Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian from Maine, was educated and played baseball at Holy
Cross and Notre Dame, from which he was expelled for creating a drunken disturbance.
He was quickly signed by the Cleveland National League
club in 1897, and was an instant
success, having no trouble with major league pitching, playing sensationally in right
field, and displaying a powerful throwing arm. He is credited as being the first
American Indian to play in the major leagues. At first fans would often let out derisive
war whoops when he came to bat, but they quickly took to him because of his skill
and proud demeanor.
In July Sockalexis sustained a leg injury, which contemporary
accounts reported followed a "tryst with a pale-faced maiden" as well as "dalliance
with grape." He began stumbling around and making bad plays in right, but continued
to hit, going 9-for-18 in his next five games. From July 25 until September 12, he
played only once. In his last game he committed two errors. He finished the season
batting .338, but made only brief appearances in 1898-99, and left the game in 1903.
He drifted throughout New England, a laborer and a transient, and died of alcoholism
in 1913. So strong had been his influence that when a Cleveland newspaper ran a contest
to rename the AL Naps, Indians was the winner.