The untold story of one of the first Black players for the St. Louis Cardinals, who dreamed of leaving a lasting impact on Major League Baseball.
Charlie Peete was poised for greatness. After a meteoric rise through the minor leagues, the rookie outfielder appeared in twenty-three games for the St. Louis Cardinals during the summer of 1956 and established himself as one of the best prospects in the organization—until a cruel twist of fate intervened. On his way to Venezuela to compete in a winter baseball league, Peete and his family died in a plane crash near Caracas.
Nearly seven decades later, Cardinal Dreams revitalizes the legacy of Charlie Peete with the most comprehensive account to date of his remarkable life, including personal interviews with those who knew him and played with him. Raised under Jim Crow laws in southeastern Virginia, Peete broke into professional baseball in 1950 with the Negro American League’s Indianapolis Clowns, served his country admirably for two years in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, returned home to help integrate the Class B Piedmont League with the Portsmouth Merrimacs, and then climbed to the top of the St. Louis Cardinals organization at a time of rapid change under new ownership. Had Peete not lost his life in that plane crash, he likely would have become the first Black position player in franchise history to earn a permanent starting job.
Charlie Peete’s death stunned the St. Louis Cardinals and left the baseball world to forever wonder what his career might have become. But, despite his premature and tragic ending, Peete changed the world for the better—and left a lasting impact on the sport he spent his life pursuing.
Danny Spewak has more than a decade of experience as a news reporter at local television affiliates in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Buffalo, and mid-Missouri. A native of the St. Louis area, he graduated from the University of Missouri with dual degrees in journalism and political science. Spewak has also covered college sports extensively as a freelance writer, producing work that has appeared in the USA Today Network, The Huffington Post, and other online media outlets. He is the author of From the Gridiron to the Battlefield: Minnesota’s March to a College Football Title and into World War II, which was a finalist for the Emilie Buchwald Award for Minnesota Nonfiction in the 2022 Minnesota Book Awards.
As a lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, I thought I knew everything there was to know about the team’s storied history. I was wrong. In his exhaustively researched book, Danny Spewak digs deep on Charlie Peete, a pioneering player who helped pave the way for a host of Cardinals legends. This is a valuable contribution to baseball history, one that details the number of lives that Peete managed to touch despite his own being cut tragically short.
Sometimes the best and most intriguing stories are those of what might have been. This is one such story.
Charles Peete never became a household name within the St. Louis Cardinals lexicon, but he was an up-and-coming star in the Cardinal organization. The Cardinals have a storied and consistent ability to find players like Peete, who fit the Cardinal mold of players. Unfortunately, tragedy befell him at the young age of 27, robbing him of a future in baseball we are only able to dream about.
Marvelously researched, sparklingly written. A riveting read that belongs with the best of baseball biographies.
A name that should not be forgotten, Charlie “Pistol” Peete, is brought to life in Cardinal Dreams. Readers are taken on a journey through baseball during a time when segregation was still the norm and players like Peete grew up only dreaming of a Major League career. Peete’s story is one of triumph as well as tragedy and is eloquently told in Cardinal Dreams.
2/1/24, Choice: This title was included in the “Forthcoming Titles in African American Studies, 2024” roundup.