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Chief Bender's Burden: The Silent Struggle of a Baseball Star Hardcover


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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 (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,496,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

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Swift is a good historian, places Bender well in his times and makes the most of the sources available to him.
J. Hundley
His book is an exciting and informative read that should be of great interest to both baseball fans and students of American history.
Rabbi Shmuel Jablon
Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack said if he had to pick one pitcher to hurl one game, it would be Chief Bender.
Barry Sparks

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By monkey reader on April 21, 2008
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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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Rabbi Shmuel Jablon on April 28, 2008
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Beverly Hermes on April 30, 2008
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on November 27, 2009
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Barry Sparks VINE VOICE on June 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack said if he had to pick one pitcher to hurl one game, it would be Chief Bender. "Bender is the greatest money pitcher the game has ever known," stated Mack.

Bender pitched for the A's from 1903 through 1914, winning 193 games. In his final three seasons with Baltimore of the Federal League and the Philadelphia Phillies, he won just 19 games. Eighteen when he made his major league debut, Bender was burned out by the age of 30. His last major league appearance came in 1925 when he pitched one game for the Chicago White Sox.

Bender was the son of a white father of German-American descent and an Indian mother, thought to have been a member of the Mississippi Band of the Ojibwe. Author Tom Swift focuses on what he terms Bender's "silent struggle," how he endured racism and stereotypes associated with Indians.

Although he was often portrayed as a cartoon Indian figure, Bender was "refined, articulate and esteemed." New York Giants pitcher Christy Mathewson said Bender had "a cool head, a fine arm and plenty of courage."

Even though not much is known about Bender's early life, Swift spends nearly the first third of the book describing what life must have been like for him growing up on the Minnesota prairie and later attending the Carlisle School for Indians. Because Bender said little about the racism he had to deal with, Swift is left to speculate on how the star pitcher must have felt and reacted. How much of his silent struggle was responsible for his battle with alcohol? No one knows for sure.

Swift uses Bender's opening game of the 1914 World Series against the Boston Braves as the thread that runs through the book. That was the first World Series game Bender failed to complete.
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