Oscar Charleston

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OscarCharleston.jpg

Oscar McKinley Charleston

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976

BR page

Biographical Information[edit]

"Charleston could hit that ball a mile. He didn't have a weakness." - Dizzy Dean

Oscar Charleston is considered by many experts to have been the greatest ballplayer of the Negro Leagues. Bill James ranked him as fourth-greatest player of all time in his New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. He was primarily a center fielder in the early part of his career, switching to left field and then to first base as he aged. He is among the top five Negro Leaguers in batting average and home runs, as well as the all-time leader in stolen bases.

Charleston began his career in 1915 after having served in the Philippines, where he was a big star as a pitcher for the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment. His catcher at the time was Bullet Joe Rogan. Over his career, he played for the Indianapolis ABCs (1915-1918, 1920, 1922-1923), New York Lincoln Stars (1915-1916), Bowser's ABCs (1916), Chicago American Giants (1919), St. Louis Giants (1921), Harrisburg Giants (1924-1927), Hilldale (1928-1929), Homestead Grays (1930-1931), Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-1938), Toledo Crawfords (1939), Indianapolis Crawfords (1940), and Philadelphia Stars (1941). He managed the Pittsburgh Crawfords (1932-1938), Philadelphia Stars (1941, 1942-1944, 1946-1950), Brooklyn Brown Dodgers (1945), and the Indianapolis Clowns (1954). He also was an umpire. When the Brooklyn Dodgers began to sign players form the Negro Leagues after the end of World War II, Branch Rickey employed him as a de facto scout and it was on his recommendation that he signed Roy Campanella, among others. He died about one month after having led the Clowns to the NAL pennant.

Charleston was later described as having had a terrible temper and being in numreous fights with opposing players, umpires, police, and even armed soldiers, but this is greatly exaggerated. As a 19-year-old with the Indianapolis ABCs, however, he did get into a famous fight on October 17, 1915, when he decked a white umpire with a punch while rushing to the defence of teammate Bingo DeMoss, who had started the fight; the incident nearly caused a race riot (the ABCs were playing a team of while "All-Stars") and both DeMoss and Charleston were arrested and eventually found guilty and fined relatively small amounts. According to legend, Charleston once ripped the hood off a Klansman who had confronted him. Despite (or perhaps because of) his aggressiveness, he was one of the most popular figures in the Negro Leagues throughout his playing and managing career.

Charleston was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976, and into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Negro Leagues Career Statistics[edit]

Year Team League G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB BA SLG
.
1916 New York Lincoln Stars
Indianapolis ABCs
independent
independent
14
18
60
58
18
7
21
17
0
1
1
2
0
0
4
9
5
2
8
6
.350
.293
.383
.379
1917 Indianapolis ABCs independent 48 178 26 52 6 4 1 19 3 14 .292 .388
1918 Indianapolis ABCs independent 38 147 37 56 7 7 3 43 11 13 .381 .585
1919 Chicago American Giants
Detroit Stars
independent 40
5
160
16
44
4
65
5
7
2
6
0
8
0
41
3
11
3
17
2
.406
.313
.675
.438
1920 Indianapolis ABCs NNL 92 346 80 122 20 11 5 59 20 37 .353 .517
1921 St. Louis Giants NNL 76 279 104 122 17 12 15 91 32 41 .437 .746
1922 Indianapolis ABCs NNL 98 389 103 146 24 18 19 100 21 40 .375 .676
1923 Indianapolis ABC's NNL 84 308 68 112 25 6 11 94 26 48 .364 .591
1924 Harrisburg Giants ECL 54 205 64 84 23 5 15 59 20 29 .410 .790
1925 Harrisburg Giants ECL 68 240 95 107 22 3 20 36 17 54 .446 .813
1926 Harrisburg Giants ECL 43 152 37 45 11 1 9 31 21 33 .296 .559
1927 Harrisburg Giants ECL 32 118 31 43 9 4 8 30 6 21 .364 .712
1928 Hilldale ECL 60 212 57 74 7 5 10 32 10 31 .349 .571
1929 Hilldale ANL 54 213 40 69 9 4 4 24 5 26 .324 .460
1930 Hilldale independent 26 104 19 28 8 1 4 11 3 15 .269 .481
1931 Hilldale independent 33 134 25 43 7 3 2 13 2 11 .321 .463
1932 Pittsburgh Crawfords independent 52 188 38 60 12 3 4 14 14 26 .319 .479
1933 Pittsburgh Crawfords NNL 40 158 35 50 7 3 5 33 4 11 .316 .494
1934 Pittsburgh Crawfords NNL 46 168 26 56 6 3 5 25 2 17 .333 .494
1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords NNL 35 132 23 39 7 1 5 17 7 16 .295 .477
1936 Pittsburgh Crawfords NNL 18 51 9 15 4 0 3 9 0 9 .294 .549
1937 Pittsburgh Crawfords NNL 14 46 4 7 1 0 1 3 0 2 .152 .239
1938 did not play
1939 Toledo Crawfords NNL 9 33 4 10 2 0 0 0 0 3 .303 .364
1940 Indianapolis Crawfords NNL 3 9 1 4 0 0 0 2 0 1 .444 .444
1941 Philadelphia Stars NNL 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 .000 .000
.
Totals 26 seasons 1101 4105 1000 1452 244 103 157 804 245 530 .354 .578
Averages per 162 g 6.80 162 604 147 214 36 15 23 119 36 78 .354 .578
  • sources: www.seamheads.com (1916-1922), Gary Ashwill & Kevin Johnson; Shades of Glory, Hogan et al, ppg. 384-385 (1923-1941)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jeremy Beer: "Hothead: How the Oscar Charleston Myth Began", Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Vol. 46, Nr. 1 (Spring 2017), pp. 5-15.

Related Sites[edit]