Native Americans have contributed greatly to baseball, popular culture, and American society. The ban on African Americans in organized baseball did not extend to Native Americans—but racism did. The difference in treatment is reflected in John McGraw’s attempt to get a black player, Charlie Grant, onto his team by passing him off as a Native American; at the same time, the general attitude toward Native Americans, essentially condescending and demeaning, is reflected in McGraw’s choice of a fictitious name for Grant—Charlie Tokahoma, a play on “stroke a homer.”
Stereotyping was as much the rule in depicting the Native American in baseball as in the Western dime novel and later Hollywood films. The Native American ballplayer was usually billed as a tribal chief, betraying a woeful lack of sensitivity and understanding. Charles Albert Bender, the Hall of Fame Chippewa pitcher for Connie Mack’s Athletics, was “Chief Bender; John Meyers, a Cahuilla and catcher for McGraw’s Giants, was ”Chief Meyers; George Johnson, a Winnebago who pitched in both the National and Federal Leagues, was “Chief Johnson; Allie Reynolds, a clutch hurler with the Yankees in the 1940s and 1950s, was Allie “Big Chief” Reynolds; and Louis Sockalexis, the enormously talented and tragic outfielder with the Cleveland Spiders at the end of the nineteenth century, was publicized as a descendant of Sitting Bull, although Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Sioux who lived half a nation away from Sockalexis’s Penobscots in Maine.
Of all Native Americans who played baseball, Bender had the greatest career. Although he was a 20-game winner only twice, he recorded 212 victories against just 127 defeats, three times posting the best winning percentage in the American League. His lifetime earned-run average was an outstanding 2.46. Meyers was McGraw’s regular catcher for half a dozen years, hitting .332, .358, and .312 from 1911 through 1913. His lifetime average for nine seasons was .291. Meyers was interviewed by Lawrence Ritter for the classic book on early stars, The Glory of Their Times, where he expressed great admiration for McGraw, who, despite the insensitive choice of a fictitious name for Grant, was far ahead of his time in his