Charles Wesley Bennett (November 21, 1854 – February 24, 1927) was an American professional baseball player from 1875 or 1876 through the 1893 season. He played 15 years in Major League Baseball, principally as a catcher, with the Milwaukee Grays (49 games, 1878), Worcester Ruby Legs (51 games, 1880), Detroit Wolverines (625 games, 1881–1888) and Boston Beaneaters (337 games, 1889–1893). He played on four pennant-winning teams, one in Detroit and three in Boston, and is one of only two players (the other being Ned Hanlon) to play with the Detroit Wolverines during all eight seasons of the club's existence.
Bennett compiled a .256 batting average and a .340 on-base percentage during his major league career with 549 runs scored, 203 doubles, 67 triples, 55 home runs and 533 runs batted in (RBIs). His greatest value, however, was as one of the greatest defensive players of his era. Between 1880 and 1891, he ranked among the National League leaders 10 times in Defensive Wins Above Replacement (Defensive WAR) at all positions and led the league's catchers seven times in fielding percentage and three times in double plays and putouts.
Bennett's baseball career ended in January 1894 when he lost both legs in a train accident in Kansas. In 1896, Detroit's new baseball stadium was named Bennett Park in his honor. The Detroit Tigers played their home games at Bennett Park from 1896 through the 1911 season. Bennett has also been credited with inventing the first chest protector, an improvised cork-lined vest that he wore under his uniform.
By Dean Hanley
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