Born: May 5, 1884 Crow Wing County, Minnesota
Died: May 22, 1954 (aged 70) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Weight: 185 lbs.
Philadelphia Athletics (1903–1914)
Baltimore Terrapins (1915)
Philadelphia Phillies (1916–1917)
Chicago White Sox (1925)
American Indian. Innovator. Renaissance man. Charles Albert “Chief” Bender lived a unique American life, fashioned a Hall of Fame career, and was an important member of modern baseball’s first dynasty. He silently struggled against racial prejudice, became a student of the game, and was a lifetime baseball man. His legacy, however, is less nuanced than all of that. Bender is known foremost for a rare ability to pitch 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,” said Philadelphia Athletics icon Connie Mack, who managed fellow all-time pitching greats Lefty Grove, Herb Pennock, Eddie Plank, and Rube Waddell, “Albert would be my man.”
For nearly the entire second half of the 20th century Bender was the lone Minnesota representative in the Baseball Hall of Fame. That he is no longer a household name in the North Star State is in part because he spent so little time in Minnesota and because some details about that time remain unclear. Bender’s birthday, for one, is not certain. His birth certificate, registered decades after the fact, says May 3, 1883. Other sources list May 5, 1883. Based on the federal Indian census and on Bender’s school records, the correct year, almost certainly, is 1884. Many sources list his birthplace as Brainerd but that is likely inaccurate. According to research on Bender’s early years conducted by researcher Robert Tholkes, within a year of Charley’s birth the family lived in an area close to Partridge Lake, 20 miles east of Brainerd. No town existed on the site at the time. So it is most accurate to say that Bender was born in Crow Wing County.