The Birthday of Charles Albert "Chief" Bender, Minnesota's First Hall of Famer
by, 05-05-2013 at 05:44 AM (296 Views)
Before there was a Winfield, a Molitor, or a Mauer, there was a Bender.
Charles Albert "Chief" Bender was born in Crow Wing County on May 5th, 1884. He bounced between his home on the White Earth Reservation, and various boarding schools. At a teenager, Bender was recruited by the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle Pennsylvania, the first of many off-reservation boarding schools. Carlisle is perhaps most known for it's resident coach, Pop Warner, and his star player, Jim Thorpe.
Bender attended Dickinson College, also in Carlisle, before turning pro. He pitched for Connie Mack's Philadephia Athletics from 1903 to 1917.
Bender pitched during an era of entrenched prejudice, and open racism. The definitive biography, that chronicles Bender's early years and his big break, was written by Tom Swift. It is aptly titled, Chief Bender's BurdenThe Silent Struggle of a Baseball Star. Chief Bender's Burden - University of Nebraska Press
Swift has a wonderful short biography on Charles "Chief" Bender on the SABR website: Chief Bender | SABR
A nugget from Swift's bio: "Bender is known foremost for a rare ability to pitch under pressure. 'If I had all the men Iíve ever handled, and they were in their prime, and there was one game I wanted to win above all others,' said Philadelphia Athletics icon Connie Mack, who managed fellow all-time pitching greats Lefty Grove, Herb Pennock, Eddie Plank, and Rube Waddell, 'Albert would be my man.'"
Albert Bender is also credited by some as inventing the slider. He won 212 games over his Hall of Fame career.
Again, from Swift's biography: "Benderís life partner was Marie (Clement) Bender, whom he married in 1904. The coupleís marriage, which lasted nearly 50 years, did not produce any children. In 1953, Bender became the first Minnesota-born player enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and he remained the only one until Dave Winfield joined him in 2001. On May 22, 1954, the year following the vote, Bender died, a few weeks shy of his 71st birthday and a few weeks before his induction ceremony."