When he made he debut for the Kansas City Athletics, he was 29. Charles had served in the millitary in 1953 and 1954 (age 20-21). Charles was signed by the Boston Braves as an amateur free agent. The next year, the Braves moved to Milwaukee. This co-incided with Charles leaving for millitary service. From 1952-1954, a young 3B named Eddie Matthews established himself as one of the top power hitters in the game. As a 22 year old, Charles returned to professional baseball by playing at the B level minor leagues. He was very productive there, hitting .333 with 34 2B, 15 3B and 19 HRs among his 185 hits. His performance the next season in A Jacksonville did not stand out and despite getting a chance to play 15 games at AAA Wichita in 1956, he still spent the entire 1957 season in Jacksonville.
On to 1958, the first season Charles played at AAA Wichita. He hit .284 and drove in 51 runs in 123 games that season. After his 4th full season in the minors, it was time for him to get a call to the majors. He had already established himself as "the glider", his nickname given because of his defensive prowless. But because Matthews was there, Charles had no place to play. But Charles was used in 1958 as a 2B as well, playing 75 of his games there.
If there was a season for Charles to make his debut, it was 1959. However, the Braves chose to leave Charles in AAA which had moved to Louisville. In 154 games, that season, Charles hit .270, 4, 76 with 10 3Bs. He was playing 3B primarily for Louisville while Bobby Avila and Felix Mantilla played the most 2B for the Braves that season, with neither playing more than 51 games. In 1960, Chuck Cottier played most of the games at 2B and in 1961 Frank Boiling was acquired from the Detroit Tigers. Charles made 17 appearance at 2B in 1960 for Louisville, keeping his promotion a possibility. It never happpened as Charles played his 4th straight season in AAA for Vancouver of the Pacific Coast League.
After hitting .305, 13, 77, he was finally traded to the Kansas City Athletics. He burst right onto the scene in 1962, hitting .288, 14, 74 while playing outstanding defense at 3B. After hitting .267, 15, 79 in 1963 and .241, 16, 63 in 1964, he became more of a defensive minded 3B until his trade to the Mets in 1967. He had a little resurgence with the Mets in 1968, hitting .276, 15, 53, but was not much more than a utility player for the Championship team of 1969. He did, however, play a big role in the team's overtaking of the Cubs for the division title. He also started 4 of the 5 World Series games as the Mets took care of the Orioles. Wayne Garrett had started all 3 games of the NLCS against the then Atlanta Braves.
Charles was a MLB player trapped in the minors for too long. It is crazy to see an everyday player spend four seasons in AAA. He continued to produce until he was finally traded. It cost him at least 2-3 seasons of MLB experience. It was certainly part of the reason his career only lasted 8 years.
Charles was portrayed in the movie "42", which of course detailed Jackie Robinson's path to the major leagues. However, he was portrayed as a boy that could not have been older than 8 or 9. April 29, 1947, Charles turned 14. Maybe the impact of his part would have been seen better as an 8 year old than a 14 year old. Anyways, it would have been great to see what Charles could have done with a few more seasons to play in the majors.