Nicknames: Charlie, Chino
Positions: of, 2b
Teams: Philadelphia Giants (1924), Pennsylvania Red Caps of New York (1925), Brooklyn Royal Giants (1925-1927, 1931), New York Lincoln Giants (1929-1930)
Height: 5' 6'' Weight: 168
Born: 1903, Greenwood, South Carolina
Died: January 16, 1932
This compact dynamo who, according to Satchel Paige, was one of the two greatest hitters in the Negro Leagues, was a scrapper, arousing the fans and intimidating pitchers as he shot through the world of black baseball like a meteor, with a career as brief as it was bright.
Given the nickname "Chino" because of a slant across his eyes that lent him a bit of an Oriental appearance, he was also a good defensive outfielder and a fine base runner. However, it was as a hitter that he gained his greatest notoriety. 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 back through the middle. Supremely confident at the plate, the little slugger had no weakness.
Batting third in the powerful New York Lincoln Giants' lineup, his records substantiate his reputation as a superior hitter. In an abbreviated seven-year career, Smith hit for a lifetime average of .423 in regular-season play, an identical average in exhibitions against major-leaguers, and .335 in the Cuban winter leagues. In 1930, in the first game ever played in Yankee Stadium by two black teams, he hit 2 home runs and a triple.
As a young man he worked as a redcap in New York's Pennsylvania Station, and played second base on their baseball team. Later that season he began his career with a top team, the Brooklyn Royal Giants. He is credited with averages of .341 in 1925 and .439 in 1927 before joining the New York Lincoln Giants in 1929. That season, he batted .464 and hit 23 home runs to lead the American Negro League in both categories, during the league's only year of existence. After the demise of the league, the Lincolns played as an independent ballclub, fighting the Homestead Grays for the eastern title before losing out at the end of the season.
This was the last season before his premature death, and he hit .468, his highest batting average ever. Not yet having reached his thirtieth birthday and still in his prime, many outstanding years lay ahead but he fell victim to an illness, thought to have been yellow fever. Baseball historians can only speculate about what Chino might have accomplished if he had enjoyed the luxury of a long career.
Source: James A. Riley, The Biographical Encyclopedia of the Negro Baseball Leagues, New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc., 1994.