Glancing Back, and Remembering Ed Charles
Ed Charles was a graceful, even acrobatic, third baseman who hit with some sting in his bat. Charles paid his dues with nine years in the minor leagues, and for his effort was rewarded with a major league career that was spent mostly with two of the worst teams of the 1960s, only to be rescued at the end of his career by a “miracle.”
Charles was signed by the Boston Braves in 1952. He would still be a minor league infielder in the Braves farm system at the end of the 1950s, blocked partly by the presence of Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews at third base for the Braves, and partly because the Braves always seemed to find other alternatives at second base and shortstop, leaving Charles in the minors despite several solid seasons.
Nearly 30 and still without a big league at-bat, Charles got his break when both major leagues expanded. The expansion to 20 teams created a flurry of trades following the 1961 season.
In December of 1961, Charles was traded with Joe Azcue and Manny Jimenez to the Kansas City Athletics for Lou Klimchock and Bob Shaw. Charles took over everyday duties at third base from Wayne Causey, and responded with an outstanding rookie season in 1962, batting .288 with 24 doubles, 17 home runs and 74 RBIs, third best on the team after Norm Siebern (117) and Jerry Lumpe (83). It would be his best season statistically at the plate.
Charles hit .267 with 15 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 1963. He also established career bests that season in doubles (28) and runs batted in (79). In 1964, his batting average slipped to .241, with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs.
In 1965 and 1966, his hitting rebounded, as he batted .269 and .286 respectively. But Kansas City owner Charles Finley had moved the outfield fences back, so that Charles smacked only 17 home runs combined over those two seasons, the same as his rookie season total. In 1967, with the arrival of rookie slugger Sal Bando, Charles was traded to the New York Mets for Larry Elliot and $50,000.
At 34, Charles was the oldest member of the Mets roster. He hit .238 for the Mets over the rest of the 1967 season, and batted .276 in 1968, when he led the team with 15 home runs.
In 1969, he had his poorest season at the plate, batting .207 with three home runs and 18 RBIs as the Mets’ part-time third baseman. But his steady play at third base, and his steadying influence in the clubhouse, were integral to the Mets winning the National League’s first Eastern Division title. In the 1969 World Series against the Baltimore Orioles – Charles’ only postseason appearance of his career – he hit a critical double in Game Two and scored the game’s winning run. He was released by the Mets the following winter.
After eight big league seasons with a career batting average of .263, Ed Charles went out a winner.