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This Birthday in Buffalo Sports History: Joe Charbonneau

     (Born June 17, 1955) -- Joe Charbonneau wasn't a baseball player. He was a comet -- one which passed through Buffalo when it was dimming.

     Charbonneau was signed by the Phillies, and moved over to the Twins and Indians. Fate opened up a spot in the Cleveland lineup in 1980, and Charbonneau was ready. The outfielder hit .289 with 23 homers and 87 RBIs. He won the American League rookie of the year award, and entertained fans with stories about how he fixed a broken nose himself with a pair of pliers, or how he could drink beer with a straw through his nose.

     It was a nice story, but it turned in spring training in 1981 when Charbonneau hurt his back. He only was hitting .208 when the strike interrupted the major league season that year. The outfielder had back surgery the following winter.

     The 1982 season wasn't any better, and he ended up going back to the minors. That's how our stories gets to Buffalo. In 1983, Charbonneau was hitting .200 for the Bisons when one night he didn't run out a ground ball, got booed, and replied with an obscene gesture. Buffalo soon released him.

     Charbonneau reportedly is a hitting coach in Texas, and still signs autographs. You can see him in uniform today if you rent "The Natural" as he worked as a teammate of Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) in the movie.

--- Budd Bailey

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