Sunday, May 22, 2005
May 22nd, 1954
Charles Bender Dies
Charles Bender was better known--and elected to the Hall of Fame as--"Chief" Bender, but he hated the name (his long-time manager Connie Mack always referred to him as "Albert", his middle name) so I'll take a pass on referring to him by it. Bender is, according to Microsoft's Encarta "credited with inventing the slider" although I can't imagine by whom; Bender himself never threw a slider, and while he did teach it to Bucky Walters in 1935, by that time Red Ruffing was having sucess with the pitch.
It is a shame that Bender is miscredited with the invention of the slider, as there are plenty of interesting and true things one can say about him. Bender, for one thing, is the best nineteen year old pitcher of all-time. This seems absurd at first blush, but there were some pretty good nineteen year olds. Dwight Gooden's 1984 (17-9, 2.60) for example, but Bender was the best, despite pitching for a fairly mediocre team. Bender does have one invention to his credit; it was he who dubbed Clyde Milan "deerfoot," and while the name was sarcastic, it wasn't because Milan was slow (to the contrary, he could fly) it was because Bender was implying Milan was an earlier version of Tony Womack, all he could do was run.
Bender is also notable for his brother, John. While Charles was pretty much a good guy--he coached at the US Navel Academy and worked in a shipyard during the First World War--John was...not so much. In 1908 John was pitching in the minor leagues. During an argument, John decide to channel his inner Latreel Sprewell, with a bit of Marty Bergen, and slashed his manager Win Clark, which earned him a two year suspension. A few years later, he died while in left-field, another unfortuante honor for the lesser Bender.
Charles Albert, meanwhile, died relatively peacefully after an extensive career as a scout and coach--it is a shame he never wrote a book as he was involed in the American League in one capacity or another for virtually the entire first half of the century. He is also in the Hall of Fame, and while not the worst pitcher there (it's Rube Marquard, whom I've now twice labled as such without any explanation, I will do that someday, I promise). He's another who must prompt Bert Blyleven to consider getting gas cans and just torching the place.