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Chino Smith

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Charles Smith (Chino, Charlie)

  • Bats Left, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 6", Weight 168 lb.

[edit] Biographical

Though he died before age 30 and was hardly an imposing figure in terms of size, Chino Smith was one of the most feared hitters in Negro League history. Satchel Paige called him one of the two greatest Negro League hitters ever and his .434 career average in blackball is 50 points ahead of the #2 man, Larry Doby. He also hit .335 in Cuba in winter league play.

Smith began his professional career in 1925 with the Brooklyn Royal Giants, batting .339. Moving from the outfield to second base, Chino hit .336 the next season and also hit .342 in the Cuban Winter League. In 1927 Smith emerged as a star at age 24. Back in the outfield, he hit .435 to lead the Eastern Colored League. He was also tied for third in homers (10), two behind league leader Oscar Charleston, and was fifth with 16 doubles. He hit .342 in Cuba that winter.

In 1928 Smith slipped to .310 for Brooklyn, when the team and league folded. In Cuba he batted .333. The 1929 season saw a second batting crown for Chino. With the New York Lincoln Giants, he hit .464 to lead the American Negro League in its sole season of play. He also had the most homers (23) and doubles (27) in the league. In all three categories, the runner-up was a future Hall-of-Famer (John Beckwith in average, Martin Dihigo in homers and Oscar Charleston in doubles). Led by the dazzling production of their minute star, the Lincoln Giants had the league's best record. In Cuba he was third in the league at .338, trailing Alejandro Oms and Jud Wilson.

There was no formal league in the east that year, but Chino remained dominant. He hit .492 against other top black teams, the top mark in the east, was tied for second in the east with 7 homers, tied for the eastern lead with Turkey Stearnes with five doubles and swatted the most doubles (17) in that part of the country. In the first Negro League game in Yankee Stadium, Smith homered twice, tripled once and walked in a 13-4 win over the Baltimore Black Sox, while occupying the same right field spot usually manned at the time by Babe Ruth. Smith did struggle in a series with the Homestead Grays, managing just a .214 mark. His great career came to an end that winter when he got yellow fever and died in January.

His nickname was derived from slanted eyes, which were felt to give him an Oriental appearance. Known for his confidence as well as his skill at the plate, he also could be aggressive and got into verbal confrontations in Cuba with both Johnny Allen and Dolf Luque. Smith went down in history as one of the greatest "what might have been" cases in baseball lore.

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