John “Chief” Meyers ~ Cahuilla

Published on January 10, 2012 by Carol

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John "Chief" Meyers
John “Chief” Meyers

John Tortes Meyers (1880-1971)

  • Born July 29, 1880.
  • Tribal: Cahuilla mother, Santa Rosa Reservation.
  • Raised in Riverside, CA, played semi-pro ball in Hemet area.
  • Education: Riverside High School; Dartmouth College (quit in 1909 to sign on with the New York Giants as catcher).
  • Nicknames: “Chief” and “Ironman.”
  • Major League Baseball catcher (1909-1917): Played for New York Giants, Boston Braves, and Brooklyn Robins.
  • Earned the title “IRONMAN” for his supernatural behind-the-plate prowess while playing MLB for the New York Giants. Given the name “CHIEF” for his American Indian heritage.
  • Played in four World Series; three with the New York Giants (1911, 1912, 1913), and one with the Brooklyn Robins (1916).


  • Batting Average Career: .291
  • 1911: .332
  • 1912: .358
  • 1913: .312

In 1933, Mr. Meyers was appointed chief of the Mission Indian Agency of Southern California, and he worked in that position until he retired. He died in 1971 at 91 years.

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In 1972, he was inducted posthumously into to the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas.

Ultra Famous Sports Legends

Charismatic and a naturally-gifted athlete, John Meyers was a media sensation in his time and used his American Indian ethnicity, raw talent and personality to win over fans and the respect of his contemporaries…he enjoyed a great deal of celebritism throughout his lifetime

Racial Discrimination – A Different American in the Early 1980s

At the turn of the 20th century in John Meyers’ sports heyday (1900-1920), the United States was still very much racially segregated and its laws flagrantly discriminated against non-white people in America.

In fact, the United States Bill of Rights itself originally included protection for white men ONLY — it excluded most other races and ALL women. Native American Indians could not become US citizens until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 was signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge.

Voting rights for American Indians in the US came much later than citizenship — it wasn’t until about 1960 that Native Americans could vote in every state. Even white women couldn’t vote in national elections until after the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed in 1920.

The first “Negro” MLB player, Jackie Robinson, didn’t play in Major League Baseball until 1947 because racism in professional American sports prevented Blacks from entering the league…

Source: CalifornIaindianEducation Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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