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Chief Bender's Burden: The Silent Struggle of a Baseball Star Hardcover – April 1, 2008

4.9 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Charles Albert “Chief” Bender was raised on an Indian reservation in Minnesota, attended the Carlisle Indian School—think Jim Thorpe—and pitched his way into the Hall of Fame with the Philadelphia Athletics from 1903 to 1914. Swift’s carefully researched portrait of Bender reveals a life and career characterized by hard work, dignity, and success but always shadowed—especially early on—by prejudice. No achievement could stand on its merits but was always modified by Bender’s race (“good pitcher, for an Indian”). Sure, times were different, but people weren’t, and Bender was stung by the condescension. Yet he put it in behind him, and after his major-league career ended, he spent many of the subsequent years playing and managing in the minor leagues. In Swift’s hands, Bender’s life unfolds gradually, as though he were a character in a novel, and the prejudice he experienced, though never justified, is set within the context of the times. Carefully researched—and documented—as well as stylishly written (uncommon in the genre), this belongs in most baseball collections. --Wes Lukowsky

Review

An entertaining, absorbing read. Tom Swift paints a vivid portrait of Charles Chief Bender, an American Indian who rose to baseball stardom in the early 1900s and conquered mighty opponents as he silently struggled to cope with the effects of virulent prejudice. Swift breathes life into a long-dead hero who merits remembrance. --Tom Stanton, author of Ty and the Babe and The Final Season

Vividly written and carefully crafted, this book charges like a steam train, fueled by compassion and puffing with rousing courage. --Tom Adelman, author of The Long Ball

Meticulously researched and eloquently written, Chief Bender's Burden brings alive a true master of America s game. Bender's rise from the playing fields of the Carlisle Indian School to the Baseball Hall of Fame is fascinating and inspiring. One contemporary commentator called him the coolest pitcher in the game, and this is the coolest book on the shelf. --Bill Crawford, author of All American: The Rise and Fall of Jim Thorpe
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 346 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Nebraska Pr (April 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803243219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803243217
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,700,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Chief Bender's Burden reads like a novel. Swift's style is fluid and never dull. He has managed to reconstruct Bender's life through impeccable research. The book's most exciting parts are the play-by-play of games Bender pitched. Details, including which pitches Bender threw, make this book an excellent read. What is most impressive is the daunting task of research included in telling Bender's story. Yet, Swift does not get bogged down in details and allows the story to unfold in a natural manner.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Tom Swift has written an outstanding book that shows how Bender's life story is about more than just baseball...It's about the experience of Native Americans during Bender's era. His book is an exciting and informative read that should be of great interest to both baseball fans and students of American history. As one who uses baseball history in education, I warmly recommend it.

Rabbi Shmuel Jablon, [...]
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Format: Hardcover
Speaking as a former archivist, "Chief Bender's Burden" is an archivist's dream: well researched with an exquisitely detailed bibliographic essay, and an index! But more than that, it is a book lover's dream. It is the brilliantly written story of a unique American, "the pitcher who looked in the face of pressure and winked." Author Swift replays the Deadball Era games with the enthusiasm of a modern day radio announcer. The inclusion of Bender's quotes on page 128 and 211, and paragraph one on page 275 alone make this book a gem. More than baseball history, it is pathos and glory and inspiration.
Beverly Hermes
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Format: Hardcover
It took a swift kick in the pants for Albert "Chief" Bender and his brother to leave home in northern Minnesota on a train to Pennsylvania to find a new life. Author Tom Swift has meticulously researched the life of this baseball Hall of Famer. Names from baseball's glorious past including Connie Mack, Eddie Plank, Eddie Collins, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Rube Waddell, and several others are brought back to life in this biography. Bender's success as a pitcher can be traced to his ability to control his pitches, and remain calm in the face of adversity which included taunts regarding his native-American heritage. Connie Mack otherwise known as the Tall Tactician or the Lean Leader was a perfect manager for the temperament of Bender who always referred to him as Albert. Whenever Mack needed a crucial victory it was Bender who received the nod. Bender arrived with the Athletics during the 1903 season and pitched through the 1914 season. The Athletics underestimated their opponent in the Fall Classic, George Stallings' Boston Braves. Bender disappointed Mack by not taking the time to scout the Braves when told to do so. To be kind, Bender thought it to be unnecessary to scout minor league hitters. When the Miracle Braves knocked Bender from pillar to post Mack removed him from the game. It also ended Bender's stay with Mack's white elephants. Bender briefly knocked around the Federal league in addition to very brief cups of coffee with some major league teams, but for all intents and purposes his career was over. Various illnesses and alcohol led to a premature end.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
"Chief Bender's Burden" by Tom Swift is a great story, well written about a Native American baseball player turn of the century into the middle teens of the 20th century. He played for Connie Mack's Philadelphia Athletics and they were world champions for a number of years. Bender was a big game,money pitcher who was at his best in pivotal late season and post season games, ie ( Lew Burdette, Milwaukee Braves; Curt Schilling Arizona d-backs, Boston Red Sox). Baseball was truly a national pastime then, where every community with enough people to field a team, had one. Swift does a great job trying to be accurate in every detail. However, it was the era of Grantland Rice and other great writers whose descriptions were the only reports, other than box scores, of the games. Swift includes fantastic examples of their writings. A compelling read about baseball and society during that time in our country.
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Format: Paperback
I'll preface this review that I am an Oakland A's fan and have been fascinated by the franchise's history going back to its start in Philadelphia. This biography of one the A's greatest players, Chief Bender, is a worthy addition to the Kashatus book (Connie Mack's '29 Triumph: The Rise and Fall of the Philadelphia Athletics Dynasty) and the David Jordan one (The Athletics of Philadelphia: Connie Mack's White Elephants, 1901-1954) as well.

The focus of this book is obviously on the one player and his story is maybe the most important and poignant of all from the early 20th century baseball era. With the moniker Chief, Bender is obviously what we now call a Native American. To read how mindbogglingly poorly Native Americans were treated post-Indian Wars is hard to comprehend now. The author, Tom Swift, is able to bring all that out without framing it all as a "woe is me" or "white race's guilt" tale. He takes us into the world of the 1880s and to the famous Carlisle School in Pennsylvania that Bender ended up at. Yes, the very same school made famous by possibly America's greatest athlete (and also a Native American) Jim Thorpe.

The book sort of frames itself around Bender's Game One start in the 1914 World Series yet the narrative weaves itself around this dipping in and out of this 1914 game to give us the total picture of Bender's life. And what a life! He not only ended up a Hall of Fame pitcher but pitched for years really afterwards in the minor leagues as well as coached, scouted and even pitched batting practice in his 50s back in the majors.
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