Potawatomi Books, Gary E.  Mitchell]


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Hard times come and go on the reservation, and one constant to help forget was sports.

Over the years when hard times occurred, Potawatomis usually turned to recreation to forget the economic circumstances of that particular era.

Baseball was once the chief source of recreation on the reservation during the 1930s to the 1950s, but softball slowly took over. At first, fast-pitch was the favorite. It was a game where a strong pitcher was needed to compete, so many players lost interest.

Slow-pitch softball, not needing the fast pitcher, started up in the late 1970s and many teams were formed on the reservation. They competed all over the local area, including the city of Topeka.

A variation of the game was co-rec softball. Five men and five women on a team was a game in which dependence on organizing 10-12 men or 10-12 women for a men's or women's team was no longer necessary.

A roster was usually six men and six women, and it was easier to form a team. Co-rec softball is commonplace now, but it was all new during the 1970s.

One team that developed this concept into a winning formula was a team from the reservation called "The Big Red Machine."

The men players on this team were Henry and Lawrence Pahmahmie, Duane Mzhickteno, Andrew "Bubs" Mitchell, Pete Wahquahboshkuk and Mando Evans.

The women players were Donita Mattwaoshshe, Mary LeClere, Voncile Mitchell, Anita Evan, Joan Pahmahmie and Doris Potts.

Many of the men players had played together in high school football, baseball, summer league baseball and now were on a co-rec team. They were a competitive and talented group of individuals who put winning at the top of the agenda.

The women on the team were the key to competing in the top leagues of Topeka and in the many big tournaments in which the team played during those years. In this game, without a strong group of women who could hit and play defense, it was fruitless to play a strong schedule. These women fit the bill.

With this strong nucleus, the Potawatomi players went on to play a top-notch schedule, playing against some of the best teams in the immediate area - teams such as Yammas, a national powerhouse; the Kansas Kids; the Topeka Bandits; and local teams led by talented players like Jim Cole and Mike Nichol.

Playing these excellent teams laid the groundwork for the team to compete in several All- Indian tournaments in Oklahoma, where the team won two Indian state championships. One year the team won 66 games against some of the best competition in Kansas and Oklahoma.

What made the team competitive was a combination of power and speed. This made it possible to win game after game. To compete at that level, a strong defense is necessary, and the team developed this element to the point some games were won 2-1, almost unheard of in slow- pitch softball.

The Potawatomi team won for years and developed into one of the best teams in the area. In time, injuries and age caught up with the team and it eventually disbanded. Still, the team won more than 77 trophies, with more than 40 first-place finishes.

But above all else, the group had a deep pride in being a winning all-Potawatomi team. They represented the tribe well and served as benchmark in Potawatomi softball.

And this is how one group on the reservation weathered the economic times.

First published in the Topeka Capital Journal, August 23, 1995

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