Edwin Douglas Charles
(Ez, The Poet, or The Glider)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 5' 10", Weight 170 lb.
- High School Gibbs High School
- Debut April 11, 1962
- Final Game October 1, 1969
- Born April 29, 1933 in Daytona Beach, FL USA
- Died March 15, 2018 in East Elmhurst, NY USA
"Author of my talents, only You have I praised,
To Thee only shall my hands be raised.
For when I’m burdened with the weight of my team,
To my rescue You come, it will always seem.
For outstanding is my play on any given day
When You intervene and help lead the way.
Grateful to You I’ll always be
For exploiting my talents for the world to see." - poem by Ed Charles, 1962
Ed Charles's story was a tale of perseverance and endurance. A man of many nicknames, he spent nearly a decade rotting in the minor leagues before getting the call and starring with the Kansas City Athletics. Later, he was an integral part of the "Miracle Mets" championship drive of 1969.
Ed grew up in Daytona Beach, FL, enduring the stings of racism through much of his early life. In 1946, Daytona Beach happened to be the training site for the Brooklyn Dodgers and a new player named Jackie Robinson. Jackie's breaking the color barrier meant everything to Ed and other youths in the area. In the 2013 Robinson biopic 42, Ed is portrayed by Dumon Brown, reliving his recollections of going and watching Jackie play in spring training, then chasing Jack's train as it left town and listening to the vibrations on the tracks of the train.
Charles soon followed in the great man's athletic footsteps. Out of high school, he was mulling an offer from the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues when the Boston Braves swooped in and signed him to their Class C ballclub, the Quebec City Braves, in 1952. It was a solid start, with a .317 average and league-leading 11 triples in the Provincial League. He missed part of 1953 and all of 1954 due to military service, attaining the rank of Private First Class during the Korean War. Returning with the Corpus Christi Clippers of the Class B Big State League in 1955, he led the league with 135 runs scored while batting .333 with 63 extra base hits. He lost a bid for a job with the newly minted Milwaukee Braves in spring training 1956, then spent parts of all but one of the next six seasons stuck in Triple A. As a third baseman, Ed had no chance of beating another Ed, Eddie Mathews, for the starter's role. But he clearly was ready for a least a nibble of the big leagues, only to be sent back down year after year. Predominantly in the American Association in a four-year stretch from 1958 to 1961, he led his league's third basemen in assists in 1961 and putouts in 1959 and 1961. It was in 1961 that he could be denied no longer. With the Vancouver Mounties of the Pacific Coast League, Ed rapped 181 hits, including 36 doubles, and scored 114 runs while batting .305. While beginning to dabble in poetry in the Puerto Rican Winter League, he finally got his break, being dealt to the Kansas City Athletics.
In the brief history of Kansas City's A's, one could certainly make the argument that Ed was the finest player in their tenure. He was 29 when he made his debut with the team at the start of the 1962 season, and he had an excellent rookie year, hitting .288/.356/.454 with 17 homers and 74 RBI in 147 games as the starting third baseman. The following year, he hit .267/.333/.395 while mashing 15 more taters, driving in a career-high 79 runs and scoring a career-best 82 times. After a 16-home run season in 1964, Charlie Finley got the bright idea to push the fences back at Municipal Stadium, killing Ed's home run clout (17 home runs in two seasons and change) though he hit fairly well. The A's of the time hardly had any other player who gave them sustained production over a number of years, as they tended to deal any good young players or have last gasp good years from veterans who were otherwise on their last legs. Thus, it was surprising when "The Glider" glided to the New York Mets in May 1967 for Larry Elliot and $50,000.
A team that had once been the laughingstock of all of baseball was building something special, and Ed was there to enjoy the ride. Providing solid veteran leadership, he had a tough first season before batting .276/.328/.444 with 15 home runs as the Mets' regular third baseman in 1968, excellent production in the "Year of the Pitcher", worthy of a 120 OPS+. At 36, he was the Mets' oldest player and the most used player at third base during the beautiful ride of 1969. He only hit .207 in 61 games, doing his share of platooning with young buck Wayne Garrett, but some of those hits were big. On May 31st, Ed's three-run home run off Gaylord Perry of the San Francisco Giants staked the team to a lead they would not relinquish, a game that ended up being part of an 11-game winning streak. On September 24th, he belted his final big league blast, a two-run shot off Steve Carlton of the St. Louis Cardinals, in the 1st inning of a 6-0 victory, a game that clinched the Mets the inaugural NL East title. He played four games in the World Series, batting 2-for-15 in his final games, and is captured in a very famous photograph of the Miracle Mets celebrating the final out in the deciding Game 5, jumping on the mound as pitcher Jerry Koosman and catcher Jerry Grote are embracing. Knowing this was to be it, Ed retired after the Mets let him go in the glow of the championship.
Ed was active in retirement. He was a Mets scout, signing Neil Allen, and a coach for the Kingsport Mets. He worked in promotions for Buddha Records and actually met his idol, Jackie Robinson, just months before his passing. He continued writing poetry and made several appearances at Shea Stadium throughout the years, including being honored at the ballpark's closing ceremonies in 2008. He lived to see himself depicted in 42, passing away at 84 in March 2018.
- Chad Thornburg: "Beloved Charles of '69 Miracle Mets dies at 84", mlb.com, March 15, 2018. 
- George Vecsey: "Ed Charles, Infield Sage of the Miracle Mets, Is Dead at 84", The New York Times, March 15, 2018.