How many native americans have played major league baseball?

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QUESTION:

My son asked me if Jacoby Ellsbury is the first Native American in the majors. I could think of Chief Bender, Louis Sokalexis, Jim Thorpe, and Allie Reynolds, but I wondered where I could find a comprehensive list. And perhaps someone has written a book on the topic. Please help. Thank you.

~Submitted by Oz McConathy

Answer:

In all, only forty-seven full blood Indians have played in the baseball major leagues since 1897.

Jacoby Ellsbury was the first Navajo to play in the major leagues and is one of the most recent baseball players with Indian ancestry. This Native American star in the making spent Spring Training in Red Sox Nation. Ellsbury, signed by Boston in the first round of the draft in 2005 as the 23rd overall pick, is a left-handed outfielder who competed for Oregon State University where he was the 2005 Pac-10 Conference Co-Player of the year and an All Academic Honorable Mention. Ellsbury was ranked as the fastest base runner and 3rd best defensive outfielder of eligible college players in Baseball America’s Best Tools Survey for 2005.

Ellsbury’s speed coupled with power to all fields, according to the Red Sox, most closely resembles Johnny Damon’s playing style and the hope is that he will at least spend part of the 2008 season at the major league level while becoming a regular starter in 2009.

While Ellsbury is only one-half Navajo, he is one of several players of native American descent now making a mark in the big leagues – another being Joba Chamberlain (Winnebago), a rookie reliever for the Yankees.

Right handed starting pitcher, Joba Chamberlain, was landed by the Yankees in the 2006 draft, signed as a supplemental first-round pick and 41st overall. Chamberlain is a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska. After competing for two years for the University of Nebraska, having only started to play baseball as a senior in high school in Lincoln, Nebraska, Chamberlain led his team to the 2005 College World Series going 10-2 for the season with a 2.81 ERA.

Now 21, Chamberlain has been clocked with a 98-mph fastball and has been favorably compared by physique, delivery and his portfolio of pitches to Cleveland Indians pitcher, C.C. Sabathia.

Another recent former major leaguer, Bobby Madritsch (Lakota Sioux), pitched for the Seattle Mariners in 2004 and 2005 and was traded to the Kansas City Royals for the 2006 season. Madritsch was recovering at age 28 from reconstructive shoulder surgery when the Mariners signed him. Unfortunately, he re-injured his shoulder and tore his labrum in 2005 and the Royals eventually released him. He is now looking for a contract in the minor leagues.

The first American Indian who is believed to have competed in the major leagues was James Madison Toy, (1/2 Lakota Sioux), who played in the American Association League in 1887 as well as in 1890. Toy preceded Louis Sockalexis, the first officially acknowledged full-blood American Indian to play major league baseball.

Louis Sockalexis is usually credited with having been the first full-blood native american to play major league baseball.

He played for Cleveland from 1897-99, when they were the Cleveland Spiders.

Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox),is perhaps the best-known Native American player of the 20th century as he excelled in multiple sports. Jim Thorpe was an amazing athlete who won both the decathlon and the pentathlon in the 1912 Olympic Games by wide margins in Stockholm, but in 1913 an investigation by the Amateur Athletic Union showed that he had played semi-professional baseball in 1909 and 1910, which should have disqualified him from Olympic competition. He was subsequently deprived of his gold medals, which were reinstated after his death and given to his family in the 1980s. Thorpe later became a major league baseball player and then a pro football player.

From 1913 through 1919, Thorpe was an outfielder for the New York, Cincinnati (Ohio), and Boston baseball teams in the National League. He was more successful as one of the early stars of American professional football from 1919 through 1926. He spent two seasons (1922–23) with the Oorang Indians, whose owner attracted crowds by having Thorpe and his teammates dress up and perform “Indian” tricks before games and at halftime.

Jim Thorpe once hit three home runs into three different states in the same game.

He also excelled at basketball, boxing, lacrosse, swimming, and hockey. Thorpe was named ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Century.

There are also many well-known Hall of Famers who are of part Native American ancestry such as Johnny Bench, Willie Stargell and Early Wynn. Charles Albert “Chief” Bender (Chippewa) was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1953, the first and one of only two full-blood Indians to hold that distinction to date. The other is Zack Wheat (Cherokee).

John Tortes “Chief” Meyers (Cahuilla) played catcher for the New York Giants from 1908-1915 and later with the Brooklyn Dodgers. He set a record in the 1911 World series by throwing out 12 base runners in six games.

Allie Pierce “Superchief” Reynolds (Creek), played for the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees from 1942-1954, after attending college on a track scolarship and playing football for three years. Allie Reynolds led the American league in strikeouts in 1943 and 1952, and was voted the national professional athlete of the year in 1951.

In all, only forty-seven full blood Indians have played in the baseball major leagues since 1897. They are:

American Indian Baseball Players

by Baseball Almanac

Player [Click for Stats / Teams]

Tribe(s)

First Game

Final Game

Louis Sockalexis

Penobscot

04-22-1897

05-13-1899

Bill Phyle

Lakota

09-17-1898

09-15-1906

Chief Bender

Ojibwe

04-20-1903

07-21-1925

Ed Pinnance

Ojibwe

09-14-1903

09-29-1903

Lou Bruce

Mohawk

06-22-1904

10-10-1904

Louis LeRoy

Seneca

09-22-1905

04-20-1910

Frank Jude

Ojibwe

07-09-1906

10-07-1906

Ed Summers

Kickapoo

04-16-1908

06-01-1912

Chief Meyers

Cahuilla

04-16-1909

10-04-1917

Zack Wheat

Cherokee

09-11-1909

09-21-1927

Chief Chouneau

Ojibwe

10-09-1910

10-09-1910

Paddy Mayes

Creek

06-11-1911

06-18-1911

Mike Balenti

Cheyenne

07-19-1911

09-22-1913

Frank Harter

Cherokee

08-31-1912

06-09-1914

Jim Thorpe

Fox & Sac

04-14-1913

09-25-1919

Chief Johnson

Winnebago

04-16-1913

09-30-1915

Ben Tincup

Cherokee

05-22-1914

09-15-1928

Jim Bluejacket

Cherokee

08-06-1914

07-16-1916

Mack Wheat

Cherokee

04-14-1915

06-06-1921

William Marriott

Cherokee

09-06-1917

04-28-1927

Virgil Cheeves

Cherokee

09-07-1920

05-13-1927

Jesse Petty

Cherokee

04-14-1921

09-28-1930

Chief Yellowhorse

Pawnee

04-15-1921

10-01-1922

Chief Youngblood

Choctaw

07-16-1922

07-31-1922

Ike Kahdot

Potowatomie

09-05-1922

09-21-1922

Homer Blankenship

Cherokee

09-06-1922

09-27-1928

Emmett Bowles

Potowatomie

09-12-1922

09-12-1922

Pryor McBee

Choctaw

05-22-1926

05-22-1926

Pepper Martin

Osage

04-16-1928

10-01-1944

Art Daney

Choctaw

05-25-1928

05-25-1928

Roy Johnson

Cherokee

04-18-1929

04-27-1938

Chief Hogsett

Cherokee

09-18-1929

06-03-1944

Bob Johnson

Cherokee

04-12-1933

09-23-1945

Euel Moore

Chickasaw

07-08-1934

07-26-1936

Rudy York

Cherokee

08-22-1934

09-20-1948

Vallie Eaves

Cherokee

09-12-1935

04-26-1942

Bob Neighbors

Cherokee

09-16-1939

09-30-1939

Allie Reynolds

Muscogee

09-17-1942

09-25-1954

Cal McLish

Choctaw

05-13-1944

07-14-1964

Charlie Cozart

Cherokee

04-17-1945

06-14-1945

Jess Pike

Creek

04-18-1946

05-18-1946

Pat Cooper

Choctaw

05-11-1946

09-06-1947

Jim Gladd

Cherokee

09-09-1946

09-29-1946

Jack Aker

Potowatomie

05-03-1964

09-27-1974

Gene Locklear

Lumbee

04-05-1973

10-02-1977

Dwight Lowry

Lumbee

04-03-1984

04-23-1988

Bobby Madritsch

Lakota

07-22-2004

04-06-2005

Jacoby Ellsbury

Navajo

06-30-2007

Active

Joba Chamberlain

Winnebago

08-07-2007

Active

If you’re a baseball fan in general, explore around the website linked to in the above chart, you’re likely to be there all day.

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Links on this site:

Louis Sockalexis, first American Indian to play major league baseball

Jim Thorpe

Student letters help make Thorpe cereal-box champ

External Links:

National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum

Baseball Almanac