In celebration of Black History Month, here is Today’s Negro League Baseball History Fact: Charlie Peete.
Born February 22, 1929 in Franklin, Virginia; Peete had a short and unproductive stint in Negro League baseball. He played 31 games with the Indianapolis Clowns in 1950, batting only .231. However, this did not prevent him from going further in baseball.
After serving in the military, he became one of the African-American players that integrated the Piedmont League (Class B minor league) in 1953. The speedy center fielder got the attention of the St. Louis Cardinals who signed him in 1954. Peete won the batting title hitting .350 in 1956 with the team’s Omaha Class AAA minor league club.
When given the opportunity to play with the Cardinals towards the end of the 1956 season, Peete only hit .192 with six RBIs in 23 games. However, the team kept him on roster for the for 1957. After team officials saw he had the skills to play centerfield and had promise as a hitter, they still considered him a good prospect. In addition, the Cardinals had been criticized for misfiring on two previous African-American players. Pitcher Brooks Lawrence won 19 games in 1956 after they traded him to the Cincinnati Reds. Tom Alston, who in 1954 became the first African-American to play for the Cardinals had been demoted to their minor league system. He and Peete were teammates at Omaha in 1955.
The center fielder for the Cardinals in 1956, Bobby Del Greco, only hit .216. Depending on how Charlie Peete would have hit in spring training of 1957, he had the opportunity to be the Cardinals’ main centerfielder. However, on his way to play winter baseball in Venezuela; Peete, along with his wife and three children were killed in a plane crash on November 11, 1956.
Negro League baseball is not just a part of African-American history, but is woven into the fabric of 20th Century American history.
To read more about the Negro League baseball era Last Train To Cooperstown