Charles Bender

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Charles Albert Bender

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1953

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Biographical Information[edit]


Hall of Famer Charles Bender won 212 games in sixteen years in the majors and is best remembered a member of the great Philadelphia Athletics rotation of the early 1900s that also included Rube Waddell, Eddie Plank, and Jack Coombs. His brother, John Bender, played professionally as well. He is also sometimes called Albert Bender.

Bender was a half-Chippewa Indian from Minnesota and attended the Carlisle Indian School, which is why he was often called "Chief" Bender, a nickname applied to just about any player with Native American heritage - real or suspected - in those days. He debuted in the majors with the Athletics as a 19-year-old in 1903 and threw a four-hit shutout versus the New York Highlanders to win his first game. He later threw a no-hitter on May 12, 1910, against the Cleveland Naps. In a dozen years with the Athletics, he twice won 20 games and three times finished the season with an ERA below 2.00. Philadelphia reached the World Series five times with him on the club and won three world championships. In the postseason, Albert (as manager Connie Mack always called him, though Bender himself signed autographs as "Charley") won 6 of 10 starts, throwing complete games in 9 of them. Bender jumped to the Baltimore Terrapins of the Federal League in 1915 but did not find much success, going 4-16 in one year. He returned to Philadelphia in 1916, this time as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies, but he did not duplicate his earlier success, going 15-9 over the course of two seasons. According to the book The Pitcher, Ty Cobb called Bender the "brainiest pitcher" he ever saw.

In 1906, he homered in a win on May 5th, then on May 8th, replaced LF Topsy Hartsel midway through a game against the Boston Americans and proceeded to hit two more homers. That gave him a share of the American League lead with teammate Harry Davis, until May 17th, when Davis hit his fourth long ball of the year. As for Bender, he wouldn't hit his next homer until 1914.

In 1907, he umpired one American League game.

After his playing days, Bender was a coach for the Chicago White Sox in 1925 and 1926 while former teammate Eddie Collins was the club's manager, and he also pitched one inning of one game for the Sox in 1925. He was later on the staff of the New York Giants in 1931 and the Athletics from 1951 to 1954. He was also the head coach at the United States Naval Academy from 1924 to 1928 and a scout for the Athletics from 1945 to 1954. Additionally, he spent several seasons as a minor league manager.

Off the diamond, he was a champion trapshooter at a time when the sport was very popular among ballplayers. He was often pitted in lucrative shooting exhibitions in the offseason and, in November 1915, performed a tour of 18 cities in 20 days in which a team of four ballplayers was pitted against the best local shooters from each location. Bender teamed up with Doc Crandall, Christy Mathewson and Harry Davis and easily outperformed all of them. The tour was extremely successful and drew record crowds at its various stops. He took an offseason off from trapshooting in 1911 while he performed in a vaudeville show entitled Learning the Game alongside teammates Jack Coombs and Cy Morgan.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in its 1953 election as one of the first candidates enshrined by the Committee on Baseball Veterans. However, he died a few months before his induction, which took place in August 1954. In 1991, Bender was posthumously added to the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame.

Discrepancies persist about Bender's birth year and birth date. His sister produced a birth certificate (obtained in 1942) which said he was born on May 3, 1883 (as described in the SABR 1983 Research Journal), and his obits in 1954 said he was 71. Also, SABR elected him as the Centennial Celebrity of 1983 (best baseball player or figure born in 1883).

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time AL Winning Percentage Leader (1910, 1911 & 1914)
  • 2-time AL Saves Leader (1906 & 1913)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 9 (1903, 1905-1907, 1909-1911, 1913 & 1914)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 2 (1910 & 1913)
  • 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 9 (1903-1907, 1909-1911 & 1913)
  • Won three World Series with the Philadelphia Athletics (1910, 1911 & 1913)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1953

Year-by-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1919 Richmond Colts Virginia League 2nd none none replaced Frank Dobson
1920 New Haven Weissmen Eastern League 79-61 1st none none League Champs
1921 New Haven Indians Eastern League 81-72 4th none none
1922 Reading Aces International League 71-93 6th none none
1927 Johnstown Johnnies Middle Atlantic League 6th none replaced Babe Adams
1928 Richmond Colts Virginia League 0-0 3rd (t) none League disbanded on June 5 Replaced Ed Mooers (5-2) on June 3.
Johnstown Johnnies Middle Atlantic League 6th none replaced Mike Thompson July 7.
1932 Erie Sailors Central League -- New York Yankees replaced by Bill McCorry July 4.
1940 Wilmington Blue Rocks Interstate League 29-29 -- Philadelphia Athletics replaced by Charlie Berry (39-23) on July 5
1941 Newport News Pilots Virginia League 58-58 5th Philadelphia Athletics
1946 Savannah Indians South Atlantic League 30-39 -- Philadelphia Athletics replaced by Lena Blackburne (25-42) on July 3.

Further Reading[edit]

  • William C. Kashatus: Money Pitcher: Chief Bender and the Tragedy of Indian Assimilation, Keystone Books, Penn State University Press, University Park, PA, 2006.
  • Tom Swift: Chief Bender's Burden: The Silent Struggle of a Baseball Star, Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2008. ISBN 978-0803214989
  • Robert D. Warrington: "Chief Bender: A Marksman at the Traps and on the Mound", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 45, Number 2 (Fall 2016), pp. 84-94.
  • Robert Peyton Wiggins: Chief Bender: A Baseball Biography, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2010. ISBN 978-0-7864-4229-4

Related Sites[edit]