Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian from Maine, was educated and played baseball at Holy Cross and Notre Dame, from which he was expelled for creating a drunken disturbance. He was quickly signed by the Cleveland National League club in 1897, and was an instant success, having no trouble with major league pitching, playing sensationally in right field, and displaying a powerful throwing arm. He is credited as being the first American Indian to play in the major leagues. At first, fans would often let out derisive war whoops when he came to bat, but they quickly took to him because of his skill and proud demeanor.
In July Sockalexis sustained a leg injury, which contemporary accounts reported followed a “tryst with a pale-faced maiden” as well as “dalliance with grape.” He began stumbling around and making bad plays in right, but continued to hit, going 9-for-18 in his next five games. From July 25 until September 12, he played only once. In his last game he committed two errors. He finished the season batting .338, but made only brief appearances in 1898-99, and left the game in 1903. He drifted throughout New England, a laborer and a transient, and died of alcoholism in 1913. So strong had been his influence that when a Cleveland newspaper ran a contest to rename the AL Naps, Indians was the winner.