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Card-by-Yankees Card: The 1977 Topps Set, Card #168, Charlie Spikes (Article 31)

by Paul Semendinger

Charlie Spikes.

In the 1969 Amateur Player Draft, Charlie Spikes was the 11th player taken overall (by the Yankees). An outfielder, he quickly rose through the ranks of the minors.

I don’t know if people remember Charlie Spikes as a home run hitter, but he projected to be one as he rose through the ranks of the minor leagues:

1970 Fort Lauderdale (A): 127 games .237/19/62

1971 Kinston (A) 127 games .270/22/79

1972 West Haven (AA) 126 games .309/26/83

By 1972, without ever playing at Triple-A, Charlie Spikes reached the big club, the Yankees. He played in only 14 games (batting just .147 with no homers), but he had arrived.

In 1973, playing in the Major Leagues, Charlie hit 23 homers (in an era when 20 homers a year was the mark of a solid power hitter).

In 1974, Spikes blasted 22 more homers in the big leagues.

Not bad.

But… those 1973 and 1974 home runs didn’t come for the Yankees. They came for the Cleveland Indians. After arriving in 1972, Spikes was traded by the Yankees to the Cleveland Indians in one of the best trades the Yankees ever made.

On November 27, 1972, Spikes was traded with John Ellis, Jerry Kenney, and Rusty Torres in exchange for Jerry Moses and Graig Nettles.

Nettles would (of course) star at third base for the Yankees, leading the league in homers in 1976, winning two Gold Gloves, being part of four World Series teams, becoming the Yankees Captain, and, etc…

Baseball-Reference Career WAR (after the trade)

Charlie Spikes: 0.8

John Ellis: 2.0

Jerry Kenny: 0.2

Rusty Torres: -0.5

Total = 2.5 bWAR

Jerry Moses: -0.1

Graig Nettles: 49.4

Total = 49.3 bWAR


So what happened with Charlie Spikes? In 1973, his bWAR was 0.2. In 1974, his bWAR was 1.6. He was progressing and was a better than replacement level player.

As noted above, he hit 45 homers over his first two seasons in the Major Leagues. He was doing well, so well, that he actually out-homered Nettles over those two years 45 to 44. (In 1973 and 1974, Nettles had back-to-back 22 home run seasons.)

But, after 1974, Graig Nettles would go on to hit another 263 homers… and Charlie Spikes would hit just 20 more. Just twenty – over a combined six seasons.

What happened?

Playing winter ball after the 1974 season, Charlie Spikes was beaned by a pitch that left his left eye swollen for two weeks. Whether or not that ruined his career, the results are undeniable – his career was never the same after that.

After the 1977 season, the Indians traded Spikes to the Tigers for Tom Veryzer.

The Tigers released Spikes after the 1978 season (he only played in ten big league games that year).

Spikes spent his final two MLB seasons (1979 and 1980) with the Atlanta Braves.

In 1981, Charlie Spikes’ professional baseball career ended with him playing for the Chunichi Dragons in the Japan Central League. In 16 games there, he hit only .122 with one homer and six runs batted in.

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