Fifty years this month, the Tiger’s slugging left fielder and fan favorite Charlie Maxwell began his uncanny tendency to hit round trippers on Sunday afternoons.
On Sunday May 3, 1959, the Michigan native from Paw Paw (who was also nicknamed “Paw Paw by Tiger announcer Van Patrick) hit four consecutive round trippers in a doubleheader at Briggs Stadium against the Yankees.
Remarkably, twelve of Maxwell’s 31 homers, (4th best in the American League) that year were hit on a Sunday, and soon fans and broadcasters were now calling “Paw Paw” Maxwell, “Sunday Charlie” and the “Sabbath Smasher.”
Originally signed by Boston, Maxwell played for the Red Sox from 1950 to 1954 and briefly in 1955 for the Orioles before being sold to Detroit. From 1956 to 1960 he was the Tigers’ everyday left fielder as one of the American League’s top power hitters. In 1961 Rocky Colavito replaced him in left field and he became a utility outfielder until he was traded in June of 1962 to the White Sox.
Sure enough, five of his 9 homers in ’62 with the White Sox were hit on Sunday afternoons.
Maxwell, who wore number four, often gave a pregame show for the fans, especially on Saturdays when the Tigers hosted kids from the “Knothole Gang” according to writer Jim Sargent. Shagging fungoes in left field, he would grin, clown around, and catch the ball behind his back or between his legs before tossing it to screaming kids in the lower left field stands.
(Of course, that was back in the day when the fielders actually took fielding practice before a game and when outfielders practiced throwing the ball to home plate. You don’t see that at Comerica Park, and that’s a shame because as a fan it was always great to marvel at the player’s skills as they warmed up. It’s no wonder you don’t see the outfielders throwing out runners at home like you used to. )
Sorry, where was I?
Oh, after Maxwell retired from the game following the 1964 season, he returned to Paw Paw where he worked as a sales engineer in the die cast component business. Now retired, he and his wife Ann spend winters in Florida, and like other snowbirds, returns in the spring to his hometown.
But Charlie, on this Sunday, we sure could use another one of your bombs.