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Charles Albert "Chief" Bender (May 5, 1884May 22, 1954) was a pitcher in Major League Baseball during the first two decades of the 20th century. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 1953.

Early life

1903 E107 "Chief" Bender(Collection RC)

Bender was born in Crow Wing County, Minnesotamarker as a member of the Ojibwa tribe - he faced discrimination throughout his career, not least of which was the stereotyped nickname ("Chief") by which he is almost exclusively known today.

Baseball career

After graduating from Carlisle Indian Industrial School and attending Dickinson Collegemarker, Bender went on to a stellar career as a starting pitcher from 1903 to 1917, primarily with Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics (though with stints at the end of his career with the Baltimore Terrapins of the short-lived Federal League, the Philadelphia Phillies, and the Chicago White Sox).

Over his career, his win-loss record was 212-127, for a .625 winning percentage (a category in which he would lead the American League in three seasons). His talent was even more noticeable in the high-pressure environment of the World Series: in five trips to the championship series, he managed six wins and a 2.44 ERA. In the 1911 Series, he pitched three complete games, which tied Christy Mathewson's record of three complete games in a World Series. He also threw a no-hitter in 1910.

Bender was well liked by his fellow players. Longtime roommate and fellow pitcher Rube Bressler called him "One of the kindest and finest men who ever lived." Ty Cobb called him the most intelligent pitcher he ever faced. Bender was also known as one of the best sign-stealers of his time; Mack often put this skill to use by occasionally using him as the third-base coach on days he wasn't scheduled to pitch.

He was greatly respected for his quiet demeanor, and was well known for handling racial taunts gracefully. When fans heckled him or greeted him with war whoops on the field, he would answer them by cupping his hands around his mouth and shouting, "Foreigners! Foreigners!"

When the upstart Federal League offered him a significant increase in salary, Mack knew he couldn't hope to match it and released him. However, Bender went 4-16 for the Terrapins, and later regretted leaving Philadelphia.

After two years with the Phillies, he left baseball in 1918 to work in the shipyards during World War I. He came back to coach for the Chicago White Sox and even made a cameo appearance on the mound in 1925. But his heart remained tied to Philadelphiamarker. Mack kept him on the Athletics' payroll as a scout, minor league manager or coach from 1926 until Mack retired at the end of the 1950 season.

Bender was voted into the Hall of Fame in , less than one year before his death. In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time.

The Slider

The innovator of the slider is debated, but some credit Bender as the first to use the slider, then called a "nickel change", in the 1910s. Bender used his slider to help him achieve a no-hitter and win 212 games in his career.


  1. There is uncertainty about Bender's exact birthdate. He was voted the SABR "Centennial Celebrity" of 1983, as the best baseball player or figure born in 1883. However, the SABR Baseball Research Journal for 1983 acknowledges that there are discrepancies in records about Bender's birth year, ranging from 1883 to 1885. 1884 is the figure most often given.
  2. "WISCONSIN Magazine of History",Wisconsin Historical Society Press, Spring 2004 issue. Accessed July 8, 2007.
  3. "National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum: Hall of Famer detail",National Baseball Hall of Fame. Accessed July 8, 2007.

See also


  • Swift, Tom. Chief Bender's Burden: The Silent Struggle of a Baseball Star University of Nebraska Press(2008) ISBN 0803243219; ISBN 978-0803243217

External links

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