Joseph O'Neal (Joe) Christopher (born December 13, 1935 in Frederiksted, U.S. Virgin Islands) is a former outfielder who played in Major League Baseball from 1959 through 1966. Listed at 5' 10", 175 lbs., he batted and threw right-handed.
Christopher is credited as the first baseball player from the Virgin Islands to appear in a major league game. He reached the majors in 1959 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, spending three years with them before moving to the New York Mets (1962–65) and Boston Red Sox (1966).
While in Pittsburgh, Christopher was used as a backup in all three outfield positions for Bob Skinner (LF), Bill Virdon (CF) and Roberto Clemente (RF). He was first called up when Clemente was injured, making his debut in nothing less than Harvey Haddix’s pitching masterpiece of 12 perfect innings on May 26, 1959. As a member of the 1960 World Series Champion Pirates, he was a utility player, pinch-running in three games and scoring two runs (games 2 and 5).
Christopher became the Mets’ fifth pick in the 1961 MLB Expansion Draft. In 1964 he enjoyed easily his finest season as a major-leaguer, hitting .300 with 16 home runs, 76 RBI, 78 runs, 163 hits, 26 doubles, and eight triples in 154 games, all career-highs. He had a career-best day on August 19, collecting two triples, a double, and a home run in an 8–6 victory over his former Pirates teammates. Then, on September 25 he broke up the no-hit bid of Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jim Maloney at Shea Stadium. His second-inning single was the only hit against Maloney, who had to settle for a 3–0 shutout.
Christopher played briefly in 1966 for the Red Sox and was dealt with pitcher Earl Wilson to the Detroit Tigers, who sent Julio Navarro as part of the package. Although Christopher’s major league career had come to an end on June 9, 1966 (he never played for Detroit), he stayed active in the minors through 1968. He also played winter baseball in Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
In an eight-season career, Christopher was a .260 hitter with 29 home runs and 173 RBI in 638 games, including one five-hit game and eight four-hit games.
By Dean Hanley
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