Charles Albert "Chief" Bender is regarded as one of the best pitchers of all time. He was born on May 5, 1884 in Crow Wing County, Minnesota.
He was a member of the Ojibwa Tribe. Because of that, he faced lots of discrimination from racists, especially rednecks. Also, he got the nickname "Chief" for that.
Bender graduated from Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania and overcame discrimination and a derisive nickname to become one of the best pitchers of all time.
His dad was a German settler and his mom was a Chippewa. He grew up on a reservation and was sent to a Church school at the age of eight. After being returned to his mother, he went to Carlisle at the age of 13.
While many people would try to, he did not hide his identity. He tried to make comedy out of it. He called everybody that wasn't Indian "foreigner"! Despite being nicknamed Chief, he signed autographs willingly by the name of "Charley Bender".
His nickname made him stand out in a crowd. But what made him stand out in a crowd even more was his pitching abilities.
Chief Bender was known by most as a great man, a great friend and a great pitcher. By most, he was known as a great pitcher.
I'm writing this because it is nice to write about people who overcame obstacles to become great. People like that are Bender, Three Finger Brown, Babe Ruth, Jim Abbott, Jim Palmer and others.
Chief Bender pitched for Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics from 1903 to 1914 and was incredible. As a rookie, he had 17 wins and a 3.07 ERA. He was not really a power pitcher, with just 1,711 strikeouts in 3,017 innings. However, he walked just 712 and an incredibly low 2.46 ERA.
Despite having just two 20 win seasons in a time period where 20 was not all that scarce, you could basically call him Steady Charley.
When healthy, he could be the best pitcher in the league. In 1910, he had 23 wins compared to just five losses and a 1.58 ERA. The next year, he was 17-5 with an ERA of 2.16. His career winning percentage was an incredible .625!
While with the Philadelphia Athletics, his average season was: 17 wins, nine losses and a 2.32 earned run average.
After some tension between him and A's management, he asked manager Connie Mack if he could transfer to the Federal League. Mack gave him permission and Bender later admitted it was the worst decision he ever made. He was on a terrible Baltimore Terrapins team. He had a 3.99 ERA, which should be good for a winning record. He got little run support and went 4-16. He smartly decided to come back to Major League Baseball and that was smart. He came to back to Philly-to play for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was 7-7 with a 3.74 ERA in his first season. In his last season, he was 8-2 with a 1.67 earned run average
.625 winning percentage
2.44 Playoff ERA
Manager Connie Mack, who was shy to give compliments publicly, said: "If I had all the men I've ever handled and they were in their prime and there was one game I wanted to win above all others, Albert (Chief Bender) would be my man."
Bender died in 1954 a year after going to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Nice going away present, huh?