YELLOWHORSE, MOSES J. (1898–1964).
Born on January 28, 1898, Moses J. YellowHorse, a Skidi Pawnee, played professional baseball at both the major and minor league levels, most notably with the Pittsburgh Pirates during the 1921 and 1922 campaigns. During a span of nine professional seasons as a pitcher, he won 65.8 percent of his games and recorded one (1) major league save. He won eight contests and lost four while with the Pirates.
YellowHorse's parents, Clara and Thomas, were children when they were forced to walk from present Nebraska to the Pawnee Indian Agency in present Oklahoma, "Mose" YellowHorse grew up with a keen awareness of Skidi Pawnee traditions, history, and language. As a boy he, and also his father, performed in Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show, in order to provide for the family. YellowHorse also provided by hunting. Pawnee elders have shared stories about YellowHorse, who as a young boy developed a strong arm by throwing rocks at small game, taking home rabbits, squirrels, birds, and snakes.
After attending Pawnee Indian Boarding School (also called "Gravy U"), YellowHorse went to Chilocco Indian Boarding School and in his senior year developed into a star on the baseball team, pitching to a 17–0 record. In 1918 he signed with the Des Moines Boosters of the Western League (1918), and in 1920 he played for the Arkansas Travelers. He pitched to a 21–7 record, which earned the attention of major league scouts. While in Little Rock, he also became friends with several young boys, including future author, Dee Brown, of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee fame.
As a hurler with the Pirates in 1921, YellowHorse became the first rookie in team history to win a home opener. Thereafter, he became a fan favorite, as patrons at Forbes Field could be heard yelling, "Bring in YellowHorse!" when a Pirate pitcher was struggling. Legend tells that twenty-five years after he was traded from the Pirates (to Sacramento of the Pacific Association), fans continued to yell the chant. Alhough an injury to his throwing arm ended his campaign in 1921, he entered the 1922 season poised contribute on a full-time basis. Unfortunately, the team underperformed, just as it had done in the previous year, and the team owner switched managers halfway through the season. This dramatically altered the trajectory of YellowHorse's major league career. However, before his tenure on Pittsburgh concluded, several noteworthy activities occurred: He beaned Ty Cobb in an exhibition game (in Detroit) because the future Hall-of-Famer dared to insult the pitcher by doing a mock war dance around home plate; and he struck out Babe Ruth (twice) in a barnstorming game in Shamrock, Oklahoma.
Thereafter YellowHorse played in the minor leagues. In the 1923 season pitched to a 22–13 record for the Sacramento Senators. Again, he became a fan favorite, so much so that the team honored him with a "YellowHorse Night," thirty-five years after his only full season with the club. For the next fifteen years he played some minor league and lots of semi-pro ball in and around Oklahoma. He also served as an umpire for the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri (KOM) League, as a groundskeeper for the Ponca City minor league team, and as the coach for an all-Indian team which barnstormed across the south in the early 1950s.
Moses YellowHorse passed away on April 10, 1964, at the Pawnee Indian Hospital in Oklahoma. He never married and is not known to have had children. His career has been memorialized in various ways. In 1935 another Pawnee resident, Chester Gould, creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip, developed a character named "Chief Yellowpony," a hero who over the course of several months helped capture the dastardly Boris Arson and his sister Zelda. At the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum one of a baseball glove used by YellowHorse remains on permanent display. In 1994 he was inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame and in 1970 into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
Todd Fuller, 60 Feet, Six Inches and Other Distances from Home: The (Baseball) Life of Mose YellowHorse (Duluth, Minn.: Holy Cow! Press, 2002).
"Moses YellowHorse," Baseball Encyclopedia (10th ed.; New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1996).
The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Todd Fuller, “YellowHorse, Moses J.,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=YE022.
© Oklahoma Historical Society.