Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Into the Sunset, Pt. 8: Joe Charboneau

Up until now, most of the guys I've featured in this theme have been fairly similar.

From Rod Carew to Andre Dawson, all of them had long, consistent, and fairly distinguished careers before their "sunset" issues were released.

That's not the case with this week's subject, Joe Charboneau.

Even though he only played in the majors for three short seasons, it's difficult to squeeze Charboneau's tale into one post.

But here goes.

"Super Joe" was originally a member of the Phillies organization after the franchise drafted in in 1976. 

Due to arguments with Philadelphia's management, Charboneau quit the game the very next year, going home to his hometown of Belvedere, Illinois, where he'd become the member of a local softball team.

The Twins decided to give Charboneau another shot, coaxing him out of his softball career for a spot in their organization. 

He'd be dealt to the Indians the next year, the place where his famous, yet short-lived career would really take off.

Charboneau would become an unlikely hero for the city of Cleveland, as his .289 average and 23 homers would net him the AL Rookie of the Year in 1980.

His cardboard debut came in 1981.

Charboneau's other two big league seasons are quite forgettable. Due to a back injury, he only managed to hit six more homers between 1981 and '82.

After showing so much promise, "Super Joe" would see his trio of "sunset" cards released in '82.

Normally, I like to show a card from the player's "peak year" at the top of these posts. However, due to the fact that Charboneau didn't have any "middle ground" in his cardboard career, I've chosen to show one of my all-time favorite inserts instead.

Most collectors familiar with the "Nickname Greats" insert set from 2006 Greats of the Game are probably aware of its unchallenged awesomeness.

A set that features the likes of "The Bird", "Spaceman", "Moon Man" (Jay Johnstone), and "Super Joe" Charboneau is certainly a treasure.

Although it came a lot sooner than expected, card companies still managed to give Charboneau a fairly nice cardboard send-off.

I think I'd like '82 Donruss more if they didn't basically reuse the design the following year.

Because of that, this one brings up the rear in tonight's countdown.

Besides, Charboneau reminds me a bit of Andre the Giant on this one.

Topps was the only company to grant Charboneau an action shot for his final card.

They were also the only ones to list "Super Joe" as a DH in '82. Usually, guys are well into their careers before that "DH" label starts to pop up on their cardboard.

Charboneau had completed just his second season with the Tribe, and he was already a "DH" to a lot of collectors.

I can't help but wonder how much better this one would be without that invasive facsimile signature. There's a right way and a wrong way to use those.

This is the wrong way.

Without the signature, I might've ranked this one at the top of the list.

Instead, the honor for tonight's best "sunset" card goes to Fleer.

During his career, Charboneau was known for his crazy antics. Actually, "crazy" doesn't even begin to describe them.

He was known to open beer bottles with his eye socket to win bar bets. He fixed a broken nose with a pair of pliers. He even once removed a tattoo with a razor blade. (After all that, it's easy to see why his career was so short.)

Somehow, the grimace that Fleer captures here manages to convey everything we need to know about "Super Joe".

All with one memorable snap of the camera.

After all, that's exactly what Joe Charboneau's career was.


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