Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Chief Bender was a notoriously poor hitter during his 16 year career. However, on this day, he was placed in the outfield, and responded with the best day of his career with the bat.
Back in the middle of the 1900’s, legendary Philadelphia Athletics owner/manager Connie Mack proposed the idea of the designated hitter. He was fed up with watching his pitchers, particularly Chief Bender, flail away in the batter’s box, and felt that there needed to be a better solution. It turned out that he was 60 years before his time, as the designated hitter came into being, solving the issue of pitchers hitting, at least in the American League.
However, on this day in 1906, Mack found himself short of players due to injuries during a game against the Boston Americans. With seemingly no other option, he put Bender into the game in left in the sixth inning, hoping that the Athletics young pitcher would make his way through the game without issue. It turns out that he did far more than survive.
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After hitting his first career home run just three days before, Bender continued his power streak. He belted two home runs in his time in the game, both inside the park, against Jesse Tannehill in Philadelphia’s victory.
Bender’s two home run performance may well have been the least likely power show in MLB history. Over the course of his career, he would hit only three more home runs, as he accounted for 33% of his total in three innings. Bender did manage to hit 40 doubles and ten triples, but his .280 career slugging percentage is a far better indication as to his actual hitting capability.
It also seemed inevitable that this move would work. Although it was just before the first Golden Age for the Athletics, Mack was beginning to establish himself as one of the top managers in the game. Moves like this, where Bender was slotted into the outfield and responded with two homers, only enhanced that belief.
Chief Bender may not have been a great hitter, but no one would have believed that on this day in 1906. The Athletics pitcher belted two inside the park home runs, helping to lead Philadelphia to victory.