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The Indian wars were over, and the Indians had lost. But on the green fields of our national pastime, this Indian stood tall ...
America, as always, was in the throes of change. Segregation was becoming law down South with the passage of Jim Crow. West of the Mississippi, the slaughters at Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee still stung recent memory. At the same time, in 1897, the name Sockalexis resounded in barrooms and backrooms, in the lurid headlines of the popular press, and in the bleachers of the legendary ballparks in Baltimore and Boston, Chicago and Cincinnati, New York and St. Louis.
More than a century ago, on a remote reservation in the wilds of Maine, a "natural" athletic talent was born who would change the face of baseball-- literally. The Indian, as he was labeled by friend and foe alike, caused a commotion in city after city as rowdy fans, hard-drinking players, and corrupt team owners all wanted a piece of the first Native American to play in the Majors. For one sensational season he was the toast of Cleveland and the National League, his appeal so strong that there's little doubt he inspired the name his old club carries today.
This is the story of Louis Francis Sockalexis, grandson of a Penobscot chief, who endured a firestorm of publicity while blazing a trail for such sports heroes as Jim Thorpe and Jackie Robinson. Unfortunately, Sockalexis also followed the well-traveled path of stars before and since who have sealed their own fate with alcohol and other temptations. And yet, as rendered by Brian McDonald, the forgotten story of Sockalexis reveals a most memorable figure from baseball's-- and America's-- storied past.
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"A monumental and valuable piece of previously untold baseball history. A must for any student of the game."--Bill Madden, baseball columnist for the New York Daily News and co-author of Zim: A Baseball Life
"Through the years I had heard of the East Coast Indian who was a great athlete, but I didn't know his name, his sport or tribe, or when he was active. Sockalexis was a baseball star when my father was an impressionable teenager, and must have been a role model.... I would like to see this book in every tribal school and library."--Grace Thorpe, Native American activist and daughter of Jim Thorpe
Praise for My Father's Gun
"Haunting ..."--The New York Times Book Review
"A muscular yet meticulous evocation of old New York that recalls Luc Sante's Low Life.... Written with grace, seriousness, and historical understanding."--Kirkus Reviews
"A rich and riveting narrative.... Nuanced, colorful, frank, free of all the usual cop cliches."--Newsday
"As good as the best cop fiction of Joseph Wambaugh, Dorothy Uhnak and Richard Price."--USA TodayAbout the Author:
Brian McDonald's first book, My Father's Gun, received critical acclaim as a "lucid" (The New Yorker) memoir of three generations of Irish-American police officers. It served as the basis of a two-hour docu-movie that aired on the History Channel in 2002. McDonald graduated from the Columbia School of Journalism and has written for the New York Times, Reader's Digest, and Gourmet magazine, among other publications. He lives in New York City.
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