Strange But True: Bumper Crop

One of baseball’s greatest pitchers was an Indian named Albert “Chief” Bender, who pitched for the Philadelphia Athletics and Phillies. Bender won 208 games in the majors, but his own favorite story concerned a game he lost as a bush-leaguer.

In 1901 Bender agreed to pitch his first professional game for the Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, team. He was to be paid five dollars. Even Bender had to laugh when he saw where the game would be played. It was a hayfield, with a cabbage patch in the outfield. Bender himself hit a home run into the cabbage patch, but he lost the game in the tenth inning.

Aferward, the manager handed the Chief $3.20. “We don’t have enough money,” the manager explained. “I’ll give you the rest the next time I see you.”

After 41 years, the Chief was interviewed by Ed Pollock, a reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin. As he was recalling his early years in baseball, Bender told the story of the Dillsburg game, and Pollock included it in his story.

A few days later, a letter and a small canvas bag reached the Bulletin. They were addressed to Chief Bender, in care of the Bulletin. The letter read, in part:

Dear Sir:

In going over our records we have an outstanding account due you from the summer of 1901….Not knowing your whereabouts not having seen you for all these years, we were unable to remit. The cabbages were harvested and sold later that year, giving us a little surplus. We are enclosing the money reserved for you….

Yours Truly,

Dillsburg Baseball Club

Dillsburg, PA

In the canvas bag were a three-cent piece with the date 1864, a two-cent piece, two dimes dated 1875, 23 nickels and 40 Indian-head pennies. The change added up to $1.80, the exact amount Bender was owed. But the Dillsburg team was really being generous. The coins were very rare and worth a great deal more than their face value.

From Strange But True Sports Stories by Howard Liss. Illustrations by Joe Mathieu.

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When you can walk its length, and leave no trace, you will have learned.

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