Just a year ago Joe Charboneau was the talk of baseball, a tremendous prospect and genuine drawing card. When he wasn't winning over Cleveland fans with his hitting (.289 batting average, 23 homers, 87 RBIs), he was doing so with devil-may-care stunts, such as swallowing eggs, shell and all. He even became the subject of a popular song which soared on the local charts. Sadly, the music has stopped for the muscular outfielder, who's gone from 1980 American League Rookie of the Year to the minors in short order.
The Indians sent him down to their Triple-A affiliate in Charlestown, W. Va., last week. Just what silenced his bat is hard to say, but a prolonged slump had sapped his confidence. Some theorized his swing lost its gusto with attempts to hit to right; others placed the blame on mounting distractions, including endorsements and speaking engagements.
whatever the reason, "Super Joe's" quick adoption of a major league life style hasn't helped matters. He may have backed himself into a corner by spending too freely too soon, making him feel added pressure to produce.
Many Rookies of the Year wind up enjoying long prosperous careers, but others , such as Don Schwall (American League 1961) and Earl Williams (National League 1971) fail to fulfill their early promise and disappear. And then there's pitcher Mark Fidrych, the 1976 rookie sensation whose antics once made him as popular as Charboneau. Hampered by arm problems, "the Bird" has struggled to latch on with the Tigers since his demotion three years ago.