This writer spent his first years of life near Cleveland, Ohio which forever cursed him to be a fan of The Cleveland Indians, one of the oldest major league teams in America. His parents were friends of a baseball announcer, a former Indian star himself, Jack Graney. This gave the writer the opportunity to meet some great players from the forties, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby and others. Now in my mind a terrible thing has happened, the name Indians has been determined by the powers that be to not be appropriate and a new name was recently adopted, The Guardians. The change was not to meet the desires of Native Americans but of liberal types who thought using the name Indian was insulting. Native Americans themselves never protested about it and more than once in the past opposed plans to change the name.
How did the name Indians come about? Back at the turn of the century the name for the Cleveland team was The Spiders. Then they recruited the very first Native American to play Major League Baseball. Sockalexis, Louis Francis. He was a Penobscot Indian who played professional baseball with the Cleveland Spiders from 1897-99. Sockalexis was joined by a couple other members of his tribe and they proved to be top stars. So much so that when they took the field the grandstanders would chant “Indians, Indians” and the name stuck. There was even a fan who in later years beat a war drum that became a tradition. John Adams played his bass drum in the bleacher seats during nearly every Indians home game from late August 1973 through 2019 which became a major tradition. The chief mascot figure was a cartoon favorite logo that was named Chief Wahoo. Fans wore this on hats, shirts, and other memorabilia items which even today despite the name change are big sellers.
Why the name change? This seems to be a touchy-feely contagion that has overtaken the nation. Cleveland is not the only community to be forced to make such changes. Indians in particular have had people attack their image, though originally it was felt to be an honor, a way of recognizing a brave and noble race of people like The Braves and The Redskins. It is definitely a leftist issue, and not all Native Americans favor it. Many resent it. As in the case of Native American fans of the Washington Redskins, now changed to The Washington Commanders.
This writer has a personal friend, a native American chief who is also a Pastor with a rich heritage. Chief Steve Silverheels is a Seneca/Mohawk Iroquois Native American and son of actor Jay Silverheels, who starred as Tonto on The Lone Ranger. After a dramatic experience with the Lord, he attended Bible classes and began his ministry, meshing his Native American culture with his Christian faith. Chief Steve is a guest speaker in many churches and a favorite guest at media events which is where we got together to be friends. I asked him his feelings regarding the Washington Redskin title. I love his answer: “I am a big Washington Redskin fan and the only resentment my people have about the name is the title ‘Washington’ being associated with Native Americans.”