Historical Markers
Charles Albert Bender Historical Marker
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Charles Albert Bender

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Indian Field, Carlisle Barracks

Dedication Date:
October 17, 2003

Behind the Marker

Baseball legend Ty Cobb called Athletics hurler Chief Bender the "brainiest pitcher" he ever saw, and offered this tale to back it up. At a crucial moment in the 1911 World Series - when the A's
Chief Bender pitching
Chief Bender pitching
beat the Giants in six games and Bender won two of them - Bender made a big show of waving his outfield to the right with two strikes against New York catcher Chief Meyers. A right-handed, fastball hitter, Meyers presumed an outside curveball was on its way, which was exactly what Bender wanted him to think. Instead, Bender busted him over the middle with heat and froze him - for a called strike three. "Pure skullduggery," said Cobb with respect.

Charles Albert Bender was, by all accounts, a remarkable individual. "One of the kindest and finest men who ever lived," said teammate Rube Bressler. The son of a Chippewa mother and a German settler, Bender was born in 1883 in Crow Wing County, MN, and grew up on an Indian reservation. Wanting more for their son, his parents sent the eight-year-old Bender to a Quaker school and farm in Philadelphia. When he was thirteen, Bender left the reservation for good and came back to Pennsylvania to enroll in the famed markerCarlisle Indian School (the same school that kicked off Jim Thorpe's sporting legend a few years later). At Carlisle, he starred in baseball and football, and excelled academically in the classroom. He graduated in 1902 and proceeded to Dickinson College, playing semi-pro baseball under an assumed name to pay for his college education.

Within a year he was playing for Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics - under a moniker he didn't like. Attitudes of the day compelled Native Americans to endure certain prejudices and insults, and from the start of his professional career, Bender was called "Chief." Though Bender stoically accepted the title with good grace, tolerating the war chants and whoops from appreciative fans in Philadelphia and elsewhere, he was not happy with the nickname. When fans or opposing teams rode him about his heritage, the good-natured Bender simply dismissed them as "foreigners." Mack, who
Baseball card
Baseball card of "Chief Bender"
respected Bender as much as he did any player who ever toiled for the Athletics, always referred to him by his middle name "Albert."

For his eleven seasons with the A's, he dismissed the hitters who stood before him with remarkable efficiency. An accomplished oil painter off the field, he was an artist on the mound, twice winning more than twenty games and three times leading American League pitchers in winning percentage. In high-pressure games, Bender - more than Hall of Fame teammates markerRube Waddell and markerEddie Plank - was the pitcher Mack wanted to give the ball to. "If I had all the men I've ever handled," said Mack, late in his half-century run atop the A's, "and they were in their prime and there was only one game I wanted to win above all others... Albert would be my man."

And Charles Albert Bender, with his solid fastball, hard curve, superb control, and keen intelligence, came through. He shut out the Giants for the only A's victory in the 1905 World Series, when the Giants' marker Christy Mathewson shut them out an amazing three times. Bender pitched in six World Series overall, winning the clincher in 1911. Between 1908 and 1910, his ERA never topped 1.75. In 1910, Bender pitched a no-hitter, his only one, and won fourteen games in a row in 1914. Mack so appreciated Bender's baseball skills that he found a way to involve Bender in games even when he wasn't pitching. Mack regularly installed Bender in the third base coach's box to utilize Bender's strategic savvy and uncanny knack for stealing opponents' signals.
Chief Bender warming up in 1909.
Chief Bender warming up in 1909.

In 1914, the Athletics faced the Boston Braves in the World Series. Although heavily favored, the A's lost the Fall Classic in four straight. Mack pulled Bender from the mound in the sixth inning of the first game - the only one in which he pitched. Rumors were rife that the Athletics had "laid down" for the World Series. Several of the team's stars already knew that they were headed for the newly formed Federal League in 1915, lured there by the prospect of fatter paychecks. Although nothing ever came of these suspicions, Mack released pitchers Bender, Eddie Plank, and Jack Coombs after the 1914 season. Both Bender and Plank wound up pitching in the Federal League in 1915.

Initially happy about jumping leagues for more money, Bender later regretted his decision. The Federal League collapsed after the 1915 season. Bender returned to Philadelphia in 1916 and 1917 for two more productive seasons with the cross-town Phillies. He then retired, leaving active play with a career ledger of 212-127. He never left the game, though. For the rest of Bender's life, he managed, scouted, and coached at various levels from college (at the United States Naval Academy) to the majors, including several seasons coaching under Mack at markerShibe Park, the stadium he once starred in. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1953, a year before his death in Philadelphia.
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