|This article does not cite any references or sources. (August 2009)|
November 21, 1854|
New Castle, Pennsylvania
|Died: February 24, 1927
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|May 1, 1878 for the Milwaukee Grays|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 30, 1893 for the Boston Beaneaters|
|Runs batted in||533|
|Career highlights and awards|
Born in New Castle, Pennsylvania, Bennett played 15 seasons in the major leagues. He played in 1062 games, had a .340 on-base percentage and collected 978 hits, 203 doubles, 67 triples, 55 home runs, and 533 RBIs. He led the Detroit Wolverines in slugging percentage for the first four years of the team's existence.
Aside from his abilities as a slugger, Bennett is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers of the 19th century. He led the National League in fielding percentage by a catcher seven times (1881, 1883, 1886, and 1888–1891). He also led National League catchers in double plays and putouts three times, and is credited with inventing the chest protector. He had his wife rig up a cork-lined vest, which he wore under his uniform.
In 2001, Bennett was rated as the 49th best catcher of all time by Bill James in "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract." Only one other catcher who played exclusively in the 19th Century was rated in James' Top 50: Buck Ewing.
The first baseball field built at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit was named Bennett Park as a tribute to Charlie Bennett after he lost his legs in a train accident. Bennett caught the first pitch on Opening Day for the Tigers for the first 26 years of their existence, until his death in 1927.
Major league playing career
After playing with the Milwaukee Grays in 1878 and the Worcester Ruby Legs, Bennett played eight seasons with the Detroit Wolverines from 1881 to 1888. He played with the Wolverines during every season that the franchise existed and became the most popular baseball player in 19th Century Detroit.
In the first season of major league baseball in Detroit, Bennett hit .301 and led the team with 64 RBIs, 18 doubles, 7 home runs, and a .478 slugging percentage. He also finished among the National League leaders in home runs (2nd), RBIs (2nd), slugging percentage (4th), and extra base hits (4th). He is also credited with being the first baseball player ever to take a curtain call that season.
In 1882, Bennett hit .301 for the second consecutive season and led the Wolverines in batting average (.301), on-base percentage (.340), slugging percentage (.450), hits (103), and RBIs (51).
In 1883, Bennett raised his average to .305 and led the Detroit team in batting average (.305), on-base percentage (.350), slugging percentage (.474), doubles (34), home runs (5), and RBIs (55).
In 1884, Bennett led the Wolverines in slugging percentage (.378) for the fourth consecutive year. He was the team's #1 slugger for the first four years of the franchise's existence. He also led the team in on-base percentage (.334) for the fourth consecutive year.
In 1885, despite the addition of Sam Thompson, Bennett once again led the team in RBIs (60), on-base percentage (.356), doubles (24), triples (13), and extra base hits (42). However, he finished second in slugging percentage behind Sam Thompson. In the first five years of major league baseball in Detroit, Bennett was the top slugger and the most popular player.
In 1886, Bennett's seven years as a major league catcher began to take a toll, as his offensive production fell off substantially. But with sluggers Dan Brouthers, Sam Thompson, and Hardy Richardson in the lineup, the Wolverines were a greatly improved team, finishing with a record of 85-38 and finishing in second place to the Chicago White Stockings.
Though he shared catching duties in 1887 with Charlie Ganzel, Bennett was with the Wolverines in 1887 when they won the National League pennant and then defeated the St. Louis Browns in the World Series. In the 1887 World Series, Bennett had 9 RBIs, 11 hits, and scored 6 runs.
The 1888 season was the last year for the Detroit franchise in the National League, and Bennett was with the team throughout its existence. The only other player who was with the team for all eight years of its existence was center fielder Ned Hanlon.
Train accident and life after baseball
After the 1893 season, Bennett went hunting with pitcher John Clarkson. Bennett got off the train in Wellsville, Kansas to speak to an acquaintance. When he tried to reboard, Bennett slipped and fell under the train's wheels. Bennett lost both legs in the accident. He was fitted with artificial limbs but his baseball career was over.
After his injury, Bennett moved to Detroit, where he operated a cigar store. Detroit fans held a day in his honor, and he was given a wheelbarrow full of silver dollars. When a new ballpark was opened in Detroit in 1896, it was named Bennett Park in his honor. Bennett caught the first pitch at Bennett Park in 1896. It became a Detroit tradition for Bennett to catch the first pitch in Detroit, an honor that Bennett continued for every home opener through 1926.
Bennett died in February 1927 at age 72 in Detroit.
- Baseball-Reference.com - career statistics and analysis
- Entry at the Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers