||This biographical article needs additional citations for verification. (May 2013)|
|Left fielder / Designated hitter|
June 17, 1955 |
|Batted: Right||Threw: Right|
|April 11, 1980 for the Cleveland Indians|
|Last MLB appearance|
|June 1, 1982 for the Cleveland Indians|
|Runs batted in||114|
|Career highlights and awards|
The 21-year-old Charboneau was originally drafted in the sixth round of the June 1976 draft by the Minnesota Twins, but he did not sign with them; when the Philadelphia Phillies made him their second-round pick in the December supplementary draft, Joe was sent to the Class A Western Carolina League, where he hit .298 in 43 games. In 1977, however, he suddenly quit the Phillies' Carolina League affiliate after fighting with management, and went home to Belvidere to play softball. The following year, Minnesota, the team that originally drafted Charboneau, gave him another chance and assigned him to Visalia of the California League; he responded with a .350 average, fourth-best in the league. At season's end, though, after participating in a barroom brawl, Joe was traded to the Cleveland Indians organization for major-league pitcher Cardell Camper.
Charboneau broke out in 1979 with a .352 average for the Indians' AA team in Chattanooga, pacing the Southern League. In 1980, it looked like Joe was headed to AAA Charleston—until Andre Thornton was felled by a knee injury, giving Charboneau his shot at the big leagues.
Trouble continued to follow him; while in Mexico for an exhibition game on March 8, a crazed fan stuck Joe with a pen knife. The knife penetrated four inches and hit a rib, but Charboneau played his first regular-season game just over a month later, on April 11. (The assailant was duly arrested and fined 50 pesos. "That's $2.27 for stabbing a person," Charboneau said.)
Splitting time between left field and designated hitter, Charboneau soon captured the city's imagination, not just with his production (a .289 average coupled with 23 home runs and 87 RBI, leading the team in both categories), but also his eccentricities. Long before Dennis Rodman came on the scene, Joe had a tendency to dye his hair unnatural colors, as well as open beer bottles with his eye socket and drink beer with a straw through his nose. Other stories emerged about how he did his own dental work and fixed a broken nose with a pair of pliers and a few shots of Jack Daniel's whiskey, stood out; by mid-season, Charboneau was the subject of a song, "Go Joe Charboneau", that reached #3 on the local charts.
Despite a few nagging injures late in the season, Charboneau played 131 games in 1980 and won the American League Rookie of the Year award, the first Indian to claim the award since Chris Chambliss in 1971.
Charboneau injured his back in a headfirst slide in spring training the following year. He tried to play through the pain but was hitting only .208 at the time of the 1981 Major League Baseball strike that interrupted the season. Just after the players came back in early August, though, Joe was sent to AAA Charleston, making him the first Rookie-of-the-Year to be returned the minors the following season. After 18 games with the Charlies (where he hit just .217), he returned to the big club on August 28. His final big-league numbers for 1981: .210 average, just four homers and 18 RBI in 138 at-bats. He underwent back surgery over the winter.
Things did not improve for Charboneau in 1982: after only 22 games with the Indians, Joe and his .214 average were shipped back to Charleston, then to AA Chattanooga again. Playing in the same league he had torn apart three years earlier, he could only manage a dismal .207 mark. Joe endured another back surgery after the season, but seemingly nothing could allow him to regain his timing at the plate. Finally, in 1983, when batting .200 for AA Buffalo, Charboneau gave jeering fans an obscene gesture, leading to his quick release. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates took a flyer on him in 1984, and he managed a .289 average in the Carolina League (though at 29, he was easily the oldest player in the loop). A shot with the Pirates AAA team in Hawaii ended after 15 games, and "Super Joe" retired from the game. (Joe did make one more appearance in a baseball uniform that year, but only on celluloid: he was an extra in the film The Natural, playing one of Roy Hobbs' teammates.)
Charboneau holds the record for the fewest career games played in the Major Leagues by a Rookie of the Year, with 201.
Charboneau dabbled in sports management after his retirement, and even hosted his own radio show for a time. He returned to baseball in 1999 with the Canton Crocodiles of the Frontier League, serving as hitting instructor, first base coach, and director of baseball operations through 2001. (He even stepped in as a pinch-hitter in 2000, singling in his only at-bat.) He later worked for several other Frontier League teams in Washington, Windy City, Richmond and Chillicothe.
Today, he works as a hitting coach, giving lessons at Fielder's Choice Baseball and regularly does autograph signings in the greater Cleveland area. After stints as a hitting coach for the Victoria (TX) Generals in the Texas Collegiate League and at Notre Dame College, located in Cleveland, he became the head of the baseball program at the Parks and Recreation Department for the city of North Ridgeville, Ohio.
In January 2010, Charboneau was taken to the hospital after a bar fight in North Ridgeville. Charboneau wound up receiving seven staples in his head, but no charges were filed.
- Wulf, Steve. "Super Joe: A Legend In His Own Time," Sports Illustrated, September 8, 1980.
- Bloss, Bob (2005). Rookies of the Year. United States: Temple University Press. p. 211. ISBN 9781592131648.
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)
- Pluto, Terry (2009-02-26). "Every rookie has a shot to make it -- just ask Super Joe Charboneau". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2009-03-10.