblogs/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/wpid-PlainDealerJan18_1915-2014-03-20-17-242.pdf

So, there was, in fact, a direct connection from Indians to Sockalexis. I still don’t think the team was named Indians for him or to honor him as the story often goes, but I do think he was the key reason why the Cleveland National League team was often called “Indians” unofficially. And I think that was at least one reason why the name Indians was chosen in 1915.

Chasing history is pretty cool.

31 thoughts on “Sockalexis Addendum

  1. Johnny B

    Great story, really enjoyed the history. Why not rename them the Cleveland Americans? And use the same ‘Native American’ logo? On the other side, I was talkin’ with a full-blooded Apache several years back, who happened to be a gung-ho Washington Redskins fan. Told me he’d abandon the team if they changed their name. So go figure…

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  2. Marshall

    I think a hat tip is also due to brilliant reader Steve Sirk, who provided this same article in the comments of your Sockalexis story. Good work, Steve!

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  3. Tom Flynn

    Retire the Chief, keep the name, honor Louis with a statue either at the Jake or at the renovating League Park site. Tell the tragic story of this outstanding, but flawed ballplayer and in doing so, recognize and honor him at long last. He is where the name comes from.

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    1. largebill

      Or you could just leave the Chief alone. You don’t like Chief Wahoo? Don’t buy a hat or shirt with the image. Problem solved.

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      1. Ed

        So if there was a team called the Jews and their logo was a guy with a big nose who was hoarding money and looked evil, you’d think there was no problem with that and nobody should be bothered by it?

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        1. Guest

          The intetesting thing is that the Royals are owned by a guy with a big nose and hoardes money and looks evil, yet nobody takes the Royals seriously. Perhaps if we could rename them the Jews, this would cause a groundswell of attention leading to more competent ownership? I like the way you think, Ed!

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      2. Tom Flynn

        Large, I’ve got ton’s of tribe gear and will continue to wear it. Have bought it for my kids and grandkids. Media will not leave the issue alone. Dropping the chief ends the issue, saves the name. Keeping the chief continues the controversy and endangers the name. Lose the name, lots of people walk away and might as well move the franchise.

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    2. Naked Mole Gaetti

      I wholeheartedly agree with Tom Flynn on all counts. Chief Wahoo is offensive and should be retired. There are a lot of Native Americans who feel disrespected by the Wahoo caricature (and the Redskins name, as well). By all means, don’t take my word for it. Google it, or do a twitter search. I found several on twitter without much effort—try the hashtags #NotYourMascot, #NotYourTigerLily, and #NotYourTonto. Are they a majority? I don’t know. What’s an acceptable percentage of Native Americans to offend? 10%? 25%? 40%?

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      1. largebill

        When did we decide there is some right to demand not to be offended? If someone wants to be offended that is there problem. Who cares?

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        1. Naked Mole Gaetti

          That’s a good point, largebill. Clearly, all instances of a minority group feeling offended aren’t equal, and therefore shouldn’t carry the same weight. I, personally, would say that descendants of the victims of genocide deserve to be listened to regarding their heritage and its appropriation by sports teams. If some of them are offended by the Sambo-like caricature of Chief Wahoo, then I think their expressed feelings of offense should carry a great deal of weight.

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    3. Guest

      Rather than erecting a statue, I think a better way to honor alcoholism would be to have an annual 50 cent beer night in his name!

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  4. Rob

    I love the idea that so many people will now read this editorial, 99 years after this guy wrote it and probably 98 years and 364 days since more than a handful of people have read it.

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  5. mrpinkfloyd71

    So, the question still kind of stands. Did owners (or schools) have racist or insulting reasons when they named their teams Redskins, Indians, Braves, Fighting Sioux, Seminoles, etc.?

    I find also interesting that for all the racism directed towards African Americans in the history of this country, there isn’t ONE TEAM with a name that could be taken as an attempt to put down that particular group, or any other group for that matter! There is nothing against Hispanics (disclosure, I am a Hispanic man in America), or Japanese, or other Asians, or Middle-easterners, or Jews, etc. There is one to try to put down the Irish but since nobody’s making a big deal about it, it must mean that we all hate and don’t care for the Irish.

    The other question I’ve never seen answered is “you are a racist, but why would you name your team something you hate so much?”

    Disclosure #2, I’ve come around the Redskin name, I heard a great argument asking Goddell why doesn’t he use “Redskins” when talking about Native Americans, so there is that.

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    1. bellweather22

      Teams go with the Indian mascot because they are fierce. Most mascots are something powerful. It’s stereotypical, but I’m not sure it’s terribly racist. Most people like the idea that their ancestors are thought to be fierce. That’s why the Irish, like me are not offended by the Fighting Irish mascot. But, of course, the Indians have a right to feel differently.

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      1. Dave

        The point I was trying to make indirectly about the Irish. I live in the southwest. Yes, it’s trite to write, but I do have a fair number of Native Americans as friends and co-workers. Two sports points: this is anecdote, not data, but the ones I know love the Redskins, and if they beat the Cowboys, well, the next morning is breakfast burritos all around; and they also follow the Braves and Indians, but lose the dance and the logo. The former, well, is it mocking a religious dance? From this limited interaction, but an interaction of over 40 years, keep the names–there’s pride there.

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  6. BobDD

    When I went to Jr camp many moons ago, we were assigned to different cabins that went by the name of Indian tribes. I still remember that my cabin was called Umpqua. We were kids who sat around a campfire and took a midnight hike the first night pretending to be Indians who lived off the land. It was fun and certainly had no negative connotations against Indians whatsoever. I always thought that the schools that took the name of Indian tribes, such as the Fighting Sioux, were doing the same thing. Nothing but honor was meant, as those schools took their sports most seriously – as they still do.

    PC has come along and tried to make us feel guilt over our boyhood beliefs that the Indians were great fighters and heroes to emulate. What an unnecessary muckup. That said though, Wahoo is a caricature that would be easy to change. But of course that would not be enough for the PC police; it would only be like blood in the water for a shark. Oooh, now the sharkites will picket me.

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  7. bl

    I don’t understand why they wouldn’t name the team after a specific tribe, either a local Ohio tribe or the Penobscots after Sockalexis’ tribe. I’m sure if there are members of the tribe around they could work them to come up with an appropriate, respectful yet marketing friendly logo. But I guess that’s too much effort; to actually respect the wishes of the people you claim to be honoring.

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  8. Zach

    I’m normally a big fan, but it seems to me that you screwed the pooch on your research for the Soxalexis article. While you claimed to research all Cleveland newspapers for the year of the name change, you missed an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (biggest newspaper in town) on the day the name change was announced (most logical day to look), that pretty much directly refutes the point you were trying to make (no contemporary references to Soxalexis).

    Regardless of the merits of the Chief Wahoo logo (I don’t like it much, myself), that’s a pretty embarrassing mistake to make.

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  9. invitro

    Sometimes I wonder if the angst over A.I. names is due to guilt over the Trail of Tears combined with a lack of eagerness to talk about reparations for that black period in American history. (Maybe such reparations have already been made, but if not, I think they should be seriously discussed.)

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  10. MikeN

    Doesn’t this kind of negate most of what you were saying in your other article?
    Isn’t it possible those other papers just didn’t know any better?

    Reply

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