April 22, 1922: WMB, a radio station owned by the Auburn Electrical Co., makes Maine’s first radio broadcast by transmitting an Arbor Day speech.

The station, one of only 24 government-licensed stations in the nation, goes off the air after a few years.

April 22, 1976: A bomb explodes at the Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston, injuring 22 people. That blast and several others – three in the Boston area that year, another the previous year at the statehouse in Boston, and many others in the Northeast in following years – are attributed to a domestic terrorist group that calls itself the United Freedom Front, co-founded by Maine native Raymond Luc Levasseur, originally from Sanford.

Louis Sockalexis. 1912 photo postcard.

The group’s members eventually are arrested and convicted of conspiracy, murder, attempted murder and other charges. Levasseur and his wife, Pat, are arrested Nov. 4, 1984, in Deerfield, Ohio. Levasseur is sentenced to 45 years in prison, but is released on parole in November 2004, having served less than half that time.

April 22, 1897: Professional baseball player Louis Sockalexis (1871-1913) makes his major league debut as an outfielder with the National League’s Cleveland Spiders. He is likely the first Native American and first recognized minority in the big leagues.

Sockalexis, a member of the Penobscot tribe who was born at the tribe’s Indian Island reservation in Maine, had a stellar college baseball career at Holy Cross and Notre Dame, often in the face of racist taunts from other players, sports writers and fans.

He becomes an overnight sensation as a major leaguer. In his first season, he bats .338 with three home runs and 16 stolen bases.

However, alcoholism and injury hobble his playing, and Cleveland releases him just after the start of the 1899 season after only 94 major league games. (For other reasons, the team racks up the worst win-loss record in the history of the majors – 20-134 – then disbands at the end of the season.)

Native American Louis Sockalexis endured jeers, war whoops and other derision in the years he played for the Cleveland Spiders. Photo courtesy Penobscot Nation

Sockalexis dies in 1913 of a heart attack while cutting down a pine tree during a logging operation in the Maine woods in Burlington.

Cleveland’s recollection of him gets a boost when its American League team, founded in 1900 and called the Naps, is renamed in 1915. Its new name is the Indians, the same name that a Cleveland newspaper tried to impose on the Spiders in 1897 after Sockalexis’ arrival. More than a century later, Cleveland’s team still is called the Indians.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]


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