Joe Charboneau

Joe CharboneauIn the clubhouse during one of his minor league stops, Joe Charboneau’s teammates were impressing each other by performing feats of strength and odd tricks with their bodies. The sort of thing you expect to see in a male dominated environment. Charboneau grabbed a beer bottle and proceeded to open it with his eye socket. His teammates were floored and a new champion of stupid human tricks was crowned. It was one of the many things Charboneau did to amaze and delight those around him in a meteoric career that took him to brief stardom in the major leagues.

In 1980, Charboneau almost literally came out of nowhere to star for the Cleveland Indians in left field as a rookie. He hit 23 home runs and drove in 87 runs for the mediocre Indians, capturing the hearts of fans in Cleveland. A song exalting his diamond exploits titledGo Joe Charboneau reached #3 on the Cleveland charts. Embracing his unexpected stardom, “Super Joe” dyed his hair, made appearances in dance clubs, and performed more exploits in the clubhouse like drinking beer through a straw via his nose. If there was a dare, Joe would accept it. He was named American League Rookie of the Year after batting .289 in 131 games.

Unfortunately, the world turned for Super Joe almost immediately. In the spring of ’81, Charboneau injured his neck and back while sliding headfirst in an exhibition game. The injury sidelined him for some time but even when he returned to the Tribe he was a shell of his former Super Joe self. He was sent down to the minor leagues at one point, but returned in August. However, the reigning Rookie of the Year hit just .210 with 18 RBI in 48 games in 1981.

After back surgery, Charboneau was cleared with a clean bill of health for the ’82 season. The 27-year old started the season in right field for the Indians but nagging injuries and poor production plagued him once again. He ended up spending more time in the minor leagues, even returning all the way back to AA ball, but he still struggled. Doctors couldn’t find anything seriously wrong with his back, but Charboneau still complained of pain. Over the next few years he underwent two more surgeries on his back while he rehabbed and in the minors and tried to get back to The Show. He never did. His final professional experience came as a 29-year old in the Pirates organization in 1984 where he hit .281 with two different clubs. Joe retired from the game having fallen from superstar status to washed up faster than almost anyone ever had.