PAW PAW, MI. – It was 1955 to 1962 that Charlie Maxwell played ball for the Detroit Tigers. Swinging bats and fielding with some of the big names like Kaline, Williams, and DiMaggio.
These days Charlie Maxwell relaxes a bit more and has called Paw Paw home for many years. He’s a local celebrity of sorts…but is a normal down-to-earth guy who could really be your neighbor.
My trip to Charlie’s house turned up some interesting stories and tidbits that most people have probably never heard or seen. Maxwell first entered Major League Baseball in 1950. He was one of the best hitters in the rookie league when he landed his first job with Boston. He would later play for Baltimore, but really didn’t get a whole lot of fielding and playing time until he landed the gig with the Tigers.
In 1956 and again in 1957 he was chosen to represent the Tigers in the All Star game. Charlie has a 326 batting average in 1956…third in the league in hitting behind the famed Mickey Mantle.
Maxwell began playing ball in High School (Lawton) and use to travel to Kalamazoo to play in the city leagues. He then played at Western Michigan University before playing in the minor leagues for three or four years and hitting 340 to 350.
Charlie is quite humble and thankful for his time in the major leagues. “The fact that a kid from a small town can make it all the way to the big leagues” he exclaimed!
Over the years there were several nicknames he acquired. Smokey, Ol’ Paw Paw, Sunday Punch, Sunday Charlie, and Sabbath Smasher. Most of the names came from his home run streak that usually occurred on a Sunday. Of his career 148 homers, 40 were hit on a Sunday. In fact, during a double-header on a Sunday at Tiger Stadium, Maxwell blasted four home runs!
The memorabilia Charlie has amassed is fantastic. Newspaper articles that chronicle his times in the big leagues, and even articles from the Grand Rapids Press when he wrote a column in the 1950s called “hitting the circuit.”
There are baseballs on the wall, and his original glove, hat, and bat sit quietly as a testament to what once was the old power players and hitters in the game. I asked Charlie about the multi-million dollar salaries that the players receive now. He smiled and said ” I wouldn’t change a thing. I was happy to have played at the time I did and have the opportunity that I did.”
Charlie has all of his original baseball trading cards…even Post and Kellogg’s cereal boxes with him and the Tigers on the front and back. The city of Paw Paw recently erected a granite statue of Ol’ Paw Paw Charlie Maxwell in the park across the lake from his house.
Charlie still remains active today…but hasn’t picked up a glove or bat in years. That said, I did get him to give me the batting stance and assume the position for just a moment as he took his custom Louisville Slugger. Charlie throws out the first pitch on June 14, 2013 at Fifth Third Ballpark for the Whitecaps game. Go Charlie!