Monday, August 10, 2009

Charles Bender is Money

My new car needs new engine. Bummer. It's under warranty (thank you dear, sweet Lord) so hopefully things will turn out.

In other news, I bring you my small Charles Albert Bender (1903-1917, 1925), AKA "Chief," collection. Connie Mack referred to Bender as the best "Money Pitcher" he'd ever had, as in if he had a single game to win, he'd want Bender on the mound. Those were some of baseball's All-Time great teams, with players like Frank "Home Run" Baker, "Gettysburg" Eddie Plank, and "Rube" Waddell, just to limit myself to naming a few players. And Mack felt Bender was his best pitcher.

Bender appeared in 5 World Series with Mack's A's, compiling pretty impressive stats: 6-4 with a 2.44 ERA. The ERA would be a lot lower save for the infamous 1914 game against the miracle Boston Braves, in which he gave up 8 hits and 6 earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. He and other A's players were suspected of negotiating contracts to jump to the startup, rebel Federal League before the series began, and so many felt he and other A's players conspired to throw the series, whether under the influence of gamblers or due to plain indifference. Both of the great recent Bender bios, Chief Bender's Burden and Money Pitcher, offer excellent portraits of the moment, but neither offers anything conclusive proof.

Like a lot of pitchers from that era, Bender threw a lot of innings, doing things like starting the opening game of a double-header and relieving the second. Like a lot of them, he often pitched hurt. If there's an argument against the Nolan Ryan, ESPN school of "we used to throw a ton of innings and it had no effect on us," it's to be found in the careers of pitchers like Bender and others, the original old schoolers.

Like I said before, he went on to be a mentor to CCC favorite Bobby Shantz. Bender is often credited with inventing the slider, though he didn't have a name for it.

Bender's story also highlights a lot of the difficulties Native Americans faced at the turn of the century and continue to face today. He was "white enough" to play, but not "white enough" that he escaped being heckled with war whoops when he pitched or, like John Meyers, being dubbed "Chief." Bender, or so the story goes, would respond by calling them "foreigners."

I'll go deeper into these cards another day, but here are my Bender cardboards.
The front of this T205 is great, the back is interesting, but you don't get all the text!
To borrow a phrase from Capt'n Canuck, this card went though the wash with a pocketful of poker chips, but we get the full text. Turns out Bender was also a great hitter, too.

Finally, this T207, not quite as pretty as the T205, but a solid card nonetheless.
Have a great one!

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