Former major league pitcher Charlie Lea died suddenly on Friday of a heart attack. He was 54.
Born in Orleans, France, Lea grew up in Memphis, Tennessee where he became a standout pitcher in the high school and college ranks. From 1975 through 1977, Lea was drafted by the New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox but opted to remain at the University of Memphis. Lea signed with the Montreal Expos after selecting him in the 9th Round of the 1978 MLB Draft and he would make his big league debut with the Expos in 1980.
On May 10, 1981, Lea recorded a no-hitter against the San Francisco Giants during the second game of a doubleheader at Olympic Stadium. That season the Expos would reach the post-season for the first and only time.
His best two seasons came in 1983 and 1984 when he went 16-11 with a 3.12 ERA and 15-10 with a 2.89 ERA, respectively. Lea was named to the National League All-Star Team in 1984 and NL manager Paul Owens would name him as his starting pitcher. Despite giving up a solo homerun to George Brett, Lea would earn the win as the NL prevailed 3-1 at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park.
Unfortunately, Lea was soon plagued by arm problems which forced him to miss both the 1985 and 1986 seasons. He made one final appearance with the Expos in 1987. Lea signed with the Minnesota Twins in 1988. However, he hung it up at the age of 31 after finishing that season 7-7 with a 4.85 ERA.
Lea would return to Memphis where in recent years, he served as a color commentator on radio broadcasts for the Memphis Redbirds, the Triple-A affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.