Before the era of David Wright, the New York Mets had a history of a revolving door of third basemen. There were some popular guys like Don Zimmer (an Original Met) and Ken Boyer (former NL MVP and St. Louis Cardinals star) who manned the position for a short time. And although it was for a short time, one of the most popular third basemen, one of the most popular players in Mets history, was The Glider, Ed Charles.
Charles was a guy who teammates loved. He became a fan favorite because of his all-out hustle, his constant smile, and his accessibility to fans.
A young Ed Charles is depicted in the movie “42” having met his hero Jackie Robinson, and shows him chasing after Robinson’s train after it departs from the station, and putting his ear to the train tracks to listen for the train.
Charles was stuck in the minor leagues and his best years were already behind him by the time he would become a part of New York Mets lore.
Unfortunately for Charles, he got a bit of a late start in professional baseball. He was originally signed by the Boston Braves in 1952 and spent eight seasons in their farm system, blocked at third by the great Eddie Matthews.
He originally had hopes of playing in the Negro Leagues, but decided to sign with the Braves. Charles was forced to spend those years toiling in the minor leagues in the segregated Deep South, where he wrote poetry about baseball and racism.
Charles was already 29 years old when he finally got a break and was traded to the Kansas City Athletics prior to the 1962 season. He sported a .288 batting average, smacking 17 homers with 74 runs batted in, and stole 20 bases in his rookie campaign.
He followed that up in 1963 by hitting .267 with 15 homers and a career high 79 RBI. And although his average slipped the next season to .241, he still hit 16 dingers and drove in 63 runs.
When the Athletics decided to move the fences back, his power production dropped off, even though his average was a respectable .269 and .286 in ’65 and ’66 respectively.
After getting off to a rough start in 1967, the Athletics traded Charles to a young Mets that was still trying to find its way out of the cellar. He would regain his form and rebound for a productive season in 1968, leading the Mets offense with 15 homers while hitting .276 with 53 RBI.
At 36 years of age, Charles would be a leader in the clubhouse during the Mets miracle season of 1969, but he was relegated to a platoon at third base with rookie Wayne Garrett. He played only 61 games with a .207 average to go with three homers. But he played a crucial role throughout the year…and played four of the five games of the World Series, including the clincher.
Charles was released after that final game in ’69, never to play again. He continued to serve as a scout and coach in the Mets organization for many years, and also worked with at-risk youth in the New York City communities, before he passed away in 2018 at the age of 84, but lives on in the memories of Mets fans.
Although his numbers in his final season were not up to his past output, Charles would provide many of the clutch hits that would become such an important part of that iconic season. And nothing was much more iconic than that familiar leap in the air captured by so many cameras after that final out in 1969.