Jay Silverheels Was a Lacrosse Star Before he Was Tonto
A New York Times story published over the Labor Day weekend tells the history of Harry Smith, a Mohawk lacrosse star who went on to a boxing and then acting career as Jay Silverheels. The stage name is now synonymous with Tonto of the 1950s Lone Ranger television series, but the role isn't the only notable facet of Silverheels' legacy (the actor died in 1980). As the Times story tells it, Silverheels was among a group of Native lacrosse players who helped invent indoor lacrosse, a 7-on-7 version of the game also known as professional box lacrosse. The sport was conceived as a way for arenas that hosted professional hockey teams to make money during hockey's off-season, but soon caught on as a draw in its own right. Silverheels, with family members Beef, Porky, and Chubby Smith, played on teams throughout the northeast of the U.S. and eastern Canada, but a trip out west with a touring team set up Silverheels' second, and better known, act. In Los Angeles to play an exhibition game, Silverheels was spotted by a comedian who encouraged him to try the acting thing. A rich career followed, with roles in over 80 films and, of course, the famous turn as the Lone Ranger's sidekick.
For the full story, see "A Sidekick’s Little-Known Leading Role in Lacrosse" at nytimes.com.