“He Would let a Fast one hit him Square in the Chest”

11 Sep

Charlie Bennett was one of the best catchers of the 1880s, and is credited with inventing the chest protector.  Bennett always gave the credit for the invention to his wife. The Detroit Free Press told the story in the 1914:

“It was a constant source of worry to Mrs. Bennett to watch her husband being made a target for the speed merchants of thirty years ago.  And she fully realized the pressing necessity of some kind of armor to prevent the hot shot sent through by these speedy slabmen from caving in a rib or two which belonged to her better half.

“So she and her hubby proceeded to contrive some means of saving the aforementioned ribs.  After much deep thinking and considerable labor they gradually shaped out something that had a faint resemblance to the protector worn today.  A crude but very substantial shield was made by sewing strips of cork of a good thickness in between heavy bed ticking material.   After much hard work and many dove like spats they had it ready for trial.  Charlie didn’t have the nerve to wear it outside his shirt for fear of the fans roasting him about being chicken-hearted, so he wore it under his baseball shirt.”

Charlie Bennett

Charlie Bennett

The article said after Bennett began wearing the protector in games sometimes “he would let a fast one hit him square in the chest.  The ball would rebound back almost to the pitcher, much to the amazement of the fans and players, who weren’t on to the hidden cause.”

Bennett’s career came to an end after the 1893 season.  While taking a train with former Boston Beaneaters teammate John Clarkson for a hunting trip, Bennett slipped while getting off a moving train to speak to a friend, when the train began moving he tried to climb back aboard, slipped and fell under the wheels.  Bennett lost his left leg at the ankle and his right at the knee.

Johnny Evers, in his book “Touching Second: Science of Baseball” written in 1910 with Hugh Fullerton, told a story about Bennett watching a game years after his accident:

 “He was watching a game at Detroit when a young base runner, trying to steal second, slid straight at the baseman, who was reaching to take a high throw.  The baseman blocked him with one leg, caught the ball and touched the runner out. “’I could have beaten that myself,’ muttered Bennett in disgust. “’Without legs, Charlie?’ inquired a friend. “Yes—without legs,’  Snorted Bennett angrily, ‘for I would have had brains enough not to slide where he could block my feet.’”

Charlie Bennett threw out the first pitch at every Detroit Opening Day from 1896-1926...he died in February of 1927.

Charlie Bennett threw out the first pitch at every Detroit Opening Day from 1896-1926…he died in February of 1927.

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6 Responses to ““He Would let a Fast one hit him Square in the Chest””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Jack Grim | Baseball History Daily - June 2, 2014

    […] “Dad” Clarkson, brother of Hall of Famer John Clarkson, replaced Grim; the team finished the second half of the season in second place under Clarkson.  […]

  2. “There will be Cliches” | Baseball History Daily - June 30, 2014

    […] but he isn’t in it with such good men as (William “Buck”) Ewing, (Jack) Clements, (Charlie) Bennett, (Charlie) Ganzel, (George “Doggie’) Miller, (Connie) Mack, (Michael […]

  3. Frank Bancroft | Baseball History Daily - July 14, 2014

    […] was then manager of the Worcester League team, and we were on the hog train for a while, owing to Charlie Bennett’s glass arm and Buck (William “Farmer”) Weaver’s faint heart.  Matters were so bad […]

  4. “Lord, if you ever Helped a Mortal Man, help me get that Ball” | Baseball History Daily - August 29, 2014

    […] ninth inning was being played,” says the ex-ball player.  “Two men were out, and Detroit, with Charley Bennett at bat, had one man on second and another on third.  He had two strikes on him and three balls […]

  5. “The Chicago players began to Kick Vigorously” | Baseball History Daily - January 26, 2015

    […] yield.  The Whites did not once get further than second in these three innings.  (Sam) Crane and (Charlie) Bennett for the home team alone reached […]

  6. Grantland Rice’s “All-Time All-Star Round up” | Baseball History Daily - August 10, 2015

    […] we come to a long array—Frank (Silver) Flint, Charley Bennett, (Charles “Chief”) Zimmer, (James “Deacon”) McGuire, (Wilbert) Robinson, (Marty) […]

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