Apr 28, 2016

1969 World Champion Mets Third Baseman: "The Glider" Ed Charles (1967-1969)

Edwin Douglas Charles was born on April 29, 1933 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Charles grew up in a poor house in a family of nine children in the segregated south. He suffered the serious conditions of racism but overcame his hardships.

He was once a school drop out who later educated himself to earning a college degree later in life. His childhood hero was Jackie Robinson who's Brooklyn Dodgers played Spring Training in Charles childhood town. He would follow Robinson out of the ballpark onto the team bus with the other black children in awe of their hero.

The five foot nine inch, right hand hitting Charles worked hard to fight his struggles & excelled in baseball. He was eventually signed by the Boston Braves in 1952. He went off to military service during the Korean War from 1953-1955. When he returned he hit 19 HRs & batted .333 at Corpis Christie in the Big State League. Charles got to AAA for good by 1958 & spent four seasons there between Wichita, Louisville & Vancouver.

In 1961 he batted .305 with 13 HRs & 77 RBIs for the Mounties. Overall he spent eight long years in the Braves farm system, due to the fact that Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews had the Milwaukee third base position all secured. Charles wrote poetry of his experiences with racism playing in the segregated South during the 1950's & also wrote poems having to due with baseball. He was eventually traded to the Kansas City A’s in 1962 along with Joe Azcue and Manny Jimenez for Lou Klimchock and future Bronx born New York Met, Bob Shaw.

He got a break getting traded to Kansas City, he was able to see playing time in a town rich in Negro League baseball history. He was one of the top players in Kansas City Athletics history during their brief existence.

In his 1962 rookie season he was already 29 years old, Charles had career highs in batting (.288) HRs (17) on base % (.356%) & stolen bases (20), fourth most in the league.

At third base he was fourth in the league in fielding (.964%) fifth in put outs (145) & assists (285). He drove in 74 runs & had the honor of making the Topps All Star Rookie team as well.

In 1963 he hit .267 & was second on the club to Norm Siebern in HRs (15) . He had career highs in RBIs (79) runs scored (82) hits (162) & doubles (28). The Glider stole 15 bases (7th in the AL) posting a .395 on base %.

On the field he posted the leagues fifth best fielding % (.949). The next season his batting average fell to .241 but he still hit 16 HRs with 25 doubles & 63 RBIs. He was overshadowed by sluggers Rocky Colavito & Jim Gentile in the hitting department, although the Kansas City A’s still finished tenth in the AL.

In 1965 Charles played in 134 games and his power numbers dropped off to just eight HRs, as A's owner Charlie Finley moved the Municipal Stadium's fences back . The Glider had 19 doubles & 56 RBIs while batting .269.

In 1966 he improved his batting average to .286, playing in 118 games with 9 HRs 18 doubles 12 steals & 42 RBIs. By 1967 he lost his starting job to Danny Cater & a young Sal Bando was on the horizon just as the A’s were about to move to Oakland. Charles was the odd man out & on May 10th 1967 he was traded to the New York Mets for Larry Elliot & $50,000 cash.

Ed Charles was 34 years old when he arrived in New York, the oldest player on a very young Mets team that needed a veteran.

He helped to cheer up a young Cleon Jones when he was down on himself, especially when the media said he wasn't giving his all. Charles also helped ease tension with some of the newest players making adjustments to young veterans like Ed Kranepool & Ron Swoboda.

Charles debuted with his Mets uniform #5 on May 12th 1967 in St. Louis, hitting an RBIs sac fly off former Met Al Jackson. He became Known as “The Glider “because of his graceful base running and smooth fielding at third base. As he remembers he had made a diving stab at a ball & moments later Jerry Koosman came over to him saying ; "You sort of glide to the ball. That's it. You're The Glider from now on.'"

Charles got two hits that day & quickly took over the Mets third base spot. Ten days after his arrival he had a four hit day against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 5-2 Mets win at Shea, he would have another four hit day in August.

On June 9th the Glider hit his first Mets HR coming off the Giants Juan Marichal in an exciting Mets 8-7 Fourth of July victory. On June 26th Charles won the game with a walk off RBI single to beat Roy Face & the Pittsburgh Pirates.

For the season he hit .238 with a .319 on base %, 3 HRs 13 doubles 3 triples 32 runs scored & 31 RBIs. He played in 101 games & led the team in with seven hit by pitches (5th most in the NL) & six sacrifice hits (7th in the NL). At third he posted a .944 fielding % making 17 errors turning 16 double plays.

He was actually put on waivers at the end of the year but got invited back to Spring Training 1968. Through his hard work & determination he impressed new Mets manager Gil Hodges & made the ball club to go north.

In the "Year of the Pitcher" Charles ended up being one of the team’s best hitters, leading the club in HRs (15) batting a solid .276.

Charles had 102 hits, with 11 doubles a .328 on base % and 53 RBIs. He also helped solve the Mets third base problem by playing a good defense, posting a .954 fielding % (5th best in the NL).

After a slow start batting just .180 through the start of May, he got hot. On May 2nd he hit a two run HR, helping Nolan Ryan to a three hit 3-0 shutout win. In his next game Charles hit another HR & drove in five runs leading the Mets to a 7-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.

On May 20th he hit two HRs while scoring both Mets runs in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He also had a walk off HR that night off Bob Veale helping Jerry Koosman to a win.

The Glider began June with HRs in back to back games & then hit two more three days later at Wrigley Field leading the Mets to a 5-3 win. Charles would drive in three runs in the second game of a double header against the Dodgers leading the Mets to a 5-3 win. He finished off an eleven game hit streak two days later with another three RBI day. His hitting continued through the summer, keeping his average above .300 into August before tailing off.

In the 1969 Championship season, Charles was now 36 years old, and the mentor of the ball club. He could remember back to two years ago when the younger guys would laugh after losing a game.

But now with Gil Hodges at the helm, they were playing serious baseball & a loss was no laughing matter. At the start of the season the Mets were hoping for Amos Otis to take over the position from Charles as the season went on, but that never worked out. Otis was a natural outfielder & the attempt of a transition was a mistake.

Charles ended up played against lefties in Gil Hodges platoon system, sharing time with a young Wayne Garrett. In 52 games at third base he posted a .946 fielding % turning nine double plays. He struggled at the plate as his age caught up with him, he didn't get over the .200 mark until the end of June then struggled to stay there all year. On May 31st he helped put the Mets ahead of the Giants with a three run HR off future Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry.

He later added an insurance run, driving in all four Mets runs for the teams third straight win of an eleven game winning streak. On July 6th he hit a HR off the Pirates Luke Walker, tying the game helping lead New York to an eventual 8-7 win. On September 24th 1969, he had one of the biggest moments of his career, hitting a HR off St. Louis’ Cardinals future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton.

It was a two run shot helping the Mets win the game while clinching their first NL Eastern title at Shea Stadium, in front of 54,000 fans. It was the last regular season game of his career, as well as his last career HR. finally after eight losing seasons, Ed Charles played on a winning team.

Overall for the 1969 Amazing Mets, Charles appeared in 61 games, batting .207 with three HRs, eight doubles, one triple, four stolen bases & 18 RBIs in 169 at bats. But the Glider was more important to his team than the stats show, as many of the young players acknowledged his veteran leadership helped turn them into Champions.

Post Season: In the postseason, he platooned at third base with Wayne Garrett in the usual situations. Charles didn't see any action in the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves right-handed pitchers, but did get a chance to play in the World Series. Charles dream came true, as he played in four World Series games going 2-15, for a .133 average.

In Game #2 in the top of the 9th inning at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, Charles hit the first of three consecutive singles off Orioles pitcher Dave McNally. When he was on first base, he got the steal sign and took off as Jerry Grote singled to right field, Charles then glided into third base.

He would come around to score the game’s winning run on Al Weis’ base hit in the next at bat. In the bottom of the 9th with a runner on first & two outs, Jerry Koosman was relieved by Ron Taylor.

Charles took an extra couple of steps toward the third base line, just as the Orioles Brooks Robinson pulled the ball exactly where Charles was able to scoop it up. His throw was low but Don Clendenon dug it out of the dirt for the last out, giving the Mets their first ever World Series game victory.

Charles went hitless in games three & four, but he was on the field for the final out of the Series in Game #5. The image of him leaping in the air, with a big smile on his face, behind Jerry Grote & Jerry Koosman, as the last out was recorded at Shea Stadium, is forever etched in time as the Mets' celebrated the World Championship.

In the club house he said “We’re #1 in the world & you just can't get any bigger than this”. He appeared with the team on the Ed Sullivan show & got to recite a poem he wrote in 1962 at the ticker tape parade celebration.

Following the World Series, the Mets released Charles, and he decided to go out a winner, retiring at the age of 36. Charles always remained a dignified gentleman and was a class act all the way.

In his eight year career he batted .263 with 917 hits, 86 HRs, 421 RBIs, 147 doubles, 30 triples, 86 stolen bases a .330 on base % & 438 runs scored in 1005 games played.

He played in 279 Mets games batting .249 with 21 HRs 32 doubles 94 runs scored a .309 on base % & 102 RBIs. At third base he posted a .957 fielding % (83rd all time) turning 165 double plays making 122 errors in 942 games.

Retirement: Soon after retirement he worked for promotions for Buddha Records which distributed the 1969 Amazing Mets album.

He got to meet his hero Jackie Robinson in 1972 in Manhattan while putting together a line of baseball novelties. He then went on to scout for the Mets through the 1985 season.

He is credited for signing & Mets relief pitcher Neil Allen. Charles has worked with New York City’s Juvenile Justice Dept. helping kids in the Washington Heights section of the city as well as in the Bronx.

Charles was a frequent visitor at Shea Stadium, and still is at Citi Field, Spring Training, fantasy camps, and charity events. In 2007 he joined Mrs. Jackie Robinson along with Ralph Branca in honoring Robinson on the 50th anniversary of his breaking into the major leagues.

He made it a point to attend both Bob Murphy & Ralph Kiner Nights when they were honored at Shea Stadium.

Charles was at the closing ceremonies of Shea Stadium in 2008 and on hand at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the 1969 Amazing Mets in 2009.

He still lives in New York City & said his only regret was not getting here sooner.

1 comment:

lanzarishi said...

A class act. Poetry and baseball, a true creative giant. There will never be another Glider!