If you ask most people how the Cleveland Indians got their name, they will tell you it has something to do with Louis Francis Sockalexis, a Native American who played 94 games across three seasons for the Cleveland Spiders at the end of the 19th century. The story goes that the team was given that name in honor of Sockalexis, as he was allegedly a fan favorite or fun-loving or something like that.
It’s total bunk, by the way. The Indians own media guide notes that sportswriters at the time — 1915 — surveyed fans for a name and the Indians stuck, most likely because the 1914 Braves were seen as a surprising and inspiration team and others wanted to ape them to some degree. There’s also the little fact that Sockalexis hadn’t been associated with the team in any way and that he died in his early 40s as a very sick and mostly forgotten alcoholic two years before the name was changed.
But it sure is a nice story. Sort of like the Abner Doubleday baseball-creation myth.
Except the Indians, at least in some instances, still believe it. Or else want fans to believe it. What else explains a letter from the team to a fan who wrote them complaining about Chief Wahoo and the Indians’ use of Native American iconography. You can read it over at Cleveland Frowns, who keeps close track of all Chief Wahoo-related things.
If the Indians want to keep their name and their mascot and everything that goes with it, there is nothing that can stop them. They are a private business and they can do whatever they’d like. If they actually believed that the choices they made in this regard were good ones, however, they wouldn’t resort to blatant lies in order to justify them.