SOCKALEXIS, LOUIS FRANCIS "CHIEF" (24 Oct. 1871-24 Dec. 1913), a Penobscot Indian who played professional BASEBALL with the CLEVELAND SPIDERS from 1897-99, is said to be the person for whom the CLEVELAND INDIANS team is named, making him the only individual to have a major league baseball team named after him. Sockalexis was born on the Penobscot Indian Reservation in Old Town, Maine, to Francis P. and Frances Sockabeson Sockalexis. He excelled in track, gymnastics, polo, skating, and baseball and attended Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., playing on its baseball team, hitting .436 in 1895 and .444 in 1896. He also played amateur baseball in Maine's Knox County League.

Sockalexis turned professional in 1897, joining the Cleveland Spiders as an outfielder. He hit home runs in his first 2 at-bats and batted .338 over 66 games. Unfortunately, he became addicted to alcohol. He appeared in only 21 games in 1898, hitting just .224, finishing his major league career after only 7 games in 1899, released by the team and unwanted by any other. In 1915, when the Cleveland American League baseball team needed a new nickname, having been known since 1905 as the Naps, in honor of player-manager NAPOLEON "NAP" LAJOIE, a newspaper contest was held, and the winning entry "Indians," was chosen, submitted by a fan who said he was doing it in honor of the Chief, Louis Sockalexis. Sockalexis lived as a drifter after leaving baseball. Unmarried, he died in Burlington, Maine.

Article Categories