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Taking You Out to the Ballgame

April 17, 2002

Historian's Notes

My friend, Todd Fuller, introduced me to Moses Yellowhorse several years ago. Toddís dissertation concerned the life and legend of the Pawnee ball player and treated both with the utmost respect and care. Dr. Fullerís work has recently been published and should be considered the ultimate source of information for anyone interested in Moses Yellowhorse. It was through Todd Fullerís work that I gained the inspiration and information for this piece. Thanks buddy!!!

Resources

Fuller, Todd, (1965). 60 feet, 6 inches and other distances from home : the (baseball) life of Mose YellowHorse. Duluth, Minn. Holy Cow! Press, 2002.

Almanac Transcript

Taking you out to the ball game this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, I'm your host Steven Knoche Kite.

For many decades professional league baseball was open only to white males. Those players of non-Euro-American lineage were left either to play in special segregated leagues or not at all. It's always a major date in history when a professional sport has the color barrier broken, and on that topic Oklahoma has its own special connection. Pawnee, Oklahoma is the headquarters for, of all things, the Pawnee Tribe.

In 1898 there was born in Pawnee one Moses J. Yellowhorse. From an early age the young Yellowhorse it seems was destined to be in the public eye. At three years of age "Mose," as he was commonly called, played the role of an "savage Indian boy," in Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show. The young Pawnee was athletic and soon came to be known for his strong throwing arm. As a teenager attending the Chilocco Indian School, Mose as a pitcher lead the Chilocco baseball team to numerous winning seasons. In the summer of 1917 Yellowhorse tried out for the semi-pro Ponca City Oilers easily making the cut.

Over the next several years Yellowhorse fine-tuned his pitching skills making himself widely known and respected in the circles of pro and semi-pro baseball. In 1921 Mose, in his own special way, brought himself and Pawnee to the attention of the world. It was in that year at the age of twenty three that Mose signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates becoming the first known Native American to ever play baseball with a professional league team. Jacky Robinson is often given credit for breaking the color barrier of baseball in 1947, but there are some people who feel that Mose accomplished the job twenty-six years earlier.

Yellowhorse only spent one year with the Pirates, spectacular though it was, before being traded along with three other players to Sacramento. Late in a game Mose was sent in with out given any warm up time. The pitching he did that night would permanently injure his arm cutting short what might have been a spectacular professional league career. Andy High, one time player, said of Yellowhorse, "I'll never forget what it meant to face that Indian with a bat in my hand." It was in this week of 1921 that Mose changed forever the color of baseball. On April 15th Moses J. Yellowhorse from Pawnee, Oklahoma suited up and walked onto the field to play some professional league baseball, the first ever Native American to do so.

I'm Steven Knoche Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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