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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Catching Up With Pete Charton


Following a star career at Baylor University, right-handed pitcher Pete Charton was signed by the Boston Red Sox in 1962 as an amateur free agent. At the time Boston was going through a stretch where they had a steady stream of disappointing starting pitching, and every youngster they signed was hoped to be a long term solution for the future. While Charton ultimately pitched briefly for Boston, he was not given enough time to develop and never became a fixture on the pitching staff.

Charton spent 1963 in the minors, but was on the major league roster for the entirety of 1964, in order for the Red Sox to avoid losing him because of bonus rules of the time. He was used sparingly, appearing in a total of 25 games, all but five of those coming in relief. He went 0-2 with a 5.26 ERA. With the Sox out of the race, he was given much more run in September, and performed admirably. In 34.1 innings he posted a 3.41 ERA, and was generally effective as a starter.

Sadly, Charton never made it back to the major leagues after 1964. In fact, he only played two more professional seasons; 1965 and 1967. Although he pitched well in both stints, injuries prevented him from becoming a top prospect and making it back with Boston. More information about his career statistics is available at http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/chartpe01.shtml

Pete Charton Interview:

How did you first become interested in baseball?: My Dad was a huge fan. He never got to play ball because he grew up during the Depression, and had to work. But his dad and his uncles all played ball. 

Dad had me throwing I guess at two years old. He would hang my bottles on a string or a rope off the bed because I always liked to throw them against the wall. I would entertain myself by throwing those bottles. Everybody wanted to be a cowboy or a policeman, or whatever, but from the get-go all I wanted to do was play in the major leagues, and I would tell people that. 

Did you have a favorite team or player growing up?: I hate to admit this, but until the week I signed with the Red Sox, I was a Yankee fan, which is terrible. 

I think my favorite player, and I had a lot of favorites, was Robin Roberts. He was just a great pitcher. He won 20 games so many years for a team that always came in last. I just thought that was really something. 

What is your favorite moment from your playing career?: Well, I think my favorite moment was in the Knothole League in what would have been the summer of ’48, before the 8th grade I guess. I made the National from Memphis. We got up there late and got put on what amounted to a team of leftovers and scrubs. To make a long story short, we kind of gelled and ended up playing for the city championship. In that game, with the bases loaded, I hit a double and drove in three runs. We were behind at the time and in the last inning, and I drove in three runs to win the ball game. I think of all the ball games I ever played, that was the most exciting one I was ever in.

How did the Red Sox treat you as a rookie in 1964?: There’s the normal rookie put-downs. I remember my first ball game there, we opened at home in Fenway. I believe we were playing the White Sox and I was standing on the steps with a bunch of others during the National Anthem. I was trying to do all of the things right. About halfway through the National Anthem I felt something on the back of my uniform and my white socks. One of those old guys standing in the tunnel had spit a huge wad of tobacco. But you learn to put up with stuff like that. All in all it was a healthy experience and I enjoyed it. I was not mistreated or anything.

Some of them were really, really good. The person that I probably appreciated the most was Bill Monbouquette. For some reason he took a liking to me. He grabbed me by the shirt collar one of the first days of the season. He set me down and wouldn’t let me move until we faced every team and pitched to every hitter, and that kind of thing.

Monbo didn’t have overpowering stuff. He was a really smart pitcher and had really good control. I guess he would remind you a lot of Maddux or somebody like that. He taught me a lot about certain hitters, and then when I would ask him about hitters I was pitching against, he would tell me how to try and pitch them, what their weaknesses were, and all that.  

What was the strangest play you ever saw as a player on the baseball diamond?: Bill Monbouquette falling over backwards from the mound in Yankee Stadium on Opening Day  in 1964. The Yankees had raised the mound to an illegal height! The league took a lot of complaints and made them take it back down to legal limits; not that the Yankees would ever cheat. 

Bill stepped back and he literally rolled over backwards… he did a back flip and was rolling down the backside of the mound. Then, to make it worse, it was Opening Day in Yankee Stadium, he didn’t just stand up. He crawled up and looked over the pitching mound and looked like a groundhog coming up out of the ground. That stadium just roared with people laughing. It was funny.

Who was your favorite coach or manager?: Mace Brown, pitching coach.

Who was the most competitive player you ever played with or against?: Pete Rose. It was the “Charlie Hustle” thing. He just ran everywhere. Everybody kind of laughed at him at that point, being a hot dog and all of that kind of thing. I guess he ran himself into being one of the great ball players. If he hadn’t been stupid… I don’t mean that… Well I do too. He acted foolishly and if he hadn’t he would be in the Hall of Fame. I just can’t fathom somebody with everything to lose like that, but I guess we all make choices. He made his.

If you could do anything differently about your career, what would that be?: I would have been a catcher rather than a pitcher. I think I would have made a good catcher. I did some catching when I was growing up; not a whole lot because I had to be either on the mound or the infield. I think that being a catcher is about the fastest way to the major leagues. You can play there the longest if you’re a good defensive catcher and hit .250.
Pitching was alright in the minors, but you didn’t get to hit and you played once out of every four or five days. I was just always wanting to play every day and would have taken a position where I could have been an everyday ball player. 

What have you done since you stopped playing baseball?: When I finally quit, I had had some surgeries and all of that. I had continued going off to school at a private college in Nashville, which is now part of Vanderbilt. At about the time I realized that my shoulder was not going to heal right and was going to be really inconsistent, I was graduating as an undergrad. 

I had gone my first two years to Baylor. It took me about another five years I think to complete my last two years of college. After I finished that I went on to graduate school and got an assistantship at Michigan State. I stayed there for about five years. I received a Master’s Degree and PhD. The degree was in geography, but it was a broad based degree that had a lot of geology and a lot of meteorology, and plant and soil science.

Then I went to the University of Illinois and taught a couple of years there. It was a wonderful university, but I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing. Something wasn’t right and I left for a small community college in east Tennessee and just loved it and stayed there for 35 years. I worked with kids from southern Appalachia and a lot of them were the first in their family to ever go to college. It was very fulfilling. That’s basically what I did. 

I retired about three years ago and my wife and I this summer moved to Columbia, South Carolina from Tennessee to be near one of our children and two of our grandchildren. 

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4 comments:

  1. I had Mr. Charton as a teacher at Roane State Community College back in 1980, he was and will always be my favorite teacher. The SGA gave
    Mr. Charton the teacher of the year award that year. Glad to hear he is doing well.

    Kevin Foust

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  2. Thanks, Kevin. He seems like he would be an excellent teacher.

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  3. I also had Dr. C at Roane State, but in 2001 or so. Geology and World Geography. He is a wonderful teacher and I hope he and his wife are enjoying retirement :)

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  4. This interview is wonderful!! Thank you so much for sharing it. Like the other commenters, I had the privilege of having Dr. Charton at RSCC. He was the best teacher ever. He allowed you to know him as a person and I'm a diehard Sox fan because of him. Additionally, I've earned a PhD and enjoyed an amazing career in education as a result of his influence. The reason I found your blog was in celebration of his birthday 12/21 :).

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