Monday, July 12, 2010
As the long hot days of summer come upon us, baseball season has come into full swing, with the Major League Baseball All-Star Game played each year on the second Tuesday in July. While the place of baseball in American culture has been firmly rooted since the nineteenth century, the participation of Native Americans in baseball since that time is less appreciated. In his classic ethnological study Games of the North American Indians, published in the Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1907, Stewart Culin notes that Navajos at Bosque Redondo in 1863 had incorporated elements of baseball into their own game “Aqejólyedi” or “run-around ball.”
Two early Indian major league players, Jim Thorpe and Charlie Bender both began their baseball careers while attending the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. From its opening in 1879, the Carlisle School included baseball along with other extracurricular activities, including football, brass band and drama, as part of its assimilation program. Athletics quickly became the most effective way of achieving national recognition. Carlisle’s baseball team played against local YMCA teams, and college teams such as Dickinson, Holly Cross, and the University of Pennsylvania. Many players were multisport athletes, and were recruited by minor and semipro baseball leagues long before they graduated.
When Glen “Pop” Warner came to Carlisle in 1899 to coach football, many of his players chose to play for pay in semipro leagues in the summers rather than play for the Carlisle baseball team. Carlisle ended its college baseball program in 1910, partly because many of its best athletes were recruited away to professional leagues.
The National Anthropological Archives holds 16 photos of baseball teams and players at Carlisle, from 1879 to 1894.