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Chuck Hinton

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Charles Edward Hinton Jr.

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[edit] Biographical Information

Chuck Hinton missed the 1957 and 1958 seasons due to military service, having signed his first professional contract with the Baltimore Orioles prior to the 1956 season; he had to hitchhike 300 miles to attend an Orioles' tryout camp and be noticed, even though he had been a multiple-sports star at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC. Originally a catcher, the Orioles moved him to the outfield to take advantage of his great speed. He won two minor league batting titles while playing in the Orioles' system, with the Aberdeen Pheasants of the Northern League in 1959, where he hit .358, and with the California League's Stockton Ports the next season, where his batting average was .369.

Hinton was one of the most popular players to wear the uniform of the "new" Washington Senators after the expansion of 1961 and was the first and last player to hit .300 for the team when he hit .310 with 17 homers and 75 RBI in 1962. That figure was the fourth best in the American League that year, and no member of the Senators would again reach the .300 mark until the team's departure for Texas in 1972. He made his major league debut as an outfielder for the Senators in their first season, in 1961, after having been selected from the Orioles in the expansion draft. Orioles General Manager Paul Richards did not want to lose him to an expansion team, so asked him to fake an injury during the Arizona Fall League season in 1960; Hinton dutifully complied, pretending to run into an outfield fence during batting practice and acting as if he had seriously injured his shoulder. The Sporting News was fooled and ran an item saying the promising young outfielder was injured, but it did not prevent the Senators from drafting him. After a month and a bit spent in AAA with the Indianapolis Indians at the start of 1961 (where he hit .316), he immediately became a starter in Washington, hitting .260 in 106 games as a rookie that season. He was already 27 at the time, but would go on to have a number of solid years, playing until his late 30's.

From 1962 to 1966, he had an OPS+ above 100 every year, while playing well over 100 games every season. It was a pitching-dominated time - the so-called "second deadball era", so his statistics do not look so great at first glance, apart from his outstanding sophomore season, but he was a key contributor on offense all of those years. He hit .269 with 20 doubles, 12 triples and 15 homers in 1963, but was seriously injured when beaned by Ralph Terry of the New York Yankees on September 5th; he was carried off the field unconscious and was hospitalized, but returned to the line-up only eight days later even though he was clearly suffering from the after-effects of a concussion. He then was the Senators' representative to the 1964 All-Star Game when he hit .274, scored 74 runs and hit 25 doubles and 11 homers in 1964. After that season, the Senators traded him to the Cleveland Indians in return for 1B Bob Chance and IF Woodie Held. One of the causes of the surprising trade was that his manager, Gil Hodges, was down on him after an incident when he had forgotten the number of outs after making a catch in the outfield, allowing a runner to score unopposed. It was a rare case of someone not liking Chuck; he was universally appreciated by teammates for his intelligence and human qualities, which would be amply demonstrated in later years.

Hinton hit a personal-best 18 homers for the Indians in 1965, to go along with a .259 average, 17 doubles and 76 triples. In 1966, he hit .256 with 12 homers and 50 RBI. He had shown a lot of speed in his first seasons in the big leagues, stealing in double figures with a good success rate every year until 1966, reaching a high of 28 in 1962; he was second in the American League in stolen bases, behind future Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio, in both 1962 and 1963. He also drew his share of walks, getting 64 in 1963 and maintaining an OBP around .330. That last figure was very good in the context of that decade. In 1967, Hinton began to show some signs of aging and fell to .245 with 10 homers and only 37 RBI although still a regular. Except for 1964, when he played left field almost exclusively, he kept moving around from position to position in the outfield, as his set of skills meant that he was a solid defensive player anywhere he played; he also spent time at all four infield positions and had 9 games as a catcher during his career, a sign of his athleticism and tremendous versatility. He thus played every position on the field except pitcher, and did so out of genuine ability and not as the result of a stunt.

Before the 1968 seasons, Hinton was traded to the California Angels in return for promising young outfielder Jose Cardenal, but he continued his decline, posting an 83 OPS+ with a .195 average, 7 homers and 23 RBI. That was the infamous "Year of the Pitcher", so his numbers look a lot worse than they were. He lost his job as a starter that year, but played another three seasons as a back-up, and saw his production bounce back during those years. Just before the start of the 1969 season, the Angels traded him back to Cleveland in return for Lou Johnson, a very similar player in that he was also an outfielder in his mid 30's who had taken a number of years to reach the big leagues and then had some very good seasons whose quality is depressed by playing in unfavorable circumstances. "Sweet Lou" was almost done as a player, however, but Hinton could still contribute with the bat, although a year older. He hit .256 in 94 games in 1969, then an outstanding .318 with 9 homers and 29 RBI in 104 games as a back-up in 1970. That production was good for an OPS+ of 135, the highest of his career at age 36. He played one more year for the Indians, hitting .224 in 88 games in 1971. He was released by the Indians in January of 1972, at which point he retired, settling permanently in the Washington, DC area. In all, he had played 11 seasons in the majors, hitting .264/.332/.412 with 113 homers and 443 RBI in 1,353 games.

After retiring, he coached Howard University's baseball team for 28 years, from 1972 until 1999, shortly before the university discontinued the program in 2002. Future major leaguers Milt Thompson and Gerry Davis played for him at Howard. Not surprisingly, he was also an excellent golfer and took park in many charity tournaments over the years. He also opened a number of businesses in his adopted hometown and worked for the District of Columbia's Department of Recreation, having started to mentor young people while still playing for the Senators. His name was added to the "Washington Hall of Stars" at RFK Stadium; he and slugger Frank Howard are the only two members of the "new" Senators to have been so honored. In 1982, he founded the Major League Baseball's Players Alumni Association, which worked on behalf of former players and their pension rights, but also on promoting the game of baseball in general while raising millions of dollars for charitable causes. Former teammates with the Senators, such as Jim Hannan and Fred Valentine, and fellow D.C.-area university coach Walt Masterson were among the first members to join. He was active in the association until a year prior to his death in 2013 at age 78, after suffering from Parkinson's disease. He and his wife Irma Macklin had been married for 57 years at the time of his death; they had a son and three daughters.

He wrote an autobiography titled My Time at Bat.

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • AL All-Star (1964)

[edit] Further Reading

  • Chuck Hinton: My Time At Bat: A Story of Perseverance, Christian Living Books Inc., Largo, MD, 2002. ISBN 1562290037 [1]
  • Bruce Markusen: "A Tribute to Chuck Hinton", The Hardball Times, January 29, 2013. [2]

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