TV Review – ESPN’s “Deerfoot of the Diamond” is a Powerful Look at a Piece of Forgotten Baseball History

The history of the game of baseball goes back a very long time and encompasses all kinds of different stories. Some are obviously more well known than others, but that doesn’t mean that some of those lesser known was haven’t had a massive impact on the history of the game. ESPN’s Deerfoot of the Diamond, a 30 for 30 short, tells the story of Louis Sockalexis, the inspiration of the long-running and problematic nickname for the Cleveland baseball team.

The 2022 Major League Baseball season marked the first for the Cleveland Guardians, the new name for the former Cleveland Indians. Deerfoot of the Diamond tells the story of Louis Sockalexis, the man who inspired that name and the tragedy the cut his career short before he could reach his seemingly limitless potential.

There are actually almost two different stories being told here. In addition to the story of Sockalexis, the nearly-30-minute doc also examines the Cleveland franchise’s controversial decision to change the name of the team. We get to see several people voice their opinions for both sides of the argument and see the impact the name had on everyone.

Some of the more powerful moments of the doc come from those whose lives were affected by the caricature-like mascot of the franchise and the assumptions that came with the name. However, outside of a few moments, this element of the 30 for 30 short really blended in with a lot of other recent documentaries that cover similar topics and failed to stand out in that sense.

What sets Deerfoot of the Diamond apart is the story of Sockalexis himself. It’s likely that even most lifelong baseball fans have never heard of this player or his heartbreaking story. It is told here from a lot of different perspectives and even excerpts from interviews with Sockalexis himself.

Viewers can very quickly go from never having heard of this player to becoming very invested in his playing career and, more importantly, his life. It’s a fascinating story and it is very well told here. The consequences of this player’s history eventually spilled out into the other side of this documentary, but it’s the story of the man that really set it apart.

Overall, Deerfoot of the Diamond is an important watch for baseball fans. It’s not just the well-documented issues with the Cleveland franchise’s nickname, which is always worth educating yourself on, but also the story of the man who inspired the name. If you’re not familiar with the name Louis Sockalexis, and most are not, it’s a big piece of baseball history at which you should take a closer look. This doc has a fascinating story to tell and it tells it very well, which should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the 30 for 30 series.

Deerfoot of the Diamond debuts September 27 on ESPN and will be made available on ESPN+ immediately after its premiere.