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Was Chief Wahoo named after Allie Reynolds?

Jun 20, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT

Allie Reynolds

Here’s an interesting historical deep-dive from Brad Ricca of Belt Magazine. It’s about the history of the Chief Wahoo mascot, and it uncovers a number of intriguing little nuggets that even a guy fixated on Wahoo like I am hadn’t heard before.

Most specifically the origin of the caricature and its name. Which are two separate things, according to Ricca. He notes that, while the accepted story has come to be that Bill Veeck commissioned a young artist to draw up Wahoo as a mascot, a Cleveland Plain-Dealer cartoonist had been using a profoundly similar character as a form of illustrated box score for some 15 years before that. Click through to see the examples.

The name is more interesting. The newspaper version was not named Chief Wahoo and neither was Veeck’s until at least 1952. But that name had come to be used, again, by the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, to describe someone else. A real person this time: former Indians pitcher and then-current Yankees star Allie Reynolds. Reynolds was a Creek Indian and was far more famously known by the nickname “Super Chief,” but Plain-Delaer reporters often referred to him as “Chief Wahoo” when he made return visits to Cleveland as a member of the Yankees:

A surprising nickname for Reynolds’ appears on October 6, 1950 in his old local paper, the Plain Dealer. Under the title of “Chief Wahoo Whizzing,” Reynolds fans learn that “Allie (Chief Wahoo) Reynolds, the copper-skinned Creek” lost to Philadelphia, but “in the clutches, though, the Chief was a standup gent—tougher than Sitting Bull.”

The Yankees are always big baseball news (even in Cleveland), but Reynolds especially garnered a lot of coverage in his old town. In subsequent articles, he is called “Chief Wahoo,” “old Wahoo,” and just plain “Wahoo.”

Later, it came to be used derisively. Reynolds was traded away from Cleveland when Bob Feller came back from the war and there was no room in the rotation. Get a load of this:

The name “Chief Wahoo” also appeared in the popular Cleveland sports column “The Sports Trail” by Jimmy Doyle. On May 25, 1951, Doyle writes that “It’s great to see Bob Feller show how he’s mastered that old pitching know how” and signs it “Chief Wahoo’s-this” as a possible parting shot against the departed Reynolds.

Such a fascinating article about a fascinating subject that is so often itself subject to misinformation, intentional or otherwise.

  1. tmohr - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    You mean he wasn’t named for Wahoo McDaniel? I’m crushed.

  2. tbird05 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:01 AM

    So wait a minute…it wasn’t offensive and then it became offensive? What’s a man to think?

    • historiophiliac - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:09 AM

      More deeply.

      • tbird05 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:10 AM

        Good morning historiophiliac, glad you could make it.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:04 AM

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but — for me — it’s the drawing that’s offensive. The name doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. It feel a little offensive-y. Just ignorant, as in: they care so little about native culture that they named it “Wahoo.” The odd name is evidence that the drawing is misguided, but the odd name is not this issue. In short, if they *renamed* the mascot, no one who cares would care. And if the drawing goes away, the name leaves with it.

      • tbird05 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:00 PM

        Do you know what Wahoo stands for?

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        It stands for 66 years without a World Series.

      • tbird05 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:31 PM

        If that’s the case, they don’t need a new mascot, they need a bloody sock.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        Lots of failed businesses welcome the opportunity to rebrand.

      • SocraticGadfly - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM

        Note that the nose is hooked, etc., just like the drawing of the mascot for the team I now call the Washington Hymies in “honor” of its owner.

      • jwbiii - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:59 PM

        tbird, Wahoo is a large, elongated, circumtropical member of the mackerel family. It’s flesh is firmer and less oily, and therefore less fishy tasting, than other mackerels, like Boston mackerel, Spanish mackerel, or king mackerel. It’s yummy.

        In Hawaii, they call them ono, which translates to “good thing.” The word ono is also used in conversation, like “Bra, your new Lexus is ono!”

      • asimonetti88 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:26 PM

        “I believe the Redskins’ name is racist, so I’m going to call their owner a racist slur.”

        That makes sense.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:28 PM

        Jews aren’t a race. Thus, “hymie” isn’t racist.

      • asimonetti88 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:31 PM

        You’re completely missing the point, but if you want to play semantics, its still offensive on the same level as he believes the Redskins name is.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:07 PM

      Wrong. Fifty-sixty years ago, minorities weren’t in the position of being able to talk about things being offensive.

      It’s called civil rights. Social progress. Look it up in the dictionary.

      You do have one, don’t you? You do know how to use it?

  3. randygnyc - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:14 AM

    Newspaper writers were artists then. Now, not so much

  4. historiophiliac - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    It is unfortunate that the article does not note that Reynolds objected to being called “Chief” and specifically asked his teammates not to refer to him as that.

    Go Pokes!

    • lazyhorse420 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:40 AM


      • historiophiliac - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:49 AM

        Here’s a little something:

        Please note that he did not call himself this — nor did his family or personal associates. This was a nickname given to him by outsiders who were not Indian (and that’s how you know it’s stereotyping).

      • lazyhorse420 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:09 PM

        This article says he wasn’t comfortable being referred to as a chief or Supercheif. Due to the fact chief is a sacred title held for leaders. Saying he objected to it, is taking a little bit of a leap. Native Americans were proud to call him chief b/c he was a great ambassador of American Indian values.

      • grumpyoleman - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        So I’m supposed to be butt-hurt everytime calls me Chief or Boss?

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:12 PM

        grumpyoleman: IT DEPENDS ON THE CONTEXT!

        This is not hard to understand. That some people choose not to understand it means they aren’t trying.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Let me help you with some critical reading skills there. Reynolds made a point of telling a non-Indian teammate that he was uncomfortable being called “Chief” and why (after some non-Indian sportswriters gave him the label — which was commonly slapped on Indians by non-Indians during that period). Said teammate then stopped calling him that to his face — it’s not hard to understand that this was to honor Reynolds’ stated objection to being called that. Why else would Brown stop doing so and clearly state that Reynolds told him that he was uncomfortable with it? And AGAIN this was not a nickname Reynolds went by normally — it was given to him by strangers who were white. Further, this has nothing to do with the fact that later he was made an honorary chief by Indian groups out of respect for all that he did to promote Indian issues and be a positive influence in Native American communities (which you are probably not familiar with, but is also referenced in the article there). The label was originally given to him by sportswriters prior to his activity in those communities. Hence it was not properly a title that applied to him…and he did not feel it was appropriate.

      • historiophiliac - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:00 PM

        Also, feel free to present evidence — if you can even find any — where he called himself “Chief” or talked about liking the nickname (from white people).

      • lazyhorse420 - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        Historic, I assume you are responding to me? This is a perfect example of why most others in the comments section can stand you. Critical reading? You need help with that, no where do I ever infer Reynolds like being called chief or called himself chief. Yet you seem to imply I did. All of what you post isn’t even in the article you linked to. Get off your high horse, talking down to people isn’t a way to get them to better understand anything

      • lazyhorse420 - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:19 PM

        Correction: CAN’T stand you

      • clydeserra - Jun 20, 2014 at 3:57 PM

        this is all very rich coming form someone calling themselves “LazyHorse”

        but no, Histo is a delight to read. please don’t speak for the rest of us.

        its kinda like you are speaking for Allie Reynolds without knowing jack, or all native americans or …wait a gall dang minute! I see a pattern!

      • lazyhorse420 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:16 PM

        Clyde, it appears you didn’t read the article histrio linked, or any subsequent comments. No where do I try to speak for Reynolds, or all Native Americans. Not sure where you come up with that.

  5. longbino - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    So this name and logo is ok but Redskins and their logo isn’t ? Politics politics . No one cares what the team in Cleveland is called , politics a don’t live and work there !

    • raysfan1 - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      “Indian” is not considered an epithet, “Redskin” is. Also, if you think there isn’t a large body of baseball fans who think the Chief Wahoo mascot needs to go away, then you have paid zero attention to this blog.

      • gmagic9044 - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:22 PM

        I don’t really have a justification, but I cringed a bit when I read “the copper-skinned Creek”.

        At least we are progressing (though not as quickly as most would like).

  6. skids003 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:51 AM

    What’s amazing is how now the US Patent Office can use it’s liberal feelings to just decide whatever they find offensive will get their patent struck down. Dangerous precedent.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:15 AM

      That’s not how trademark law works.

      The law only allows certain things to be eligible for trademarks. (I think you would agree that there have to be limits, right? I can’t trademark the letter “E” for example.) They draw some lines.

      One of those lines — drawn by the Congress and signed by the President, not the PTO — is the law outlaws the registration of language that holds groups or individuals in contempt or disrepute. It is then up to the PTO to determine whether a particular application holds groups or individuals in contempt or disrepute.

      The PTO reviewed that question, and in a 2-1 ruling that went on for 99 pages, including nearly 100 more pages of appendices, said that the team’s name does, in fact, hold groups or individuals in contempt or disrepute. That ruling was authored by an Administrative Law Judge appointed in 2005, presuming aligning with the politics of the person who nominally appointed her, the Secretary of Commerce in 2005.

      This was not about feelings. You can disagree with it. But you cannot say that it was not in their jurisdiction to rule, nor that the decision was made lightly.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:20 AM

        Here’s the US code, by the way.

      • blacksables - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:38 AM

        Who’s making the decision that that the name is contemptuous or disreputable?

      • blacksables - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:43 AM

        Or the drawing. I think that is what most people are upset about.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:07 PM

        I haven’t read much on how the PTO enforces trademarks. But that is, you know, their job. In this case, it was a three-person panel of Administrative Law Judges.

        You can read the ruling, which is where I learned it was heard before Kuhlke, Cataldo and Bergsman. Kuhlke wrote the decision. They were all appointed in 2005 or 2006. (Bergsman weakly dissented, essentially saying that “Redskins” may be offensive, but that the petitioners hadn’t provided enough evidence to convince him.)

        Generally speaking, when a hearing is held before an assortment of a larger group, that group is chosen at random. You don’t get to choose your tribunal.

        Administrative Law Judges at the PTO are appointed by the Secretary of Commerce. And if you don’t like who the Secretary of Commerce appoints, then you should vote for a President who would appoint a different Secretary of Commerce.

        Or you should argue that it’s fine to trademark offensive things. But as long as the law denied trademarks to offensive things, SOMEONE HAS TO DECIDE. These people heard lots of evidence. The Redskins have highly paid, competent lawyers on their side. And the tribunal disagreed with them.

      • raysfan1 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:05 PM

        “That ruling was authored by an Administrative Law Judge appointed in 2005, presuming aligning with the politics of the person who nominally appointed her, the Secretary of Commerce in 2005.”

        In other words, a judge duly appointed under a conservative Republican administration.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:13 PM

        Oh, this is good:

        Try not to get distracted by Limbaugh’s ridiculous claim (which was judged “false”). This is good background on how the PROCESS works. Very educational.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        CORRECTION: The majority opinion was 81 pages and the dissent was 18. (I had said the opinion was 99 pages.)

        And to be specific, the appendices — which was mostly citations, not exhibits — are 77 pages.

        The point is, they made an informed decision. Some people disagree with it. Some of the people who disagree with it are saying that they used used their feelings to decide this. And that’s not true.

      • happytwinsfan - Jun 20, 2014 at 5:28 PM


        if you’re still around, just wanted to mention that after reading more of your posts, thinking things over and following your link to the US Code, contrary to what I posted yesterday, I think you’re essentially right. But I still don’t like it.

        I found it jarring, and still find it jarring that the patent process has become a big player in this and that it turns on the inevitably subjective interpretation of an ambiguously written law by administrative law judges. However that reality involves issues much larger than this one that I have no answer for.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 21, 2014 at 10:29 AM

        Thanks, Happy. It’s always nice to see an open mind, especially on the Internet, which does not seem amenable to it. (Though maybe I’m just happy you said nice things.)

        The issue of the ambiguity in the law is really a big problem to me. And I mean that broadly. For example, the No Child Left Behind law says that every classroom shall have a “highly qualified teacher.” The law never defines what that means. And there’s a lot of reasons we end up in that place (some good, some bad), but the result is that we leave a lot of important decisions to unelected bureaucrats. (Let me pause to say that as a liberal Democrat, living in the DC suburbs, I am neighbors and friends with some unelected bureaucrats. They are good people; they work hard. They take their responsibilities seriously. And they could earn more money elsewhere instead of serving their country.)

        And yet, when the law DOES spell things out, conservatives use the VERY LENGTH OF THE LAW as a way to criticize it. (“No one read it!” “It’s 2000 pages long!”) There is a lot of stupid shtuff in Obamacare — redundant stuff, I mean, and totally unnecessary to the purpose of the bill. But that stuff was put in there to mollify the critics. Any time you see a phrase like, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to …” you can safely assume that what follows is blather. Thus, we sometimes end up with really really long law for that reason.

        Me, I don’t mind long laws. I mind stupid laws. So I would like to see — at least in the Congressional record and Committee reports — more guidance as to what the legislative intent was. That would give the bureaucrats more to go on.

        But, really, I think the law is a good one and I think the tribunal determined its application correctly.

    • cur68 - Jun 20, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      You and “blacksables” need to look up the history of George Preston Marshall then get back to us.

      • blacksables - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:35 PM

        Why? I asked a simple question, and it was answered.

        If you have something to tell us, then do so.

      • cur68 - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:42 PM

        Nope. You’re ignorant otherwise, you’d not take the position you take. Its not my job to do the leg work on correcting your ignorance. I pointed you in the right direction, so go sort yourself out. If you were informed and STILL had that opinion then you’re worse than ignorant.


      • blacksables - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:55 PM

        Really, what position did I take? I asked how made the decision. How does that determine any position I have?

        If you want to read something into what I wrote to either confirm or reject your bias, that’s fine.

        It still doesn’t tell you what my position is.

        Or my opinion. If I ask what’s for dinner, are you then going to tell me a vegeterian?

        Or are you going to tell what’s for dinner?

        My position on that question is, ‘what’s for dinner?’, not support of any type of diet.

        Your ignorance of what my position is trumps my ignorance of not knowing some obscure reference I don’t care anything about.

    • SocraticGadfly - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:10 PM

      What’s amazing is that wingnuts don’t know much about how the law works.

      Scratch that. That’s not amazing at all.

      It’s amazing that they pretend that if they put the word “librul” in front of something they don’t like, that explains it all.

      • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        They know just fine. They know that whenever the disagree with a ruling, it’s the fault of activist judges. And they know that when they agree with a ruling, it’s because the judge respected the real meaning of the Constitution.

        The best defense against this is to actually read a ruling now and then. These are complicated matters, and the decisions are not easy. There are compelling arguments to be made on both sides. When I read a Supreme Court ruling, I always agree with the majority. And then I read the dissent, and I agree with it. These people are really smart, and the law is not always clear. But I wish that our legislatures were as capable at explaining themselves as our courts are.

  7. musketmaniac - Jun 20, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    uhh, ketchup sock? catsup? hmm both correct

  8. denny65 - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    So does this mean Sam Crawford is on the verge of being kicked out of the HOF, for having an offensive nickname?

    Ty Cobb would be pleased.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 20, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      You’re being obtuse.

  9. tmc602014 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:04 PM

    You know, if they opened a new MLB franchise in Tijuana and called it the Wetbacks, no one would be surprised at the outcry. This dude in DC who wants to keep the name that, as we have grown and learned as a society, is a racist epithet (created by a guy who refused to sign any black players – in the sixties!). Why should we grandfather this in? Our grandparents didn’t realize or didn’t care back in the day BUT WE DO NOW. All you guys arguing in favor of the Redskins name – put your money where your mouth is, and do a Die Hard 2 with your racist sign in your local non-white neighborhood, and try to explain to the populace that it isn’t really an offensive term because back in the ’80s (1880s) nobody spoke up about it being offensive.

    • lazyhorse420 - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:19 PM

      That wasn’t Die Hard 2

  10. randygnyc - Jun 20, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    Lazyhorse- you missed the homerun when instead of telling histro to get off her high horse she should get off her “crazy horse”

    • historiophiliac - Jun 20, 2014 at 5:32 PM

      ha ha I get it. It’s hilarious because “Crazy Horse” was a famous Lakota leader. Aren’t Indian names a blast to make fun of???? But, seriously, I know you respect them and believe that Wahoo is a tribute to the nobility of Native American warriors…totally.

      • blacksables - Jun 20, 2014 at 6:59 PM

        He’s actually Oglala Sioux, which is a branch of the Lakota.

        Saying he’s Lakota is like saying he’s European.

        Facts are fun.

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