Chief Bender was usually Connie Mack's choice for big games, and led the A's to five World Series. He put together a five-year Hall of Fame run, from 1907 to 1911, where he won 82 against 35 losses, and finished in the top 5 in the AL ERA race three times. For the rest of his career, he was a solid pitcher, eating a lot of innings and letting the Philadelphia A sluggers (guys like Eddie Collins and Home Run Baker) put up big offensive numbers to give him wins.
Bender, for many years the only American Indian elected to the Hall of Fame, boldly created his own opportunities in a world still basically hostile toward his race. His father was a German settler in Minnesota, his mother a Chippewa. He grew up on a reservation, and was sent to a church-run school in Philadelphia when he was eight. After being returned to his mother, he bolted the reservation at 13 to attend the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania.
He accepted his Indian identity, stoically doffing his cap to cheers for "The Chief," but signed autographs "Charley Bender." Being an Indian gave him separate glamour among the sons of white immigrants with whom he played, and small boys whooped their admiration. But it was his pitching skills that made him stand out.
He finished with 212 career wins.
Picture from National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Inc.
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