Louis Sockalexis: Baseball’s First Native American

Everyone knows that Jackie Robinson integrated the MLB in 1947. The film 42, as well as Ken Burns’ documentaries about Robinson, clearly illustrate the struggles that he endured in the face of white adversity. But few people know the story of Louis Sockalexis, baseball’s first Native American baseball player.

Sockalexis only played in 94 games with 395 plate appearances over thee seasons. Hissockalexis first season saw him hit .338 with three home runs, quite a feat at the time. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the dangers of alcoholism and his career quickly declined.

Sockalexis is often identified as the first Native American to play Major League Baseball. Others, however, credit Jim Toy, a catcher in the early American Association, as the first.  Chief Yellow Horse, who played in the 1920s, is also often cited as the first Native American to play professional baseball. So why does Sockalexis get the credit? Probably because of his role in another legend about the Cleveland Indians. Can you guess that connection?

Sockalexis’ Impact Lives On In Indians’ Name

In 1915 the Cleveland Naps got a new owner who wanted to change the team’s name. Cleveland baseball writer settled on the name “Indians” in tribute to Louis, who had died two years earlier of complications from alcoholism. While he only played a few years in the majors, his legacy lives in with the Tribe.

Only the biggest of baseball fans would have any idea of who Louis Sockalexis was. In some ways that’s understandable. He didn’t have to endure what Jackie Robinson did in 1947. He also didn’t play long enough to have any lasting impact. But some fans might argue that Louis’ impact on the games does live in through baseball.

If the Cleveland Indians make it to the World Series again anytime soon (and they just might), readers of this article should reflect on Sockalexis’ legacy.

Tamburro, Lynn Inducted in PawSox Hall of Fame

Fred Lynn and Mike Tamburro were inducted into the Pawtucket Red Sox Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 26th, at a ceremony at McCoy Stadium. Fans were overjoyed to see Tamburro and Lynn inducted into the third ever Pawtucket Red Sox Hall of Fame.

Tamburro, Lynn Inducted

Lynn played one year for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 1974. In 124 games Lynn hit .282 withlynn inducted 21 home runs and 68 RBIs. Lynn made his debut in Boston later that year but only played in 15 games and hit .419 with two home runs. Lynn went on to become the 1975 American League Rookie of the Year, and Most Valuable Player. That’s the same year the Boston Red Sox won the American League pennant before losing the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds in seven games. The nine-time All-Star retired in 1990 with a .283 batting average, 306 home runs, and 1111 RBIs.

Lynn’s debut year in Boston was unprecedented. In addition to Rookie of the Year and MVP honors, Lynn became a rookie All-Star. He collected the first of four Gold Glove Awards. Lynn was also a ALCS MVP in 1982, and and a American League batting champion in 1979 with a .333 average.

Tamburro Joins the PawSox Hall of Fame

A 1974 graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Tamburro has worked for the Pawtucket Red Sox since 1977. According to milb.com, Tamburro increased attendance from 70,000 fans in 1977 to 560,000 fans or more over a fifteen year stretch. The Pawtucket Red Sox also saw 600,000 or more fans come to McCoy Stadium between 2004 and 2009. Overall, over 18 million fans have come to ballgames at McCot Stadium during Tamburro’s time with the PawSox.

The Pawtucket Red Sox lost to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs 6-3 on Saturday night. Overall the PawSox split the four-game series with Lehigh. The PawSox travel to Norfolk, VA to play the Tides on Tuesday, May 29th for a three-game series.

Could the Baseball Hall of Fame Remove an Inductee?

In the wake of the recent decision to change the name of Yawkey Way back to Jersey Street, writers like me are wondering if the National Baseball Hall of Fame will follow a similar path. Hall of Famer Cap Anson, the first player to reach 3,000 hits (though that’s debatable), is largely responsible for segregation in baseball. Then there’s Hall of Famer George Weiss, who was general manager for the New York Yankees and New York Mets. According to the book Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee, Weiss allegedly once said out loud at a cocktail party that he “would never allow a black man to wear a Yankee uniform.” So it is possible that we might see the Hall of Fame remove inductees like Anson and Weiss? The short answer is no.

This notion is difficult to consider. On one hand, no one wants racists in the Hall of Fame.hall of fame remove On the other hand, do we risk erasing history? Many writers say no. “…without them we wouldn’t be able to understand history,” says baseball writer Don Tincher. “I’m not a big fan of destroying the past even if we don’t like it. We need to use things like that to teach others.”

“I think the HOF should simply be based on merit, how they played and performed in the game,” says Erik Sherman, author of Davey Johnson: My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond. “If we start going down a path of who was a model citizen and who was not, it becomes a slippery slope.”

It’s safe to assume that removing inductees from the Baseball Hall of Fame would quickly become a catastrophe. The Hall of Fame could remove Anson and Weiss. However, calls for the removal of other players would make all the inductees vulnerable, making the Hall of Fame a shrine of questionable morals instead of a shrine to baseball talent.

We Won’t See the Hall of Fame Remove Controversial Inductees, but The BBWAA Will Keep them Out

We likely won’t see the Hall of Fame remove inductees anytime soon. It’s fair to say though that there’s a few eligible former players who won’t make it in because of their inflammatory views and ideas. In the summer of 2015, Curt Schilling sent a tweet equating Muslim extremists with Nazi Germany. Schilling, a six-time All-Star and three-time World Series Champion, received 45% of the vote in 2016, thirty points fewer than needed for induction. While he received 51.2% this year, one cannot deny that Schilling’s inflammatory comments are hurting his chances for induction.

In my opinion, Schilling’s inability to get enough votes for induction reflects the Baseball Writers Association of America’s (BBWAA) belief that there is no more room for players with controversial views in the Hall of Fame. Many make the valid argument that consideration for induction should rely solely on their numbers and actions on the field. But where do you draw the line?

I’m not calling Schilling a bigot; I really don’t think he is. But it’s hard to look past his comments. Major League Baseball wants to promote and celebrate diversity and inclusion. With that said, I can’t see someone like Schilling getting inducted. The MLB doesn’t really have a say in who gets inducted each year. However, it’s clear that the induction of players whose views contradict Major League Baseball’s policy on diversity and inclusion could become a can of worms that the Hall of Fame and the MLB don’t want to open.

The Baseball Hall of Fame probably won’t go the way the City of Boston did with renaming Yawkey Way. It’s also unlikely we’ll see the Hall of Fame remove any players. But that doesn’t mean that the BBWAA and the Veterans Committee won’t scrutinize future candidates. Their opinions, regardless of whether they have anything to do with baseball or not, shouldn’t parallel someone like George Weiss’.

Will Supreme Court Ruling Put Pete Rose in the Hall?

The Supreme Court of the United States voted 6-3 today to strike down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The law forbade state-authorized sports gambling in every state except Nevada. According to foxsports.com, Americans place illegal bets on sports totaling $150 billion a year. One of those Americans is Pete Rose, who Major League Baseball banned for life in 1989 for betting on baseball games. Some supporters see this ruling as a renewed chance to put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for them, this ruling has no bearing on Rose at all.

Rose violated baseball’s internal rules on gambling, which is separate from today’s ruling.put pete rose Despite no connection, many of Rose’s fans immediately began to wonder if this ruling might nudge the MLB towards reconsidering his lifetime ban. The National Baseball Hall of Fame decided that anyone who is banned from Major League Baseball is not eligible of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Those on the lifetime ban list include Shoeless Joe Jackson and Hal Chase. It’s an interesting idea to consider. The problem though is that the MLB has already ruled on Rose’s reinstatement. In other words, Rose’s chances of being reinstated are about as strong as me getting a PhD in Applied Mathematics from Princeton University.

Push to Put Pete Rose in Hall of Fame Continue to Hit Dead End

There are many baseball fans who’d love nothing more than to put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame. He certainly has the numbers. But his fans need to remember that gambling laws had very little to do with his lifetime ban. I think Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. The Supreme Court’s ruling isn’t the nudge that’ll make that happen though. Rose accepted MLB’s lifetime ban in 1989 and should have understood what that meant. Confessing to gambling in 2004 didn’t help his case. So why would this ruling be any different?

Which Active Red Sox Player Has the Best Chance at Cooperstown?

Cooperstown, New York remains as baseball’s hallowed grounds. It is there whereCooperstown past legends are forever remembered within the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This year, the Boston Red Sox are off to a historic start. Their roster is filled with many talented players. But which of those players has the best chance at going to Cooperstown and joining these hallowed few?

 

 

Craig Kimbrel

Earlier this month, Kimbrel became the youngest closer ever to reach 300 saves. He was also the NL leader in saves from 2011-2014 before joining the Red Sox in 2016. Throughout his entire career as a closer, he has recorded at least 30 saves in each season. In 2011, he was the NL Rookie of the Year and is a six-time all-star, including last season in which he had a 1.43 ERA and a 0.68 WHIP. The only active closers with more saves are Huston Street, Fernando Rodney, and Francisco Rodriguez, all of which are significantly older than Kimbrel. When all is said and done, I believe Craig Kimbrel will join Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, and Dennis Eckersley as the best to ever close.

Mookie Betts

Of any player on the Red Sox in the last decade, Betts has the highest ceiling. The combination of his power, speed, and defensive prowess have put him in the upper echelon of players in today’s game as well as team history. This season he is currently tied for first in home runs, second in average, second in doubles, first in slugging, and first in OPS league-wide. At age 25, Betts likely still has at least ten years of highly-productive seasons left. At the end of his career, Betts will have a good shot at making it to the Hall.

Chris Sale

Few left-handed pitchers have been as dominant in their early careers as Chris Sale.  Among active pitchers, he trails only Clayton Kershaw in career ERA, opponent average, and WHIP. That being said, Kershaw has 29 more career starts than Sale and is slightly older. His win-loss record is 95-59, which is lower than his contemporaries, however he was a part of some poor Chicago White Sox teams. While not even 30, I believe Sale still has the ability for 3-5 more dominant years and 7-9 more strong seasons. To make his way to Cooperstown, he’ll need to avoid serious injury and stay on competitive teams.

Dustin Pedroia

Of any Red Sox, Pedroia is the most intriguing to talk about in terms of Hall of Fame prospects. There is no question that he has remained the heart and soul of this franchise throughout his career, no matter the circumstance. However, he has begun to show signs of physical wearing down via frequent injuries, especially in the second half of his career. That being said, he has never batted lower than .278 in a season and has never committed more than six errors in a season. He is a 4-time Gold Glove winner, 4-time All-Star, a 2008 MVP, and the only Red Sox player other than Kimbrel to win Rookie of the Year. He will forever be remembered as the catalyst for the team in this era.

Cooperstown Breakdown

So who has the best chance of these four? The easy answer is that it depends. I think the best way of looking at Hall of Fame prospects is three-pronged. The first is did they win during their careers; was their impact big enough to yield pennants and championships. Between the four, only Pedroia has a World Series ring. However, all four have been a part of winning teams, even though they’re all in different parts of their careers.

The second, and most obvious, is their career numbers and stats. Frankly, I would not have written this article if it weren’t apparent that these guys had the accolades to be in the conversation.

That leads me to the last and most intriguing factor: their era and its comparables. In other words, what was the climate of baseball at their respective position in terms of character, performance, and competition? For Sale, he’s had Kershaw and Madison Baumgarner, as well as Justin Verlander. For Kimbrel, he entered the league as Rivera and Hoffman were leaving. Betts will always have the Mike Trout and Bryce Harper comparison on his back. Pedroia’s main counterpart throughout his career was Ian Kinsler, but Kinsler never really won anything. His other main comparison was always Robbie Cano, but Cano’s latest PED scandal will likely dampen his reputation a bit.

Given all these variables, I believe that Kimbrel has the best chance because there are few closers in his era to compare him to besides Aroldis Chapman, who has character problems of his own. If Betts and Sale can continue dominating and avoid the pitfalls of free agency, they could make it there too. Should Pedroia finish strong like I expect, he’ll always have my support too.

Show me your thoughts!

I ran a Twitter with a similar question last week, and this is what I gathered. Feel free to tweet with your thoughts or leave comments below. 

The Big 50: The Men and Moments that Made the Boston Red Sox

Have you ever been at Fenway Park watching a game, and begin to wonder about the Red Sox’s team history? It’s not difficult to do. Signs, monuments, and vintage artifacts are seen throughout Fenway. Those relics of the past and present can (and do) catch people’s interest. With so many Red Sox history books out there though, which would you pick? Evan Drellich’s The Big 50: The Men and Moments that the Boston Red Sox, is a great book that gives brief but excellent details about the fifty biggest moments in Red Sox history.

With a forward written by former Red Sox player Kevin Youkilis, Drellich divides the book into fifty sections. EachThe Big 50 section spends about five or six pages detailing a famous event or player from the Boston Red Sox. What makes The Big 50 such a great book is that Drellich doesn’t just talk about Ted Williams, David Ortiz, and Manny Ramirez. Drellich discusses major events in the nation’s history, and how those events affected the Red Sox. For example, there’s an entire chapter about Ortiz’s famous words: “This is our F’ing city,” that details Ortiz’s message to Boston in the wake of the marathon bombing in 2013. Drellich also mentions Bucky “F–kin” Dent’s home run (still a sore subject in Beantown). While I think Drellich should have ranked Ted Williams #1 instead of #3, I still think his short bio of “The Splendid Splinter” is amazing.

The Big 50 is a Great Companion Book for Any Fan Going to Fenway

The book magnificently balances older history with more recent events in Red Sox history. Drellich spends time discussing Tony C, and 1986. He mentions more modern era players like Dustin Pedroia and Curt Schilling, too. I particularly like how Drellich includes quotes from interviews with players like Jim Rice, Jim Lonborg, and Theo Epstein. This book is one of the more thorough and detailed books about the Red Sox to come out in recent years. That’s not to discount other books about the team. But if fans are looking for something concise about Red Sox history without wanting to read a 500+ page book, the The Big 50 is perfect.

The Big 50 is an excellent book that no Red Sox fan should go without. It’s small enough to fit in a bag and take with you to Fenway Park. So whether you’re a die-hard fan like me, or just a casual fan, you’ll appreciate this book!