Mets third baseman Ed Charles offers a cool drink to winning pitcher Jerry Koosman after a game against the Cincinnati Reds on July 26, 1968.
Mets third baseman Ed Charles offers a cool drink to winning pitcher Jerry Koosman after a game against the Cincinnati Reds on July 26, 1968. (New York Daily News)

Ed Charles, a beloved New York Met, poet and key component in the ’69 Miracle team, died Thursday at his home in Elmhurst, Queens, at the age of 84 after a long illness.

Charles, nicknamed “The Glider” for his smooth play at third base, played only three seasons with the Mets, 1967-1969, but achieved a kind of iconic status with the fans because of his spirited play at third base and his leadership qualities that endeared him to his teammates. All the years after his career ended in 1969, he made frequent appearances around the city, representing the team, and after passing a civil service exam worked with troubled youth in the Bronx.

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“How sad,” Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver, a former teammate of Charles’, said by phone from Calistoga, Calif., on Thursday night. “Ed was just a terrific person. He was a pro’s pro and just what we needed to complete that [’69 world championship] team.”

Said another former teammate, right fielder and Sparrows Point alumnus Ron Swoboda: “Ed was such a sweet person and decent man who moved around this world with the same grace he showed at third base.”

Inspired by Jackie Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier in 1947, Charles signed with the old Boston Braves in 1952 where he spent eight seasons in the minors waiting behind Braves Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews. Charles, though, finally made it to the big leagues with the Kansas City Athletics, where he spent the prime of his career from 1962 to 1967 before being traded to the Mets on May 10, 1967, for a reserve outfielder, Larry Elliot. Charles was 29 by the time he made his major league debut in 1962 and had a standout rookie season with the A’s, hitting .288 with 17 homers and 74 RBIs in 147 games.

Charles wrote several poems over his 84 years, earning him the moniker of Mets poet laureate. He even slipped them into return letters of fans who’d requested a signed photo.

One such poem about Jackie Robinson titled Jackie Robinson - Super Star opened as follows:

He accepted the challenge and played the game

With a passion that few men possessed.

He stood tall in the face of society’s shame

With a talent that God had blessed.

Another titled “An Athletes Prayer” Charles pens the thoughtful tome of the hopes and aspirations of a sports star in the field of play.

So guide me dear author for the competition is keen,

And I too might fall like others I’ve seen.

For many are the performers, yet few reach the top.

But with you leading the way, I cannot be stopped.

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“Amen”

Mets third baseman Ed Charles, left, joins the celebration as catcher Jerry Grote embraces pitcher Jerry Koosman after New York defeated the Orioles in the fifth game to win the 1969 World Series at Shea Stadium.
Mets third baseman Ed Charles, left, joins the celebration as catcher Jerry Grote embraces pitcher Jerry Koosman after New York defeated the Orioles in the fifth game to win the 1969 World Series at Shea Stadium. (Associated Press)

“Ed was a pro’s pro,” Seaver said. “[Mets manager] Gil Hodges was the one instrumental in getting him over to us. Gil knew what he was. Everybody loved him.”

For the first six years of their existence, third base had been a revolving door dark hole for the Mets, but when Charles joined the team, he solidified that weak spot, hitting .276 with 53 RBIs and a team-leading 15 homers in 1968.

The Mets released a statement on the Glider’s passing.

“Ed Charles, our beloved Glider and Poet Laureate of the 1969 Mets, was one of the kindest and warmest people ever to be a Met. His essays and poems inspired his teammates to the improbable World Series championship. With Jackie Robinson as his role model, Ed perpetuated a legacy of making a positive impact on other people’s lives. Everyone at the Mets are sending condolences, thoughts and prayers to Ed’s longtime companion Lavonnie Brinkley, his two sons Edwin and Eric, sister Virginia Charles and brother Elder.”

Although he hit only .207 in 61 games in 1969, Charles set the example for the younger Mets players by accepting his role as a platoon player, and delivered a number of clutch hits during their drive for the NL East title, including a homer off Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in their pennant-clinching 6-0 victory on Sept. 24 at Shea Stadium.

After not playing in the National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves, Charles was used in four of the five games in the World Series. He scored the winning run in the Series-tying Game 2 on a two-out single by Al Weis in the ninth inning at Memorial Stadium.

At a stop on the ticker-tape parade to celebrate the world championship, Charles was invited to recite a poem he had written in 1962, when he had finally gotten his call to the majors.

It began:

Author of my talents, only You have I praised,

To Thee only shall my hands be raised.

For when I’m burdened with the weight of my team,

To my rescue You come, it will always seem.

For outstanding is my play on any given day

When You intervene and help lead the way.

Grateful to You I’ll always be

For exploiting my talents for the world to see.

Charles, who batted .263 lifetime with 86 home runs in eight-year major league seasons, later worked as a scout and minor league coach and spent decades helping children in New York City's Department of Juvenile Justice and with Youth Options Unlimited in the Bronx.

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