Charles "Chino" Smith (1903 - January 16, 1932) was an American outfielder in Negro league baseball who was one of the Negro leagues' most skillful hitters of the mid-1920s and early 1930s. He stood only 5'6" tall but could hit the ball with prodigious power and efficiency. In fact, Satchel Paige called him one of the two most dangerous hitters in Negro league history. He had an incredible eye and hit amazing line drives to all fields, striking fear into opposing pitchers during all plate appearances.
Smith was born in Greenwood, South Carolina and played for the semipro Philadelphia Giants in 1924. He worked at New York City's Penn Station and played in 1925 for their baseball team, the Pennsylvania Red Caps of New York, playing for them as a second baseman alongside shortstop Dick Seay.
Smith broke into the professional Brooklyn Royal Giants later that year. He recorded batting averages of .341 in 1925 and .439 in 1927. In 1929 he joined the New York Lincoln Giants of the new American Negro League, and walloped pitching to the tune of a .464 average, collecting 118 hits in only 67 games, with 23 home runs and 24 doubles, all of which paced the league. The league was not a stable one, however, and it folded the next year, with the Lincoln Giants continuing on as an independent team. They battled the Homestead Grays for the eastern title, only to lose out at the end of the season. During this season he destroyed opposing pitchers at a .468 clip. But this season was to be his last. At the age of 28, Smith became ill with yellow fever while playing in Cuba and died.
The incomplete records of the time show that Smith had an astounding .423 career batting average in Negro league competition. He hit .335 in Cuban winter ball and .405 (or .423 depending upon sources) against white major leaguers. His abrupt death ended a career which could have been one of the finest of all time and we can only speculate about what could have been.
Smith's nickname of "Chino" is thought to have originated from his Asian-like appearance.
Quotes about Smith
"A line drive hitter whose line shots to all parts of the ballpark looked like frozen ropes, he had a good eye at the plate and rarely struck out. Going with the pitch to all fields, he hit everything thrown to him and respected no pitcher. Sometimes he would spit at a pitcher's best offerings as it came across the plate, taking two strikes before lining a base hit through the middle. Supremely confident at the plate, the little slugger had no weakness." -James A. Riley, "The Biographical Encyclopedia of The Negro Baseball Leagues"
- Martin, Alfred M.; Martin, Alfred T. (2008). The Negro Leagues in New Jersey : A History. Mcfarland & Co Inc. ISBN 978-0-78-643900-3
- Riley, James A., "The Biographical Encyclopedia of The Negro Baseball Leagues" (1994) Carrol & Graf Publishers Inc., New York
- Shatzkin, Mike, Editor, "The Ballplayers" (1990), William Morrow and Company, New York, ISBN 0-87795-984-6