Oscar Charleston

From BR Bullpen


Oscar McKinley Charleston

  • Bats Left, Throws Left
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 200 lb.

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 the 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.

His brother Bennie Charleston also played in the Negro Leagues, albeit very briefly.

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

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 3-time NNL All-Star (1933-1935)
  • 3-time League Triple Crown (1921/NNL, 1924/ECL & 1925/ECL)
  • 3-time League Batting Average Leader (1921/NNL, 1924/ECL & 1925/ECL)
  • 4-time League On-Base Percentage Leader (1921/NNL, 1924/ECL, 1925/ECL & 1927/ECL)
  • 3-time League Slugging Percentage Leader (1921/NNL, 1924/ECL & 1925/ECL)
  • 4-time League OPS Leader (1921/NNL, 1924/ECL, 1925/ECL & 1927/ECL)
  • NNL At-Bats Leader (1922)
  • 6-time League Runs Scored Leader (192-1922/NNL, 1924/ECL, 1925/ECL & 1933/NNL)
  • 3-time League Hits Leader (1920/NNL, 1922/NNL & 1925/ECL)
  • 4-time League Total Bases Leader (1920/NNL, 1922/NNL, 1924/ECL & 1925/ECL)
  • 2-time League Doubles Leader (1924/ECL & 1933/NNL)
  • 3-time NNL Triples Leader (1920, 1922 & 1933)
  • 5-time League Home Runs Leader (1921/NNL, 1922/NNL, 1924/ECL, 1925/ECL & 1927/ECL)
  • 4-time League RBIs Leader (1921/NNL, 1922/NNL, 1924/ECL & 1925/ECL)
  • 3-time League Bases on Balls Leader (1925/ECL, 1927/ECL & 1929/ANL)
  • 2-time League Stolen Bases Leader (1923/NNL & 1926/ECL)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 1 (1925)
  • 100 RBIs Seasons: 1 (1922)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 2 (1921 & 1922)
  • NNL Pennants: 3 (1933, 1935 & 1936)
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1976

Year-By-Year Managerial Record[edit]

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1924 Harrisburg Giants Eastern Colored League 30-31 5th Harrisburg Giants
1925 Harrisburg Giants Eastern Colored League 48-24 2nd Harrisburg Giants
1926 Harrisburg Giants Eastern Colored League 27-22 4th Harrisburg Giants
1929 Hilldale Club American Negro League 0-4 -- Hilldale Club interim for Phil Cockrell
1933 Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro National League 51-36 1st Pittsburgh Crawfords League Champs
1934 Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro National League 52-29 1st Pittsburgh Crawfords
1935 Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro National League 51-26 1st Pittsburgh Crawfords League Champs
1936 Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro National League 48-33 1st Pittsburgh Crawfords League Champs
1937 Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro National League 21-39 6th Pittsburgh Crawfords
1938 Pittsburgh Crawfords Negro National League 28-26 4th Pittsburgh Crawfords
1939 Toledo Crawfords Negro American League 8-11 4th Toledo Crawfords
Toledo Crawfords Negro National League 4-5 4th Toledo Crawfords
1940 Toledo/Indianapolis Crawfords Negro American League 6-19 7th Toledo Crawfords/Indianapolis Crawfords
1941 Philadelphia Stars Negro National League 14-39 6th Philadelphia Stars replaced Roy Parnell (3-13)
1948 Philadelphia Stars Negro National League 32-33 4th Philadelphia Stars

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.
  • Jeremy Beer: Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2019. ISBN 978-1-4962-1711-0
  • Sarah Langs: "Oscar Charleston: One of the Greatest Ever", "The Negro Leagues", mlb.com. [1]

Related Sites[edit]