“New Mexico’s Pueblo Baseball League” by James D. Baker, Herbert Howell and Marie Cordero (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99)

Baker and Howell will discuss the book at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 7 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, 2401 12th NW. A book signing follows their talk. The event is free and open to the public.

By David Steinberg

Baseball is more than a game for the people of many of New Mexico’s pueblos.

It’s an opportunity for members of pueblo communities to get together.

“The games are social events. The teams don’t hold practices, don’t hold tryouts. They don’t cut anybody from the team,” said Herbert Howell, co-author of the newly published book “New Mexico’s Pueblo Baseball League.”

“There is that sense of camaraderie within a team.”

Howell said the players on teams are often related; they can be cousins, brothers, grandfathers, nephews.

In that context, Howell recalled a lineup card one team handed him.

“The card just had first names. The coach said all the last names were the same,” said Howell, who umpired pueblo games from 1992 to 2009.

Howell and co-author James D. Baker will talk about the book and autograph copies of it on Saturday, March 7 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center.

Travis Suazo, the cultural center’s executive director, was quoted in a press release about the book as saying that “the dynamic family and community spirit defines the game, with players competing for family and pueblo rather than individual recognition.”

The book is filled with archival photographs plus captions and text that reveal the history of baseball as played at many pueblos.

“We found that Isleta Pueblo has been playing since 1900, that we could document,” Howell said. “Isleta and Cochiti had the earliest teams. … Leagues weren’t formed until after World War II.”

In several decades before leagues formed, pueblo teams played nonIndian teams. Cochiti, for example, played games at the state penitentiary in the 1930s, Howell said.

Currently, there are two leagues. One league has teams from the Northern Pueblos.

Ohkay Owingeh has four teams and Santa Clara, San Ildefonso and Tesuque each has one team, Howell said.

The Southern league, which has two divisions, has teams representing Santa Ana, San Felipe, Jemez, Sandia, Santo Domingo, Cochiti, Laguna and Isleta.

Howell umpired in the leagues from 1992 toy 2009. An Oregon resident, he retired from the city of Albuquerque where he worked in city planning and human resources. He has also taught at the University of New Mexico and at New Mexico Tech.

Baker is retired, too. He was an executive for a multimedia research company and became interested in photography. That interest eventually led to the new book on Pueblo baseball.

He and his wife were heading to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument and were passing through Cochiti Pueblo when Baker spotted a baseball field. “The governor approved my taking photographs of the field,” he recalled.

“The governor also said he has pictures of Cochiti baseball games dating from 1933. They were of poor quality, had creases in them. I restored them.”

Baker was invited to photograph a Cochiti baseball game and was given 22 more archival photos of pueblo teams and players.

Then he contacted a friend in Chicago who had written a newspaper article about an all-star game between Pueblo and Navajo teams in the early 2000s.

The friend, Baker said, suggested that he send the information about the league to Arcadia Publishing and that he also contact Howell, who was a mutual friend.

“Native American baseball began in New Mexico,” Baker asserted.

He said it goes back well before 1900, back when Navajos in the mid-1860s were imprisoned at Bosque Redondo and witnessed soldiers playing the game. Navajos took up baseball, Baker said.

He believes their book is the first to document baseball at the pueblos, in photographs and text, from its origins to the present.

Marie Cordero of Cochiti is listed as the book’s third co-author.