Memphis has lost one of its greatest sports figures. Former major-league pitcher Charlie Lea was found dead in his home this afternoon by his wife. According to a source in the Memphis baseball community, Lea died of a massive heart attack. He'd been in the hospital recently, but apparently not for symptoms related to heart trouble. Lea would have turned 55 next month on Christmas day.
On May 10, 1981, in just his second season in the big leagues, Lea hurled the first no-hitter at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, shutting down the San Francisco Giants. Three years later, he started and won the All-Star Game for the National League. Lea finished the 1984 season with a record of 15-10 and a 2.89 ERA. (He won 16 games in ’83.)
Before reaching the majors, Lea graduated from Kingsbury High School, starred for the University of Memphis, and then found himself as the ace of the 1979 Memphis Chicks, at the time the Class Double-A affiliate of the Expos.
Arm trouble shortened Lea's career and he retired after posting a 7-7 season with the Minnesota Twins in 1988. Memphis remained home for Lea, and he could be heard the last several summers as the color analyst for Memphis Redbird radio broadcasts.