Gentlemen, the answer is.....Louis Francis "Chief" Sockalexis a Penobscot indian born in Old Town, Maine, in 1871. His father was Chief of the Bear Clan. In 1884, Louis began his college career at College of Holy Cross and played baseball, football and ran track. After the 1896 season, the Holy Cross baseball coach became the coach at Notre Dame and Socklexis followed by transferring to Notre Dame. In 1897 Notre Dame played an exhibition game against the New York Giants at the Polo Grounds in New York. Amos Rusie, a future Hall of Famer pitched for the Giants and planned to totally dominate the Irish. When Sockalexis came to the plate for his first at bat against Rusie, he jumped all over the first pitch for a home run. Back at Notre Dame, Louis returned to his primary source of strength,,,,liquor. He played outfield and pitcher for Notre Dame but couldn't get away from what the sports writers referred to as the, "Indian weakness". He played just 3 years in the Major Leagues with the Cleveland Spiders, then of the National League. His alcoholism ended his Major League baseball career in 1899 with a lifetime batting average of .313, 3 home runs and 55 rbi. He died in 1913 at the age of 42 having suffered from Tuberculosis and heart trouble.
In 1902, Cleveland was now in the American League which began formally in 1901. That year a second baseman by the name of Napolean Lajoie (he pronounced it LAJ - a-way) was traded from the Philadelphia A's by Connie Mack to the Cleveland Blubirds, as they were then called. He was immediately named as the captain of the team and out of recognition of his talents, (he set the then and still current highest season batting average in 1901 with a .426 average) the team nickname was changed to the Cleveland Naps.
Now back to Louis Sockalexis. In 1915, the owners of the team decided to change its nickname from the "Naps" (since Lajoie was no longer with them). The new name was, and still is, the "Indians". It is believed that the new name was influenced by the fact that Sockalexis was, by most accounts, the first native american to play Major League baseball and since he died just 2 years before, it was a way to honor his brief career.
Next week I will tell you the origin of the term, "charlie horse".