February 22, 1929|
|Died: November 27, 1956
|July 17, 1956 for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Last MLB appearance|
|August 16, 1956 for the St. Louis Cardinals|
|Runs batted in||6|
Charles Peete (February 22, 1929 – November 27, 1956) was an American professional baseball player. The reigning 1956 batting champion of the Triple-A American Association, who received a one-month, 23-game trial with the 1956 St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball, Peete was projected by some as the leading candidate to be the Cardinals' 1957 starting center fielder. But he was killed in a commercial airplane crash near the Caracas, Venezuela, airport while flying to his winter-league baseball team in late November 1956; his wife, Nettie, and their three young children were also among the 25 victims of the crash.
Nicknamed "Mule," Peete stood 5 feet 9 inches (1.75 m) tall, weighed 190 pounds (86 kg), batted left-handed and threw right-handed. The native of Franklin, Virginia, began his professional career in the Negro leagues with the Indianapolis Clowns and played semi-professional baseball in Canada before signing with the unaffiliated Portsmouth, Virginia, Merrimacs of the mid-level, Class B Piedmont League in 1953; Peete was the first African-American to play in that league since the baseball color line was broken in 1946.
He batted .275 in 125 games played and the Cardinals drafted him into their organization that offseason and assigned him to their Lynchburg Cardinals farm team, also in the Piedmont League, for 1954. Peete batted .311 with 17 home runs and was named to the PL all-star team. He was promoted three levels to Triple-A for 1955 and batted .310 in a season split between the Cardinals' two top farm teams, the Rochester Red Wings and Omaha Cardinals. In 1956, he batted a league-best .350 with 16 home runs and 63 runs batted in in 116 games for Omaha.
St. Louis Cardinals
Called up by the Cardinals in July, Peete made his debut July 17 in a home game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pinch hitting for veteran Hank Sauer, he drew a walk and stayed in the game to play center field, and later grounded into a double play in a 4–2 Cardinal loss. Peete collected ten hits in 52 at bats with two doubles and two triples. He was sent back to Omaha after his last MLB appearance, August 16, when he went hitless in three at bats against Lew Burdette of the Milwaukee Braves.
Plane crash in Venezuela
Despite the disappointing results from his midseason callup, Peete was projected as a prime candidate for the Redbirds' 1957 centerfielder job; incumbent Bobby Del Greco had batted only .215 during 1956. Had Peete won the job, he would have been the Cardinals' first African-American regular starting player. To gain more experience, Peete decided to play winter baseball. After drawing his release from a Cuban team because of a slow start, he joined the Valencia club in the Venezuelan league. He was flying with his family to report to Valencia when the airliner, Linea Aeropostal Flight 253, in which they were passengers crashed into Avila Mountain, near Caracas, during a rainstorm. Everyone on board was killed. Charlie Peete was 27 years of age.