Referred to in the black sports press as "The Hoosier Comet, Oscar Charleston's career in baseball spanned nearly four decades. He began his career as a young outfielder with the Indianapolis ABCs in 1915, five years before the formation of the first Negro National League. Rapidly establishing himself as a standout player, Charleston was the cornerstone of the Indianapolis franchise as the team entered Rube Foster's Negro National League as a charter member in 1920.
In the early years of the Negro National League the power-hitting Charleston was its biggest star. In 1921 he compiled an incredible .446 batting average with 14 homeruns. A stocky, compact player, Charleston used his uncommonly thorough understanding of the game to his every advantage. His aggressive "take no prisoners" approach to the game made him a formidable opponent on the field and previewed an approach to the game that would later make Charleston the most successful manager in Negro baseball since Rube Foster.
Moving to the Eastern Colored League in 1922 Charleston began his often-repeated role of player-manager, assuming the helm of the Harrisburg Giants. With the Harrisburgh Giants, Hilldales and Homestead Grays, Charleston turned in 9 consecutive seasons in which he hit for better than a .350 average, twice hitting over .400.
As Gus Greenlee began to assemble his Pittsburgh Crawfords dream team for the 1932 season he secured Charleston's services as player-manager. During the heyday of the Crawfords from 1932 to 1936 Charleston continually maintained a .340+ batting average and joined with Josh Gibson to provide Pittsburgh with one baseball's most potent offenses.
Though the 1930s Charleston continued with the Crawfords before taking the helm of the Philadelphia Stars in 1941. In 1945 he accepted the post as manager of the Brooklyn Brown Dodgers in Branch Rickey's newly formed United States League. When this league disbanded with the integration of the major leagues Charleston accepted management duties with the Indianapolis Clowns where he remained until his death after the 1954 season.
Despite his aggressive style of play and frequently displayed hot temper, Charleston not only a fan favorite, but a favorite among players as well. His skills in the development of young players was unmatched during his day, and his fairness in dealing with his players earned him the respect of hundreds of players who played under him.
Charleston was inducted into the Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1976.