Oscar Charleston

Center Fielder

Class of 1976

Oscar Charleston

Center Fielder

Class of 1976
A powerful hitter who could hit to all fields and bunt, Oscar Charleston was considered one of the greatest players in the Negro Leagues.

Games

Birth year

About Oscar Charleston

“Charlie was a tremendous left-handed hitter who could also bunt, steal a hundred bases a year, and cover center field as well as anyone before him or since…he was like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Tris Speaker rolled into one.” – Buck O’Neil

As a youth, Oscar Charleston was a batboy for his hometown Indianapolis ABC’s. At the age of 15, he enlisted in the military and was sent to the Phillipines, where he played baseball with the 24th Negro Infantry. In 1915, still a teenager, Charleston returned to Indianapolis and quickly became a star center fielder for the ABC’s.

A powerful hitter who could hit to all fields and bunt, Charleston was also extremely fast on the base paths and in center field. He played a very shallow center, almost behind second base, and his great speed and instincts helped him outrun many batted balls. He had a powerful arm. Coupled with this great natural ability was an aggressive demeanor and will to win.

His finest season was likely 1925 when he hit .427 for the Harrisburg Giants to go with 20 homers and 97 RBI. He won batting titles in the Eastern Colored League in 1924 and 1925.

From the mid-1920s on, he was a player-manager for several clubs. In 1933, he joined the Pittsburgh Crawfords and would manage the 1935 Crawfords club that many consider the finest Negro League team of all time, featuring four future Hall of Famers including himself: Cool Papa Bell, Josh Gibson and Judy Johnson. Charleston hit three home runs in leading the Crawfords to victory in the seven-game championship in 1935 against the New York Cubans.

He played nine seasons of winter ball in Cuba, amassing statistics quite similar to his big league achievements. In the 1940s, Charleston scouted for Branch Rickey, making recommendations on the best players to consider for the job of integrating the major leagues. He managed as late as 1954, when he led the Indianapolis Clowns to a league championship.

Charleston passed away on Oct. 5, 1954. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976.

The Basics

Year inducted
1976
Birth Place
Indianapolis, Indiana
Birth Year
1896
Died
1954, Philadelphia Pennsylvania

Career at a Glance

Primary Team
Pittsburgh Crawfords
Primary Position
Center Fielder
Bats
Left
Throws
Left
Played For
Indianapolis ABCs, 1920
St. Louis Giants, 1921
Indianapolis ABCs, 1922-1923
Harrisburg Giants, 1924-1927
Hilldale Daisies, 1929
Homestead Grays, 1929
Pittsburgh Crawfords, 1933-1938
Philadelphia Stars, 1941

Career MLB Stats

Games
916
At bats
3,313
Runs
855
Hits
1,207
Doubles
240
Triples
80
Home Runs
143
RBI
853
Stolen Bases
209
Walks
479
Batting Average
.364
Ops
1.063
On Base %
.449
Slugging %
.615

Oscar Charleston Stories

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Negro Leagues Researchers and Authors Group