SI Vault
Steve Wulf
September 08, 1980
Joe Charboneau is the leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year and the biggest thing in Cleveland since Rocky Colavito
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 08, 1980

Super Joe: A Legend In His Own Time

Joe Charboneau is the leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year and the biggest thing in Cleveland since Rocky Colavito

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

Who's the newest guy in town?
Go Joe Charboneau.
Turns the ball park upside down.
Go Joe Charboneau

Go Joe Charboneau is now No. 4 on the 45s chart in Cleveland. The song, by a group called Section 36, is a pitchy rather than catchy little tune that recalls Alley Oop, both in beat and in the way it sets music back to the Stone Age. People are buying the record because Joe Charboneau, Super Joe Charboneau, is No. 1 in the hearts of Indian fans this season. Not since the Rock—Rocky Colavito to the outside world—has a baseball player captivated the city as Charboneau has.

Another hot seller in Cleveland is the Super Joe poster, which shows Charboneau in a Western hat and a cape with something called The Spot pasted to his bare chest. Don't ask. There is also an official Joe Charboneau fan club, Dale Gallagher, 16, president. Charboneau even has his own piece of Cleveland Stadium, Section 36, of course, which is adjacent to the left-field foul pole.

Through Sunday, the 25-year-old, righthand-hitting outfielder was batting .291 and leading both the resurgent Indians and all major league rookies in home runs (21), RBIs (78) and column inches (countless). Last week alone his home runs helped win three games.

The town first received word of Charboneau during spring training, where sportswriters kept unearthing stories about this big (6'2", 200 pounds), strong kid who was tearing the proverbial cover off the ball. "I thought I'd found Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo., you know, Joe Hardy from Damn Yankees" says Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer , the first writer to call him Super Joe and the one who has written the most about him.

The tales dealt with Charboneau's prodigious strength, his imperviousness to pain and the wonderful things he could do with a beer bottle. In his wild-oats days in Santa Clara, Calif., Charboneau used to earn a little money by boxing bare-knuckled in boxcars and warehouses for gamblers. He got $25 for winning and $15 for losing, less $5 in either case to the matchmakers. "I lost more than I won," says Charboneau, who also had his nose broken three times. Once he tried to fix it himself with a pair of pliers, and another time a doctor had to remove all the cartilage in his nose. This enables Charboneau to drink beer through his schnozz, either by direct pour or with six strong sniffs through a straw.

Charboneau also remembers being stabbed three times in fights with local migrant workers. He closed one of the wounds with fishing line. He once got drunk enough to have himself tattooed, on an arm, but after sobering up, he cut the tattoo out with a razor. If you don't believe it, he will show you the scar. In the minor leagues, Charboneau couldn't afford some dental work, so he cut around the offending tooth with a razor and pulled it out with a vise grip. He is so strong he can open the twist-off cap on a bottle of beer with the muscles of his left forearm.

What's more, he is a direct descendant of a legend, Toussaint Charbonneau, who, along with his Indian wife, Sacagawea, guided Lewis and Clark on the second leg of their expedition.

Who do we appreciate?
Go Joe Charboneau .
Fits right in with the other eight?
Go Joe Charboneau .

Tall as they are, the stories are true. At least Charboneau says they are true, and if Lewis and Clark believed Toussaint, then we can believe Joe. Actually, these tales don't quite fit Charboneau. He's really just a good-natured fellow who likes people and loves baseball. He never denies anyone an autograph and goes to church every Sunday. He dotes on his 11-month-old son, Tyson, who not only walks but also claps for his father. Joe has taken up rug hooking with his wife, Cindi, even though he still doesn't know how to knot a necktie because he never had to before. His real ambition is to work with handicapped children.

Continue Story
1 2 3