After two straight World Series victories, Mack’s Athletics stumbled to a disappointing third-place finish. With his team 15 ½ games out of first on September 6, Mack suspended pitcher Charles “Chief” Bender and Reuben “Rube” Oldring for, as The Philadelphia Inquirer put it:
“(T)heir failure to live up to the training requirements, as demanded by Mack and all common sense baseball managers.”
The Inquirer said “Mack refused to discuss this matter further,” but just days later in Detroit he gave what The New York World called “a sermon” on the reason for the suspensions:
“Booze and baseball don’t mix; never did, and never will. A pitcher who thinks he can fan Herman W. Souse is simply pitching to the greatest home run hitter he ever faced.
“Once in awhile you hear of some marvel who can stay out all night, drink all the breweries dry, wreck a few taxi cabs and otherwise enjoy himself, and then step in the box and pitch a wonderful game of ball. Players who haven’t any more sense point to Rube Waddell, Bugs Raymond and that brand and say: ‘Ah, those were the good old days. None of these high-priced managers and their red tape then. And what wonderful players we produced in those days.’
“Well, look at Waddell—one of the most remarkable pitchers nature ever produced. But Waddell, with all his talent, couldn’t stay in the major leagues. Why? Because he stood there and pitched himself to Old Man Barleycorn, and finally every one he threw was slammed over the fence. And that’s the way all go. Is it so wonderful, after all?
“No, sir, the day of the stewed ballplayer has gone and it won’t come back. If the members of my team want to drink, all right. But they can’t drink and play ball at the same time. That’s settled. They can do whatever they prefer, but they can’t do both.
“There are no exceptions to my rule, either. Any manager will tell you the same. A short life and a merry one—that’s it. And the merrier it is the shorter it will be in the big leagues.”
In December of 1912, The Philadelphia Record said Bender had written a letter to Mack asking his manager “to please forgive him.”
According to The Inquirer, he was forgiven and set to return to the Athletics in 1913:
“This winter Bender has spent nearly all the daylight hours automobiling and hunting in the South. He looks stronger than ever.”
The “stronger,” sober Bender appeared in 48 games, 21 as a starter, and posted a 21-10 record with a 2.21 ERA, and helped lead the Athletics to their third championship in four seasons.
In “My 66 Years in the Big leagues” Mack said of him:
“Let me say here that I consider Chief Bender the greatest one-game pitcher, the greatest money pitcher baseball ever has known.”