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Charles Albert "Chief" Bender (May 5, 1884[a 1] – May 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 Fame in 1953.
Bender was born in Crow Wing County, Minnesota as a member of the Ojibwa tribe - he faced discrimination throughout his career. He, like other players of American Indian heritage, was given the nickname of "Chief", by which he is almost exclusively known today
After graduating from Carlisle Indian Industrial School and attending Dickinson College, 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, thePhiladelphia 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 led the American League in three seasons) and a career 2.46 ERA. 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, completing 9 of the 10 games he started, putting him 2nd in World Series history behind Christy Mathewson. In the 1911 Series, he pitched three complete games to tie Christy Mathewson's record of three complete games in a World Series. He also threw a no-hitter on May 12, 1910 beating the Cleveland Indians 4-0.
In 1905 Bender went 18-11 with 2.83 ERA, helping the A's win the AL pennant, but they lost the World Series in five games to the New York Giants. Bender went 1-1, 1.06 ERA in the series, pitching a 4-hit, 3-0 complete game shutout in game 2, striking out 9, and again went the distance in game 5, giving up just two earned runs in eight innings and losing 2-0 to Christy Mathewson.
After solid seasons in 1906 (15-10, 2.53), 1907 (16-8, 2.05), 1908 (8-9 despite a 1.75 ERA) and 1909 (18-8, 1.66), he led the Athletics to the AL pennant in 1910 as Philadelphia went 102-48, 14 1/2 games ahead of the second-place New York Yankees. Bender led the AL in winning % at .821, going 23-5 with a 1.58 ERA. He went 1-1 with 1.93 ERA in the World Series as the A's beat, in five games, the Chicago Cubs, who had gone 104-50 in the regular season. Bender pitched a complete-game three-hitter in the opener, striking out 8 and giving up only one unearned run. He lost game 4 of the series in another complete game effort, 4-3 in 10 innings. Bender pitched all 9 2/3 innings for the Athletics, striking out 6.
In 1913 he led the AL in winning % again at .773 going 17-5 with a 2.16 ERA as the A's won their second consecutive AL pennant, going 101-50 and finishing 13 1/2 games ahead of the Detroit Tigers. In a rematch of the 1905 World Series, the Athletics got their revenge, defeating the New York Giants and becoming the first American League to win back-to-back World Series (the Chicago Cubs from the NL had won back-to-back titles in 1907 and 1908). After losing the opener 2-1 to Christy Mathewson, though pitching a complete game, giving up just 5 hits and 2 runs (1 earned run) and striking out 11, he returned in game 4, beating the Giants 4-2 on a complete game 7-hitter, and closed out the Series in game 6 with a 13-2 A's victory. Bender again went the distance (his 3rd complete game of the series), a 4-hit performance which he gave up no earned runs (the two Giants runs were unearned). He went 2-1, with 1.04 ERA and 3 complete games in the series.
After a 1912 season in which Bender was 13-8 with a 2.74 ERA, he went 21-10 with a 2.21 ERA in 1913, helping the A's win their third AL pennant in four years. They would also make it three World Series titles in four years by defeating the Giants in five games. Bender would go 2-0 in the series with complete-game victories in games 1 and 4.
He led the AL in winning % for the third time in 1914 at .850 going 17-3 with a 2.26 ERA, and the A's would win their 4th AL pennant in 5 years. But the Philadelphia would be swept by the underdog Boston Braves, with Bender losing game one 7-1 and giving up 6 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. It was the only World Series game he failed to finish after completing his previous nine starts in the fall classic.
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.
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 Philadelphia. 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 also terrific defensively and a very good athlete who was used at times as a pinch runner.
Bender was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1953, 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.