Friday, September 30, 2016

Native American Biography: Louis Sockalexis: Book Review: Indian Summer

 Indian Summer: The Forgotten Story of Louis Sockalexis the First Native american in Major League Baseball, by Brian McDonald, Rodale, Emmaus, PA, 2003.
I found this story very fascinating.  I had never heard of Louis Socalexis.  He was Panobscot, and grew up on Indian Island in the Penobscot River.  He took up baseball after watching others play, and used it to get a college education.  He played college ball for Holy Cross.  He was a team star, playing in the outfield and hitting.  He was noted for his speed, his ability to track down a ball, his arm, and his bat.  He was a well rounded player.  When he joined the Cleveland team, the name of the team changed to Indians to reflect their new rookie.  The team was known as Tebeau's tribe (their manager.)  Sockalexis was touted as a future star, and that he was.  He hit home runs, touring home runs.  He through a runner out at the plate, he ran down base balls, and he could steal bases standing up with his speed.  However he had to deal with tremendous pressure.  Wherever he traveled he was taunted with war whoops and people making fun of his name.  The pressure got to him, and he turned to drink.  It was the drink that was his undoing.  While drinking, he umped from a second story window and broke his ankle.  He never took time for the ankle to heal properly, as he had to get back to the bars.  He was kept on the roster, but for many games was inactive.  He didn't play the later part of the season because of his drinking.  The next year, the owner bought a new club, the St. Louis ball team.  He jumped ship because he wan't allowed to play Sunday games in Cleveland.  His second year he was part of the worst team in baseball history.  He didn't make it through the season and was released.  He struggled for a time, but eventually made it home to his people.  There he started to heal.  He was involved in baseball umpiring.  He worked in logging or other jobs.  Both his parents passed away.  Sockalexis died rather young, age 42 form a heart attack.

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