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Contenders: Two Native Baseball Players, One World Series

illustrated by Arigon Starr

The true story of the resilience of John Meyers and Charles Bender, who did what they loved in the face of injustice, and in 1911 became the first two Native American pro baseball players to face off in a World Series.

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Helps kids learn more about the subjects of Contenders and other Native baseball players when they make a set of biography trading cards.

Use Baseball Almanac to come up with a list of players and assign one to each student. Provide students with access to books and online resources about baseball and Native players as well as a template for a card. Have them research their players to learn more about their lives on and off the field, then use their research to create a baseball trading card that includes a photo or drawing of the player, name, birthdate, tribal affiliation, school information, team or teams they played for, years that they played, and any special achievements or interesting facts, Ask them to research and include any quotes from news articles that show how the media portrayed these athletes.

Each day, invite students to exchange cards with a classmate. Continue trading until each student has had a chance to read every card. Then collect the cards and keep the set as part of your classroom library.

Questions for Discussion or Reflective Writing

  1. How did the lives of Charles Bender and John Meyers differ? How were they similar? Why is it important to highlight the differences in their stories as well as the similarities?
  2. What was your reaction to the racism, discrimination, slurs, and insults that Bender and Meyers faced? How did what they endured make you feel? Was there anything that surprised you about how they were treated?
  3. Can you think of a time when you or someone you know was discriminated against or dishonored because of race or cultural identity? What kinds of challenges do Native athletes face today?
  4. In what ways did Bender and Meyers show courage, integrity, teamwork, and perseverance? What do you think each of these players thought of as their greatest achievement?

Related Resources

Discussion Guide from Reading Is Fundamental 
Trading Card Creator from Read Write Think
American Indian Major League Baseball Players from Baseball Almanac
Library of Congress Baseball Card Collection
The Real Indians of Baseball from American Indian Magazine

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