Players From the Past: Joe Charboneau
Born June 17,1955 in Belvidere, Illinois
Major League Debut: April 11, 1980 Final Game: June 1, 1982
Joe Charboneau was the 1980 AL Rookie of the Year. That was the only highlight of his career, as his career spiraled downward and he never played in the Majors again after 1982. In his rookie year, he played in 131 games, hitting 23 home runs and drove in 87 runs while hitting .289. On a negative noter, he was second in AL in 1980 in grounding into double plays (24).
In 1981, he only played in 48 games, hitting only 4 home runs and driving in 18 runs while hitting .210. In 1982, he only played in 22 games and batted 56 times. He hit 2 home runs and had 9 RBI's while hitting .214 in his last Major League season. Charboneau only had a total of 6 home runs and 27 RBI's in the two years after his AL Rookie of the Year season. Charboneau had gone from having a song named after him during his rookie season to being a washed up has been two years later. At the age of 26, his Major League career was over.
The Philadelphia Phillies signed Charboneau in 1976, but traded him in 1978 to the Cleveland Indians for the immortal Cardell Camper, who never lost a Major League game during his short career, pitching only 9 2/3 innings. Despite Charboneau's short career, it is safe to say that the Indians got the best of the trade.
Off the field, Charboneau was one of the better known flakes of his time. He would celebrate hitting home runs by opening beer bottles with his eye socket and drinking the beer with a straw through his nose. He used the beer to wash down the cigarettes he was eating. Charboneau was also known to have done his own dental work and fixed his broken nose with a pair of pliers.
On March 8th of his rookie season, a crazed fan stabbed Charboneau with a ball point pen. Ironically, he would be an extra in "The Natural" in 1984 about a baseball player who was stabbed by a fan. Charboneau thought of asking the Bic pen people to let him advertise for their pen saying it would even write under blood.
Today, Charboneau works for the recreation department in North Ridgeville, Ohio about 25 miles from Cleveland. He is active in fighting the use of chewing tobacco as is evidenced in these quotes by him in the Cleveland Plain Dealer article of March 28, 2008:
"Boy, I wish the stuff wasn't around," said Joe Charboneau, who played for the Indians from 1979 to '82 and now works for the North Ridgeville Recreation Department. "I see young kids using it and I hate that. The dip is basically the worst thing you can do. I feel real strongly about it."
Charboneau said that when he played, 70 percent of the players used.
"It was fun in the dugout spitting on each other's shoes," he said. "But the awareness wasn't there. It's just like looking at old Johnny Carson reruns. They had ashtrays out for everybody. Nobody thought anything of it."
But the ugly reality of the harm it can do caught up with some of Charboneau's teammates.
"I know guys who went to the doctor for sores in their mouths and had biopsies. They quit after that."
Charboneau will be 53 next month and it has been 28 years since his AL Rookie of the Year season but he will be remembered for years for his fast flameout after that season.