Nebraska Indians Baseball Team

The barnstorming Nebraska Indians baseball team was founded by Guy W. Green, an energetic baseball promoter, who organized the club shortly after receiving his law degree from the University of Nebraska in 1897. With help from John DeYoung Smith, a Lincoln lawyer and salesman, Green had recruited most of a twelve-man team by June 20, 1897, chiefly from the Genoa Industrial and Agricultural School, the Santee Normal School, and the nearby Omaha and Winnebago reservations. Green’s original club consisted of nine Indian players and three non-Indian players.

The Nebraska Indians began their first season with two losses to Wahoo, Nebraska. In nearby Fremont they won the first of two afternoon games but lost the second. It wasn’t until they reached Lincoln on June 25 and 26, 1897, that they began to show their mettle. On June 25 they defeated the University of Nebraska by a score of eighteen to twelve. Perhaps more important than the victory, however, was the carnival atmosphere that the Indian players established on the Lincoln baseball diamond, a vital factor in the team’s subsequent ability to draw crowds.

Green traveled with team members through 1907 as they crisscrossed the country, playing town teams that challenged them. In addition to the clowning and the team’s exciting play, the club relied on the American Indian identities of its players to draw large crowds, in a way similar to the Wild West shows then in their heyday. Green scheduled most of the Nebraska Indians’ games in small towns, in part to appeal to fans with little opportunity to experience a Wild West show atmosphere.

From 1898, its first winning season, to at least 1914, the last season for which a record is available, the Nebraska Indians established an impressive reputation as one of the most formidable exhibition teams in the country. The team records listed in Green’s pamphlet, Fun and Frolic with an Indian Ball Team, and on the 1912 and 1914 postcards sold by his successors, the Beltzer brothers, are remarkable. The cumulative total for those years is 1,237 wins, 336 losses, and 11 ties. They consistently outplayed their opponents and even more consistently triumphed over hecklers shouting insults from the grandstand.

Green’s two pamphlets, The Nebraska Indians: A Complete History and Fun and Frolic With an Indian Ball Team, give a account of his years with the team. Jeffrey Powers-Beck’s article, “‘A Role New to the Race,’ A New History of the Nebraska Indians,” is included in the Winter 2004 issue of Nebraska History magazine.

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