“Chief” Johnson and the “Winnebago Ban”

23 Aug

George Howard “Chief” Johnson was born on the Nebraska Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Reservation to an Irish father and a mother who was likely only half Native American, yet like almost all players of his era with any tribal blood, he was branded “Chief.”

Johnson began his pro career at age 23 in 1909 with Sioux City and Lincoln in the Western League, after having played for several seasons with Guy Green’s barnstorming Nebraska Indians team.

Chief Johnson

Chief Johnson

Johnson constantly battled weight and alcohol issues; “The Chief is not noted for the care he takes of himself,” is how The Milwaukee Sentinel put it—but after a 23-10 record for the Saint Joseph Drummers in 1912, he was purchased by the Chicago White Sox.

Johnson appeared destined to make the Sox pitching staff according to The Chicago Tribune and Chicago Examiner, but was released before Opening Day by the Sox and signed with the Cincinnati Reds.  His release by Sox Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan was explained the next season in several newspapers, including The Milwaukee Journal:

“The Chief…had shown ability and class; he had behaved well, but when Callahan learned that he was a Winnebago he decided to turn him away.”

The story, a tour de force of early 20th-century bigotry, went on to say:

“For many years the Winnebago tribe has been under a blacklist by all circuses, Wild West shows and film companies.  There are plenty of Winnebagoes, very conveniently located; they are fine-looking people, and, as a rule educated, so they would be the finest material for show purposes.  Nevertheless, the reputation of the tribe for love of firewater has been such that managers shun their reservation, and they can’t get work in the professions which yield big wages to the Sioux, Pawnees and Chippewa’s.”

White Sox Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan

I’ll include another chapter in George Johnson’s short and eventful life next week.

15 Responses to ““Chief” Johnson and the “Winnebago Ban””


  1. More “Chief” Johnson « Baseball History Daily - August 30, 2012

    […] Last week I told you about George “Chief” Johnson’s release from the Chicago White Sox in the spring of 1913, allegedly because of his affiliation with the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) Native-American Tribe. […]

  2. “A Historical Account of a Great Game of Ball” | Baseball History Daily - March 5, 2013

    […] “an aggregation composed of such noted players as Mike Donlin, Jake Stahl, Jimmie Ryan and Jimmy Callahan, probably the best semi-professional team in the […]

  3. Dave Altizer | Baseball History Daily - April 4, 2013

    […] story said Reds manager Clark Griffith, unable to find Altizer, contacted “Nixey” Callahan, who was playing in Chicago’s City League, and asked him to put an ad in Chicago newspapers to […]

  4. Lost Advertisements–Leading Baseball Players Indorse | Baseball History Daily - September 27, 2013

    […] 1904 Jones replaced James “Nixey” Callahan as manager of the Chicago White Sox after 42 games.  He led the team to a third place finish. […]

  5. “Clark Griffith nearly Ended the Life of William Phyle” | Baseball History Daily - November 19, 2013

    […] days later he went duck hunting with teammates Clark Griffith, Bill Lange, Jack Taylor and Jimmy Callahan at A.G. Spalding’s New Mexico ranch.  The Inter Ocean said of the […]

  6. Morrie Rath | Baseball History Daily - November 25, 2013

    […] was coaching at first base and (Manager Nixey) Callahan was at third.  (Harry) Lord was at bat.  He hit a bounder to one of the infielders and as it was […]

  7. Lost Team Photos–1904 Chicago White Sox | Baseball History Daily - December 31, 2013

    […] (SS), Guy “Doc” White (P), Roy Patterson (P), Gus Dundon (2B), Lee Tannehill (3B), Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan (MGR and LF), Frank Isbell (INF), John “Jiggs” Donahue (1B), Danny Green (RF), Nick […]

  8. “You are mostly Fakes, and yet I love you all!” | Baseball History Daily - March 19, 2014

    […] and Al Spink, writing for The Chicago Evening Post in 1920 quoted former Chicago White Sox Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan telling the story in 1920—like the original, both Corbett’s version and Spink’s via […]

  9. Tom Lynch’s Broom | Baseball History Daily - September 24, 2014

    […] 1905 Chicago White Sox outfielder Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan talked about his first season in Chicago in 1897 in an article distributed by “Newspaper […]

  10. Lost Advertisements–Larry Doyle for Coca-Cola | Baseball History Daily - March 20, 2015

    […] Four years earlier, when Doyle led the Giants to a National League championship–hitting .330 and winning the Chalmers Award as the league’s most valuable player–he told a reporter from The New York Evening Journal that his success was driven by a snub from White Sox Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan: […]

  11. Sam Barkley and the Mobster | Baseball History Daily - May 24, 2015

    […] baseball game was played at Comiskey Park between two Chicago City League teams–“Nixey” Callahan‘s Logan Squares and the Rogers Parks’–“to raise enough money to start him […]

  12. “He is a Model for the Young Ballplayer to Emulate” | Baseball History Daily - August 21, 2015

    […] Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said the deal was eventually foiled by Pirates Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan, who “refuse(d) to […]

  13. Lost Advertisements–“Fireball” Johnson | Baseball History Daily - October 30, 2015

    […] Nixey Callahan: […]

  14. “You got away with Something that time, Buck” | Baseball History Daily - March 2, 2016

    […] Weaver returned to the dugout, Manager Jimmy “Nixey” Callahan […]

  15. “Everyone seemed to be trying to pull off the Greatest Stunts of his Life” | Baseball History Daily - March 28, 2016

    […] “(Jimmy “Nixey”) Callahan whipped a fast hit right down between third and short, a hit that seemed certain to go through to left field without being touched.  The ball was hit hard and was bounding rapidly when McBride went back and out as hard as he could, shoved down his glove hand, scooped the ball and snapped it straight into (William Wid) Conroy’s hands on top of third base.  The play was so quickly made that McConnell saw he was out, and by a quick stop tried to delay being touched and jockeyed around between the bases to let Callahan reach second. He played it beautifully, but he never had a chance.  McBride jumped back into the line and before McConnell could even get a good start back Conroy whipped the ball to McBride and McConnell was touched out before he had moved five feet. […]

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