Jeff Powers-Beck: The Nebraska Indians Team

Before the Kansas City Monarchs, before the House of David, before the bloomer girl teams of the early twentieth century, the Nebraska Indians took the diamond, one of the first great barnstorming teams to leave an indelible mark on American culture. For twenty-one years, from 1897 to 1917, the team averaged over 150 games per season in almost as many towns, often drawing crowds in the thousands, from Wahoo, Nebraska, to Lexington, Kentucky, to Brooklyn, New York.

Before the Kansas City Monarchs, before the House of David, before the bloomer girl teams of the early twentieth century, the Nebraska Indians took the diamond, one of the first great barnstorming teams to leave an indelible mark on American culture. For twenty-one years, from 1897 to 1917, the team averaged over 150 games per season in almost as many towns, often drawing crowds in the thousands, from Wahoo, Nebraska, to Lexington, Kentucky, to Brooklyn, New York. Billed as “The Only Ones on Earth” and “the Greatest Aggregation of its Kind,” they were only one of many American Indian professional teams, but they were the longest lived and most successful such pan-Indian club. In many of their seasons for which records survive, the Indians won over 80% of their games, and they scored victories against talented amateur teams, college teams, and minor league teams. Crowds assembled eagerly, hoping that their local heroes would play the Indians competitively. Fans also came to be entertained, and the Indians obliged with a combination of Wild West showmanship and zany baseball antics. Most significantly, as the sports editor of the Omaha Bee put it in 1902: “A large crowd is expected at the park to see the Indians in a role new to the race” (my emphasis). As the Nebraska Indians struggled against anti-Indian prejudices, their baseball performances enabled new visions of American Indian roles.

This presentation is an abridged version of an article that will appear in Nebraska History in the Summer of 2003, and it represents the first historical account of the Nebraska Indians Baseball Team published since owner Guy W. Green wrote two dime pamphlets about the team at the turn of the twentieth century. This new account draws on hundreds of newspaper stories about the team as well as team postcards, Indian School records from Haskell Indian Nations University and Carlisle Indian School, photographs, and interviews. The fifty-minute presentation will include approximately twelve black-and-white photographs and charts shown on an overhead projector. Vignettes of the two owners, Guy Green and Buck Beltzer, and of some of the most notable players, such as George Howard Johnson, will be included.

Jeff Powers-Beck is a member of SABR from Johnson City, TN. His article, “Chief”: The American Indian Integration of Baseball, appeared in American Indian Quarterly, Fall 2001, pp. 508-538. He is now completing a manuscript about the Native American integration of professional baseball.



Originally published: May 27, 2003. Last Updated: May 27, 2003.

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