Chief Wahoo ("Low man on totem pole")

Larry Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon May 24 18:39:38 UTC 1999

At 1:40 PM -0500 5/24/99, GEORGE THOMPSON wrote:
>With regards to Chief Wahoo and the Cleveland Indians: Chief Wahoo is
>grotesque and would be no loss, but the team's name (Indians)
>originated in a expression of affection for Lew Sockalexis, a very
>talented baseball player in Cleveland in 1897 and 1898 who died
>young.  He was a Penobscot, from Old Town, Maine.  No doubt this
>isn't enough to redeem the name, escecially in view of the current
>merchandizing, but it counts for something to me, at least, and sets
>it above the name of the Washington football team.
I've heard the story too, but I can't help thinking that it's not going to
make a huge impact on those who protest the nickname (not to mention the
mascot).  Hank Greenberg was a far more prominent member of the Detroit
Tigers than Sockalexis was for Cleveland, the greatest slugger in Detroit
history, but it's somehow difficult to imagine the Tigers--once they have
to switch nicknames because the current one is offensive to the cat
fanciers or the anti-violence contingent--restyling themselves as the
Detroit Jews.  Sockalexis, incidentally, did not die as young as George
implies (or at least as I infer him to imply).  He lived 15 years after his
drinking forced him out of the major leagues in 1898 and 13 years after he
left (minor-league) baseball.  The Cleveland Indians may or may not have
been named after him, depending on your sources.  (See Bill James's
_Historical Baseball Abstract_, p. 54, for details.)


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