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Slugger Maxwell recalls break that opened baseball career

Slugger Maxwell recalls break that opened baseball career
Next month marks 50 years since Charlie Maxwell, the former Major League Baseball player from Paw Paw, established himself as the Detroit Tigers' quot;Sunday Slugger.quot;

Maxwell, now retired, remembers May 3, 1959, vividly.

quot;I wasn't playing much, and we were 2-17,quot; he recalled recently as he sat at a table in the Grapevine Grill in downtown Paw Paw, where he often meets friends for breakfast. quot;They fired (manager) Bill Norman on a Saturday, and they brought in Jimmy Dykes.quot;

Dykes, who Maxwell says was his favorite manager in the big leagues, asked the coaches why the team wasn't winning and was told it was because the quot;wrong guysquot; were playing and the quot;right guysquot; were sitting on the bench.

So in both ends of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees that May Sunday in Detroit, Dykes started Maxwell in left field.

quot;That's the day I hit four home runs,quot; Maxwell recalls.

The Tigers won both games.

Sunday phenomenon

And of his 31 home runs that year (fourth-best in the American League), Maxwell hit 12 of them on Sundays, a pattern that continued in the years to follow.

Maxwell's enduring nickname of quot;Ol' Paw Pawquot; (although he was born and raised in nearby Lawton and was sometimes called the quot;Lawton Larruperquot;) was given to him by former Tiger radio and TV announcer Van Patrick.

Whatever his nickname, he has many fond memories of his Baseball days, which were spent primarily with the Tigers .

Now in his early 80s, Maxwell starred at a teenager for the Schoolcraft and Ramona Bears in the Kalamazoo city leagues as a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher. In 1944, at the age of 17, he was named to the all-city team.

Maxwell also pitched during his one year at Western Michigan University before entering the military service in 1945.

After that it, was on to the minor leagues, where he was converted to an outfielder, and then the Majors, playing for Boston from 1950 to 1954 and for the Baltimore Orioles briefly in 1955 until he was sold to the Tigers , where he played until 1962. He ended his Baseball career in 1964 with the Chicago White Sox.

quot;I never really got my break until I got to Detroit and could play every day,quot; says Maxwell, who also was known for his defensive prowess. He was the Tigers' regular left-fielder for most of the seasons from 1956 through 1960.

Legendary friends

During his time in the major leagues, Maxwell met and became friends with some of the legends of Baseball.

In Boston, he was Ted Williams' backup in left field and often pitched batting practice to the incomparable hitter known as the Splendid Splinter.

quot;You'll hear from him,quot; Williams predicted during Maxwell's first spring training with the Red Sox in 1951. quot;Maybe not this year, but he can swing.quot;

quot;I played for four years with Ted Williams and ... we became good friends,quot; Maxwell says.

Maxwell's memories from 1951 include hitting a grand-slam home run against legendary pitcher Satchel Paige and a pinch-hit round-tripper off of Cleveland's Bob Feller.

But what Maxwell takes the most pride in is that he was among the select 400 Baseball players in the major leagues (there were only 16 teams in the 1950s) and that twice -- in 1956 and 1957 -- he was selected by New York Yankees manager Casey Stengel to represent the American League in the All-Star Game.

quot;Now you're one of the 50 best,quot; he says of the import of being chosen.

After his Baseball career ended, Maxwell worked as a sales engineer in the die-cast-component business; he retired about a dozen years ago.

After Baseball, he stayed in shape by playing tennis, and he still rides his bicycle frequently.

He was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1997.

Maxwell and Ann, his wife of nearly 59 years, spend their winters in Longboat Key, Fla., and their summers at the home they built in Paw Paw shortly after they were married.

Their four children all live nearby, and they also have 12 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Freelance writer Dave Person can be reached at 345-0786 or

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 25, 2009

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