The American Indian Integration of Baseball

JOHNSON CITY - "In this book Professor Powers-Beck presents the most extensive compilation of Indian baseball players and related information ever assembled," Joseph B. Oxendine writes in his foreword to The American Indian Integration of Baseball, a new book by Dr. Jeffrey Powers-Beck at East Tennessee State University. "This book is about Indians in organized baseball at all levels, not just the Major Leagues."
Recently published by the University of Nebraska Press, The American Indian Integration of Baseball is the second book written by Powers-Beck, a professor of English who became assistant dean of ETSU's School of Graduate Studies in the spring of 2004.

"Reading this book is a genuine treat not only for the baseball fan but for those persons interested in the personal struggles of Indians in the non-Indian world. It is well crafted and reveals a keen understanding of the subtleties of the baseball world and a sensitivity to the Indian personality," according to Oxendine, author of American Indian Sports Heritage and himself a Lumbee from North Carolina.

Preceding Jackie Robinson's entry into Major League Baseball by a half-century, Louis Sockalexis, of Penobscot lineage, debuted in the big leagues in 1897, and American Indians have had a presence in professional baseball ever since. But, as outlined on the new book's dust jacket, that presence "has not always been welcomed or respected, and Native athletes have faced racist stereotypes, foul epithets, and abuse from fans and players throughout their careers," and this book "describes the experiences and contributions of American Indians as they courageously tried to make their place in America's national game during the first half of the twentieth century."

Simply put, this work is the first book on the subject. Until Powers-Beck, no one had written a book-length study of the American Indian integration of baseball. "It tells many stories that have never been told about baseball in the federal boarding schools for American Indians, such as Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania and Haskell Institute of Lawrence, Kansas," said Powers-Beck.

"The book documents the lives of many forgotten Indian players, including Elijah Pinnance, the first full-blooded American Indian to play Major League Baseball; Louis Leroy, a minor league legend who played in the big leagues with Boston and New York; George Howard Johnson, a talented spitball pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds; and Moses Yellow Horse, one of the most exciting players of the 1920s," according to Powers-Beck, whose work also contains the "first history of the Nebraska Indians, the successful semi-pro Indian team that barnstormed across the nation early in the 20th century."

Royse Parr, a Cherokee from Oklahoma and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), has nominated The American Indian Integration of Baseball for that organization's Seymour Medal. Named for the late baseball historian Dr. Harold Seymour and his wife, Dorothy, the Seymour Medal is awarded annually to honor the best book of baseball history or biography published during the preceding calendar year.

Describing the book as a "monumental work" in his nomination, Parr writes: "An article in The Boston Globe last August states that Seattle Mariner rookie pitcher Bobby Madritsch was believed to be only the ninth Indian ever in the Majors. During the period 1897-1945, Powers-Beck lists 47 Major League players by tribe and another 85 with suspected Indian ancestry. As a result of meticulous research, this listing is now available for other SABR researchers to seek and discover fascinating life stories of these Indian baseball pioneers and those who have more recently followed them."

Powers-Beck, who earned Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from Indiana University at Bloomington and was awarded a bachelor of arts with highest distinction (Phi Beta Kappa) at the University of Iowa, came to ETSU in 1993. He is a graduate faculty member, has served as director of the ETSU Writing-Across-the Curriculum Program, and has chaired the Instructional Development Committee.

In addition to his 1998 book, Writing the Flesh: The Herbert Family Dialogue, Powers-Beck is the editor of a book entitled Elizabeth Major, Printed Writings 1641-1700 (Early Modern Englishwoman Series) and has written numerous articles, book chapters, notes and reference articles, reviews, and conference papers. His teaching interests include English Renaissance literature, lyric poetry, Milton, the Bible as Literature, literary theory and criticism, and composition. Powers-Beck has also designed and taught a variety of courses in English at ETSU and previously at Indiana University-Bloomington.

The son of Arnold J. Beck and Jacqueline Beck of Iowa City, Iowa, Professor Powers-Beck dedicated the new book to his twin brother and "double play partner," Brian J. Beck, who is an attorney in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
For more information about the new book or its availability at bookstores or through the University of Nebraska Press, contact Dr. Jeffrey Powers-Beck at (423) 439-8638.

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