Kristopher James Benson was born November 7, 1974 in Superior, Wisconsin. His parents named all their children starting with the letter K, the scoring symbol for strikeout. After living in Michigan his first six years the family moved to Georgia. The six foot four right hander became a star pitcher at Clemson University where his first two seasons didn’t go all that well.
He hit the gym put on some muscle & came back to strike out over 200 batters in his junior year. He was first in wins, strike outs & second in ERA, winning the Baseball America College player of the Year in 1995. He got to the College World Series, but two decisions. He was on the 1996 USA Olympic team going 2-1. But Benson lost the gold medal game to Japan as Team US settled for a bronze medal.
Benson was the Pittsburgh Pirates number one overall draft pick in 1996, signing for a $2 million bonus.
While pitching in the minors he met a model from Atlanta Georgia named Anna. At the time she was reportedly dancing at a strip club named Mardi Gras. The two fell in love & soon got married.
In 1998 he was considered one of the top minor league pitchers in the country although he struggled a bit at Nashville going 8-10. But the Pirates were desperate for something positive & chose to bring him up to the big leagues with a lot of hype in 1999.
Benson won his first MLB start, against the Chicago Cubs in Pittsburgh. He immediately brought some excitement to the Steel City staff. He went 11-14 pitching into the 8th inning nine times, with 139 strikeouts in 196 innings pitched. He posted a 4.07 ERA coming in 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting.
In 2000 he began the year at 0-3, then evened it up at 4-4. On May 19th he pitched a three hit complete game victory striking out eleven St. Louis’ Cardinals.
Two outings later he struck out eleven more batters in a game against the Florida Marlins. On June 16th he tossed a six hit shut out against the Atlanta Braves at home in Pittsburgh. Benson would finish the year with a 3.85 ERA but lack of Pirate run support gave him a 10-12 record pitching 217 innings (10th in the NL) with 184 strike outs.
In 2001 he signed a big $13.8 million dollar, four year deal with the Pirates as he and his wife became a celebrity couple around Pittsburgh. After the signing things quickly began to go sour; on a personal level he & Anna were criticized after they told explicit details of their sex lives in an interview with Penthouse magazine. Then on the mound Kris sprained his elbow, tore a ligament and missed the whole 2001 season. The Steel City fans & media weren’t happy. He went 9-6 in his 2002 return but then struggled through more injuries going 5-9 pitching in just 19 games with a 4.97 ERA in 2003.
In 2004 he was 8-8 & as his contract began to run out, rumors spread all summer about a trade. He was supposed to go to Philadelphia for a prospect named Ryan Howard but that deal fell through. The Mets were in desperate need of good pitching and pulled off what was a big trade at the time.
On July 30, 2004 Kris and Anna Benson came to New York along with Jeff Keppinger in exchange for Ty Wigginton, Jose Bautista, and Matt Peterson.
Benson made his Mets debut in on July 31st, in Atlanta getting pounded for seven runs in just four innings taking the loss. His second start was in St. Louis, although he pitched well allowing just one run over seven innings he earned no decision as the Mets fell 2-1. His next start came at Shea Stadium, there he got his first Mets win beating the Arizona Diamondbacks although he gave up six runs, the Mets scored ten.
He began September with back to back win, his best was a four hit complete game shutout against the Braves where he struck out seven. Since coming to the Mets he went 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA struggling with his adjustment to New York. He finished the year 12-12 overall with a 4.50 ERA striking out 134 batters in 201 innings.
In 2005 he began the year injured not making his first start until May 5th. That day he allowed two runs over 4.2 innings against Philadelphia, earning no decision. After a loss at Wrigley Field in Chicago he won three straight starts. On May 21st he pitched six shutout innings in the subway series in a 7-1 win over the cross town rivals. In June he continued success going 3-0 putting him at 6-3 by the All Star break. On August 8th he had one of his best outings of the year, it came at Shea Stadium against the San Diego Padres. Benson pitched into the 9th inning striking out six batters while only allowing one run on three hits.
On August 16th he beat his old Pirate team mates at Shea Stadium pitching seven strong innings, but then lost three straight decisions into late September. He finished off the year with a win over the Colorado Rockies in the last home series of the year. He ended 2005 at 10-8, third most wins on the staff, behind veterans Pedro Martinez & Tom Glavine. Benson only struck out 95 batters in 174 innings; walking 49, while allowing 24 HRs, while posting a 4.13 ERA. Certainly not the numbers the Mets were expecting after paying out such big bucks.
Anna Benson Drama: To make matters worse his wife Anna was really causing him a lot of trouble.
Upon her arrival in New York she did a magazine layout and was dubbed Baseball’s hottest wife. At the Mets annual Christmas party, the Bensons dressed as Mr. & Mrs. Santa Klaus for the kids. Mrs. Claus was showing a lot of cleavage and dressed very naughty which did not go over to well with the organization. She then posed for a spread in Playboy magazine & began playing on the World Series of Poker tour under the name “Gold digger".
She appeared on the Howard Stern show and said if she ever caught her husband cheating "she would do everybody in the organization". After being led into it by Stern she said she'd do evryone from bat boys to groundskeepers & coaches. Not only was she was very outspoken about sexuality & but also her grief’s with the Mets organization. Although it had already been said by many people, Anna claimed Omar Minaya was trying to put together an All Latino team by signing as many Latin players as he could.
All this drama led to the Mets trading the Bensons to the Baltimore Orioles for a an unknown pitcher named John Maine who had a good couple of years as a Met & reliever Jorge Julio who was a complete failure in New York.
In 2006 for Baltimore Benson went 11-12 with a 4.82 ERA striking out 88 batters in 183 innings. Troubles & injuries caused him to miss all of the next two seasons. He made a brief return with the Texas Rangers in 2009 going 1-1 in just eight games posting an ERA over eight. He signed with the Arizona Diamond backs in 2010 & was named the team’s fifth starter. He only pitched in three games going 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA.
In his nine year career the former number one pick with such a promising future went 70-75 with a 4.42 ERA. He struck out 806 batters in 1243 innings pitched making 206 appearances.
Personal: Anna first filed for divorce in 2006 but withdrew her papers after a short time later. The Bensons have four children together. In July of 2012 Anns once again filed for divorce claiming her husband was having an affair with one of her friends.
The Bensons did a lot of work for charity through their nonprofit organization; Bensons Battalion which was formed after the 911 attacks. The charity helped children who lost a parent during the Twin Tower collapses. The Bensons have donated over three quarters of a million dollars to various charities & have also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Army Forces Central Command in Saudi Arabia.
Benson has been honored with the Pittsburgh Pirates team Roberto Clemente Award. He was also honored by the Mets the Joan Payson Award, and the New Jersey Sports Writers Humanitarian of the Year Award.