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Chief Bender

Chief Bender

Position(s):
1B, OF, P, 2B, 3B
Born:
May 5, 1884
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 2"
Weight:
185 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-20-1903 with PHA
Hall of Fame:
1953

Intro

Chief Bender won six games and lost four in five World Series and posted two victories each in the 1911 and 1913 fall classics. He was Connie Mack's "go-to" starter, often matching against the league's best hurlers. Winning 180 games before he was 30 years old, his career ended rather prematurely after he jumped to the rebel Federal League.

Minor Leages

1919: Richmond (Virginia League) 1920-1921, 1924: New Haven (Eastern League) 1922: Reading (International Association) 1923: Baltimore Orioles (International Association) 1927: Johnstown (Middle Atlantic League) After working in a World War I shipyard in 1918, Bender managed Richmond of the Virginia League in 1919 and claimed 29 victories against only two defeats. Chief was 35 years old at the time. He later called this his finest achievement in baseball. He won 25 games the next season for New Haven in the Eastern League. When he was 43 in 1927, Bender went 7-3 with a 1.33 ERA in 18 games in the Middle Atlantic League.

Replaced By

With the A's in 1915, after Bender had hopped to the Federal League, his replacement was Rube Bressler.

Best Season

The tall Indian went 23-5, leading the league in win/loss percentage. He completed 25 starts, with three shutouts (including his only no-hitter), and an ERA of 1.58. He also batted .269 with 16 RBI.

Factoid 1

Bender managed the Naval Academy baseball team in 1930.

Transition

Signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Terrapins of the Deferal League in March, 1915. After the season, he signed with the Phillies. He retired following the 1917 campaign, but had one appearance in 1925 with the White Sox, for whom he had been coaching.

Strengths

Location of his fastball.

Weaknesses

None really, Bender was a very good athlete without a glaring weakness. Decades before Kordell Stewart popularized the slash terminology to describe versatile play, Bender was filling in for Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's. With the A's, Bender played eight games in the infield and six in the outfield and was also called on to pinch-hit for fellow pitchers and sometimes even position players. He was known as a good base runner and an expert at stealing signs. One source claims he was the best bunter on the A's. On May 5, 1906, Bender hit his first career home run. Three days later Mack inserted Bender in left field in the sixth inning and the pitcher responded with two inside-the-park homers off Boston's Jesse Tannehill.

Feats

In July and August of 1907, Bender won 11 straight games to help the A's stay on the heels of the Detroit Tigers in a tight pennant race. The Tigers eventually won… On September 18, 1909, Bender faced Detroit's Wild Bill Donovan in Philadelphia in front of 35,409 fans, the largest paying crowd in baseball history at the time. Bender blanked the Tigers 2.0, keeping the A's in the pennant chase, which they would eventually lose… Bender threw his only no-hitter on May 12, 1910, a 4–0 victory over Cleveland. Chief narrowly missed a perfect game with one walk. Five days later Bender followed his no-hit performance with a four-hit shutout of the White Sox.

Don't Call Me Chief

Bender disliked the name "Chief," which was a racial slur similar to calling a young black person "boy." He always signed his name "Charles" or "Charley" Bender. Connie Mack called him by his middle name, Albert. The Giants' star catcher John Meyers was also called "Chief" despite his disdain for the name.

Carlisle Indian School

From 1898 to 1901, Bender (born Charles Albert Bender) attended Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the first U.S. Government off-reservation boarding school for American Indian children. The school, established in 1879, provided an educational setting for more than 12,000 Native American students until the school closed in 1918. Bender's younger brother John Charles also went to the school, and the siblings both starred in baseball and football.

The Thirty-Something Blues

After winning 180 games prior to his 30th birthday (May 5, 1914), Bender went 32-28 in his thirties, finishing with 212 career victories. There are lots of reasons this happened, including the demise of the first A's dynasty, but the biggest reason was that pitchers in that era often burned out in their 30s, since off-season conditioning was virtually unheard of. Twice during his stay with the Athletics, Bender was suspended for being out of shape. In 1912 he was sent home for the final month of the season.

Big Game Pitcher

Bender pitched the September 18, 1909, game in Philadelphia against Detroit in front of 35,409, the largest crowd to see a baseball game to that point in history. Again in the 1911 World Series Bender pitched in front of 38,281 fans in game one against Christy Mathewson in the Polo Grounds. That crowd also set an attendance record.

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Tagged:
Chief Bender, Hall of Fame, Philadelphia Athletics

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