Fontaine: The baseball immortality of James Madison Toy

From Tom Fontaine at on April 2, 2017:

James Madison Toy was an average, 19th century major league baseball player — and average might be generous.

In two unremarkable seasons, he batted .211. He finished his career with one home run. And he played on awful teams, which combined to win 65 games and lose 165.

When he died in 1919, the newspapers did not pay special attention.

Yet, Toy managed to achieve something few ballplayers do: baseball immortality.

Not because he was the first Beaver Countian to play in the big leagues, though he was. Not because he suffered a particularly gruesome career-ending injury, which he did.

Rather, Toy achieved baseball immortality — more than four decades after his death — because of a distant relative’s baseless and apparently false claim about his heritage and a well-respected baseball historian’s failure to investigate that claim.

“I’m not sure where it got started, but there were parts of the family that insisted he was part Sioux Indian,” said Toy’s great-great-nephew, Jim Toy, 57, of West Mayfield, Beaver County. “No one had any documentation to prove it.

“My dad always kind of questioned the claim.”

Others did not.

And so James Madison Toy, an average, white major league baseball player from Beaver County, became known, incorrectly, as the first Native American to play in the big leagues.

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Originally published: April 3, 2017. Last Updated: April 3, 2017.