Chautauqua Hall of Fame Inductee: Robert J. Bender

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Robert J. Bender
Robert J. Bender

Robert J. “Bob” Bender was born June 14, 1917, in St. Augustine Township, Pennsylvania.

Bob served his country in the U.S. Army during World War II at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. He was a member of the Army Artillery Special Service baseball team from 1942-1945.

He was selected for the South Sector Army Pacific All-Star team in ’42. In 1943 his team won the Honolulu League title defeating 19 other teams while he batted .377.

By the spring of ’44, the best military baseball players were stationed in Hawaii. Bender played against major league talent including Joe DiMaggio, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing and Johnny Mize to name a few. He played in the War Bond game in front of 20,000 spectators. In ’45, he was the player/manager for Fort Shafter as his team tied for the league title.

Following his discharge from the military, Bender was recruited by his uncle, Joe Nagle, to move to Jamestown to work at Jamestown Steel Partitions, located on Dow Street, and to play for its powerhouse semi-pro baseball team.

The 1946 Steel Partitions (52-14) won the Jamestown Class A MUNY League championship as Bender batted .433. The Partitions also won the NY-Penn Semi-Pro League title.

The following year, the Partitions (41-12) again won the MUNY A championship while Bender clubbed .381. The team also won the New York State Semi-Pro championship and earned a berth in the national tournament in Wichita, Kansas.

The Steel Partition Bombers (53-7-1) won the 1948 City MUNY AA title and repeated as NYS Semi-Pro Champions, but declined to participate in the national tourney in Kansas.

Bender continued to play left field for the SP Bombers from 1949 to 1955. The Partitions captured MUNY AA season titles in ’50, ’52, and ’54. They won the MUNY AA playoffs in ’53 and ’55. Bender, a heavy hitting left-fielder, finished second in league hitting four consecutive years, 1950-1953, hitting over .400.

In 1956 the team became the Starlite Café Bombers. Bender and mates won the MUNY
AA playoffs, the Penn-York League, and participated in the national Amateur Baseball Federation tournament in Youngstown, Ohio.

By 1958, Bender’s son was involved in youth league baseball in Jamestown. Bender managed the Mt. Moriah Little League teams and the Super Duper Babe Ruth League teams from 1958 through 1966. He also worked as a supervisor in the City of Jamestown Recreation Program, 1960-1965.

Bender was one of the organizers and players of the Jamestown Old-Timers baseball team from 1965-1970.

He died April 28, 1970 in Jamestown.