Charles Albert Bender

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Winning Nomination

Charles Albert Bender was an Ojibwe Indian born in Minnesota who had a storied career as a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies Major League Baseball franchise. Some of his notable accomplishments include nine complete games in World Series, including being the first to pitch three complete games in a single World Series, a no-hit game, and owning the best winning percentage in the American League in three separate seasons.

His reputation was such that his long-time manager Connie Mack said about him, "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 would be my man."

He transformed the game of baseball by inventing the nickel curve, or slider. This pitch is the major element in the arsenal of many pitchers today. But his impact was much greater than the creation of a new pitch.

Bender was often subjected to bigotry and racial taunts--consider that he arrived in the major leagues a mere thirteen years after the massacre at Wounded Knee. Bender handled such incidents with dignity and grace, and in the words of a teammate, was one of the kindest and finest men who ever lived.

He also stood out by being one of the most versatile, intelligent, and well-educated men to play the game of baseball. In addition, he was an expert trap shooter, billiard, and card player.

As a result of his exemplary life on and off the field, Charles Albert Bender was the first Native American inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame. He also paved the way for other Native Americans who played Major League baseball in the first half of the 20th century.
~Matt Bjurstrom, Eden Prairie, MN




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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