Awesome Softball Career Lands Charlie Maxwell in USSSA New Jersey Hall of Fame

Jun 27, 2018
Photo by: Supplied photo

Ted Williams and Charlie Maxwell have at least one thing in common: Each ended his career with a home run. However, one glaring difference between the way their careers ended was that Maxwell culminated his by going 10-for-10, with the three-run dinger the exclamation point.

“I retired at the end of the 1999 season, and I haven’t played a single game since, despite many offers,” said Maxwell, now, at 57, eligible to play in 55-and-over leagues. “Going 10-for-10 with a three-run homer in my final at-bat in a national tournament made it easy to end my career. I went out just like Ted Williams did.”

Of course, Williams played at baseball’s highest level – probably considered by many to be significantly more upscale compared to Maxwell’s run as a slowpitch softball player. After all, Williams remains the last player to bat over .400 at the Major League level and one of two to win the exclusive Triple Crown twice.

Still, Maxwell’s 20-year career as a shortstop, who played in multiple national tournaments, including the vaunted Amateur Softball Association Nationals, is very much worthy of admiration. And last month, Maxwell was rewarded for his stellar career by being selected for the USSSA New Jersey Softball Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is slated for December.

“It’s quite an honor,” said Maxwell, a Manahawkin resident. “I played over 5,000 games in those 20 years, many of them on some really crappy fields where I saw some nasty hops. I wasn’t a home-run hitter. My defense was the biggest part of my game, and I think that’s what separated me from others. I had a great career that ended on a really high note, and the Hall-of-Fame induction is the icing on that cake.”

A fiery competitor, Maxwell originally grew up in West Creek and graduated from Southern Regional High School. In 1979, he started playing softball with a bunch of high school friends on a team sponsored by West Tuckerton Liquor Store. After two years, he “caught the eye” of Bud “Tip” Seaman, owner of Tip’s Hardware, who sponsored a team by the same name. Seaman invited Maxwell to play for his squad in the prestigious Scotty Ireland Tournament in Pleasantville, featuring the best teams and players in South Jersey.

“When I was younger, I rode my bike over to the West Creek Firehouse ballfield to watch the local slowpitch league and was always enamored with the Tip’s Hardware team,” Maxwell said. “They sported the green and gold colors of the Oakland A’s (one of MLB’s hot teams at the time) and were always the best-outfitted team.

“I played third base that weekend in Pleasantville, since Tip’s had Tom Jackson, a local physical education instructor from Ship Bottom, already at shortstop. However, Jackson had planned to retire that year, and his spot was offered to me. I was so excited. That’s really when things caught fire for me.”

Maxwell played for Tip’s Hardware through the 1986 season, and during that stretch Tip’s captured the ASA New Jersey Class A championship in 1984, beating local rival Moby Dick Lounge, 9-8, in the tournament final on a field in Brigantine.

“We both played in the same league and we were brutal rivals,” said Maxwell, who deemed the championship game against Moby Dick as the No. 2 “big moment” of his career. “It was a great, low-scoring game, with maybe one home run and a lot of great defensive plays. It was our first state championship, and it was an exciting one.”

From 1987 through 1992, Maxwell’s teams – sponsored at one time or another by The Cranberry Bog, Tip’s Hardware and The Grapevine – dominated the game within Ocean County and won multiple state titles, either with ASA or USSSA, as well as an ASA Mid-Atlantic Regional crown in 1991, and a runner-up finish at the USSSA Northeast Regional tourney and a fourth-place finish in the USSSA World Series in 1992.

After taking a break in 1993 to be more accessible to his wife, Cathy, following the birth of their son, Drew, Maxwell returned to the field in 1994, and later in 1994 began playing with Flex Gym – “a literal all-star team of the best players from South Jersey,” he said – and the team proceeded to have three monster seasons, dominating the ASA’s Northeast region.

In 1995 and 1996, Maxwell was selected as an All-American first-teamer and helped Flex Gym to a pair of national runner-up spots, placing second amid a 100-team field in Shreveport, La., the first year and second of 83 teams in Jacksonville, Fla., the following year.

After one more season, under new sponsor A-1 Terminators, many of the players opted to start cutting back on their playing time. Nonetheless, the squad continued for another two years before Maxwell called it quits, ending his career with 10 straight hits in the National Softball Association World Series in Glen Burnie, Md.

“If you’re good at something, you want to play as much as you can,” Maxwell said. “I played softball seven days a week back then, with five games during the week and then weekends, and sometimes 10 games on a Sunday. It was a lot of fun. I just loved the competition. And I love to win, too. Winning gets in your blood, so you keep going.”

Possibly the best part is that Maxwell never got seriously injured while playing.

“I played at least 250 games a year for 20 years,” he said. “That’s a lot of softball. And it was high-level competition ... serious stuff. But the most I had was a slight hamstring pull or twisted ankle. I never missed more than a week of playing time.”

Maxwell considers his selections as an All-American to be the top “big moment” of his career – “those are the plaques Cathy let me hang” while most of the other hardware is in the attic – and is fine with never going back to the game. Nowadays, he focuses more on coaching volleyball, his other passion.

“The rewards from playing softball was just winning as a team, enjoying that time together,” he said. “I’ve gotten to connect on Facebook with a lot of guys I played with or against, but some of the guys I played with are still some of my best friends. Playing at a competitive, high level was great. But it was really about the friendships that made it special.”

— David Biggy

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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