The first Minnesotan elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 1953
The slider: it's one of the most effective tools in a pitcher's arsenal. A curveball with extra speed, it can throw off a batter's timing. Because it requires some nuanced wrist action, though, a slider can cause real wear and tear on a pitcher's forearm. Use it judiciously, and you can save a game. Use it too often, and you'd better grab an extra ice pack.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame credits Charles Albert Bender with inventing the slider. Like his patented pitch, Bender's life course was a circuitous one. He was born on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, one of at least eleven children in his family. At age seven, he left home to attend boarding school in Pennsylvania. At thirteen, he enrolled in Carlisle Indian School, where he was a member of his school's track, basketball, football, and baseball teams.
After graduating from Carlisle in 1902, Bender began pitching for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, semiprofessional team. Later that year, the legendary Connie Mack, who was then leading the Philadelphia Athletics, signed Bender to an $1,800 contract, and by the end of his rookie year he had won seventeen games. Throughout his major league career, which included 212 wins, his greatest strength was his consistent performance, especially under pressure. "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," Connie Mack once said, "Albert would be my man."
Bender's grace under pressure extended beyond his steady performance on the pitching mound. Though proud of his Ojibwe heritage, he was never fond of his nickname, "Chief," and endured hackneyed war cries from fans as he took the mound during games. After his shutout in the 1905 World Series brought him to national attention, he quietly stated his case to the press: "I do not want my name presented to the public as an Indian," he said, "but as a pitcher."
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