|The Nebraska Indians baseball team.|
While looking through some old newspapers at the library earlier this week, I ran across something that I thought was pretty cool - the Nebraska Indians baseball team visited Evergreen during the summer of 1914.
Almost forgotten nowadays, the Nebraska Indians were once a famous traveling baseball team that played small town teams all over the country at the turn of the century.
Founded in 1897 by Guy W. Green, the Nebraska Indians were recruited from small schools and reservations in Nebraska, and were known for taking the field in Indian regalia, including Native American headdresses.
They got off to a rocky start, but it didn’t take long for them to get their act together. In their first season, they upset the University of Nebraska, beating them by six runs. From there, they established their own baseball park in Lincoln, Neb. and began to draw big crowds.
During the next decade, they would travel all over the country and would play just about any local town team that had the guts to challenge them. Along the way, they developed an entertaining style of play that, more or less, turned them into the Harlem Globetrotters of turn-of-the-century baseball. Their games were also very similar to the many popular Wild West shows that traveled the country around this time.
The first time I can ever remember hearing anything about the Nebraska Indians was in Ken Burns’ famous 1994 documentary film, “Baseball.” This great, 18-1/2 hour, Emmy Award-winning documentary contained a segment on the Nebraska Indians and included original footage of the Indians warming up and playing teams out west. In their heyday, they were a big deal.
You can imagine my surprise last week when I saw the headline “Ball Game With Real Indians” in the July 22, 1914 edition of The Evergreen Courant. The paper went on to say that Nebraska Indians would play the Evergreen town team in Evergreen on July 24, 1914.
“The greatest athletic novelty in the world is the Nebraska Indian baseball team which has created so much comment by its brilliant playing and wonderful success it has achieved during its 17 years of travel throughout the United States and Canada,” Courant editor George Salter wrote. “It is a rare and novel sight to see a team of ball players all of whom are marvelously expert and also who are genuine Indians. When they come to the field with scowling faces and savage warhoops some of the timid people in the grandstand grow nervous, but the Indians are only showing their irrepressible spirits and never have trouble with anyone.”
In the following week’s paper, Salter, under the headline, “Evergreen Beats Indians,” reported that “the largest crowd that ever witnessed a game here was at the game between the Nebraska Indians and the locals, the latter winning 7 to 6. The features of the game were the sensational fielding and hitting of Randolph Moorer for Evergreen, who made two of the most thrilling catches and registering three singles, one double and one triple out of five trips to the plate; the home run of Arant for Evergreen.”
Pitchers in the game included Arant and Lindsey for Evergreen, and Cleghorm, Wourkeegreen and Bataga for Nebraska.
Between 1897 and 1917, the Nebraska Indians played an average of 150 games per season, but no records exist for the team past 1914, the year they lost to Evergreen. That season, they went 101-25-3, and from 1897 to 1914, they went 1,237-336-11. After World War I, the Nebraska Indians reorganized and played for a few more years in the 1920s against college and semi-pro teams around the country. From there, they faded into history.
According to baseball historian Jeffrey Powers-Beck, the “Nebraska Indians established an impressive reputation as one of the most formidable exhibition teams in the country. They out-hit, out-ran and out-played their opposition consistently, and even more consistently triumphed over the hecklers whooping and shouting insults from the grandstand.”