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Joe Christopher

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Joseph O'Neal Christopher

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[edit] Biographical Information

The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Joe Christopher as an amateur free agent before the 1955 season. The speedy outfielder played with three different teams in that first season, appearing in a total of 140 games and hitting for a combined .301 average for the Phoenix Stars, Williamsport Grays and the Lincoln Chiefs.

Christopher made his big league debut for Pittsburgh on May 26, 1959 in the now-famous Harvey Haddix pitching masterpiece. He appeared in only 15 games that year for the Pirates, spending most of the season at AAA Columbus. He began the 1960 season with the Pirates and was briefly sent to AAA before being recalled in June and spending the remainder of the season on the major league roster. The speedy Christopher was used primarily as a pinch-runner that year, appearing in the field only 17 times and batting only 56 times. However, he did have a 5-hit game on September 27. He appeared in three games in the 1960 World Series, scoring two runs in the Pirates' victory over the New York Yankees. Christopher assumed the role of fourth outfielder on the Pirates in 1961, batting .263 in 186 at-bats. He was then selected by the New York Mets in the October 1961 expansion draft.

An original Met, he was the team's first player to hit .300 in a season with over 500 at-bats when he hit an even .300 in 1964. Joe closed out his eight-year major league run in a dozen games for the Boston Red Sox in 1966 with a .260 career average.

Joe has the distinction of appearing in two perfect games in the majors, as five years after the Harvey Haddix 12-inning game he was playing for the Mets when Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies hurled his perfect game in 1964.

Christopher finished out his 14-year pro baseball career in 1968 in the AAA and AA high minors, retiring after hitting .258 in 102 games for the Reading Phillies. He made a brief comeback in Mexico in 1972.

He lived in New York for a time before moving to Baltimore, MD, where he was a freelance artist and painter.

Technically, Christopher was the first native-born major league player from the United States Virgin Islands. However, Valmy Thomas really merits the honor. Valmy was born in Puerto Rico because his mother sought better medical attention, but mother and newborn immediately returned home to St. Croix, where Valmy grew up and resided until his death.

Joe's brother Alfred Christopher signed a pro contract but never played in the minors.

[edit] Notable Achievement

[edit] Sources

Baseball-Reference.com
Baseball Players of the 1950s
SABR MILB Database:page

[edit] Further Reading

  • Rory Costello: "Joe Christopher", in Clifton Blue Parker and Bill Nowlin, ed.: Sweet '60: The 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2013, pp. 28-31. ISBN 978-1-93359-948-9

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