Charley Stanceu appeared on the major league radar long before he made his debut in 1941. Stanceu first came to prominence playing in his native Canton, Ohio. After a particularly successful year as a 17-year-old in 1933, he got some attention from the Cleveland Indians.
After Cleveland signed him, he made his professional debut in 1934 playing for the Zanesville Greys and the Monessen Indians. This would be the start of a long minor league journey for Stanceu. Despite struggling in his first year, he steadily improved over the next couple of seasons. With the Waterloo Hawks in 1936, he pitched 166 innings to the tune of a 2.82 ERA. The following year, he finished the season with another sub-3.00 ERA.
Despite all that, Stanceu wasn’t getting a look by Cleveland. A major reason why came to light shortly after that. The Indians invited him to spring training in 1938, but he was declared a free agent in March of that year. It had been discovered that Stanceu had been placed on the Buffalo Bisons roster before the season in 1937, but was never listed as playing a game for them.
Cleveland had purely done it as a way to keep Stanceu off their major league roster without losing him. Stanceu and many others around the leagues were declared free agents and were unable to sign with Cleveland for three years.
In April of 1938, the Yankees signed Stanceu for $2500 and spent most of that season putting up solid numbers for the Binghamton Triplets. Despite the new situation, he still wouldn’t breakthrough to the majors for a while.
After three full seasons in the Yankees’ organization, Stanceu went north with the team out of spring training in 1941. He made his debut on April 16th, throwing one inning in a 10-7 loss to the Athletics. In all, Stanceu pitched 48 innings in 1941. Despite the sparse use, he did remain with the team all season as they went on to win the World Series that season.
Stanceu did not appear in the World Series, however. Looking back to history class, 1941-42 took place during World War II. In that offseason, Stanceu enlisted into the army. After nearly five years of service, which included participating in the Battle of the Bulge, Stanceu returned to baseball ahead of the 1946 season.
He made the Yankees out of spring training in 1946. Just over five years after his debut, Stanceu began his second major league season on April 20th. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning as the Bombers lost to the Senators. Stanceu made two more appearances for the Yankees that season, giving up a combined four runs in three innings. The club released him in June, and the Phillies picked him up shortly after that.
Stanceu was used mostly as a starter with the Phillies, and threw a complete game in his second appearance with the team. He performed better with the Phillies than he had in either of his stints with the Yankees. He was invited to Philadelphia’s spring training in 1947, but he wouldn’t play another major league game after 1946. Stanceu played three more seasons in the minor leagues, but once again, he wasn’t getting a chance at the majors. After 1949, he retired.
Stanceu had one of the more unlucky careers you’ll find. First, he wasn’t really give a look and even had a team manipulating with rosters to keep him in the minors. Then he finally gets his chance only to go to war just as he appeared to be entering his prime. Then he gets out only to not really be given much of a chance again. He got to play in the majors and that’s cool, but that is an unfortunate career path.