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Negro Leagues
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Negro Leagues Legacy

Stars of the Negro Leagues

Too young to die
Smith career shortened by illness
By Brian Wilson/MLB.com

Born: 1903, Greenwood, S.C.
Died: Jan. 16,1932, city and state unknown
Bats: Left
Throws: Left

Left-handed hitting Chino Smith could be the best hitting talent you never heard of. His premature death robbed Negro League fans of the opportunity to see him complete his career.

Considered by Satchel Paige to be one of the two best Negro League hitters ever, Smith was born in Greenwood, South Carolina, in 1903. His politically-incorrect moniker was derived from his slightly Asian appearance. The 5-foot-6, 168-pound player was a line-drive hitter who played semipro with the Philadelphia Giants in 1924 and the Pennsylvania Red Caps in 1925 before beginning his professional career with the Brooklyn Royal Giants in 1925.

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"He'd go out there, say 'I guess I'll get me three hits,' and go out there and hit that ball," Cool Papa Bell said of Smith, according to SABR's Baseball Research Journal. " I don't care who pitched, he could do everything."

When Smith hit .341, as a rookie, he was just getting started. He hit .439 while with Brooklyn in 1927. Then while with the New York Lincoln Giants, Smith hit .464 (with 23 homers) in 1929 and a .468 mark in 1930.

Smith's sizzling stick was rarely stifled. Against Major League competition, he batted .405, and hit a homer in his first-ever at-bat.

He was as known for his temper as well as his hitting. He dared pitchers to knock him down, and would allegedly hit them with line drives as retribution. He even goaded fans, playfully lunging at them if they booed and waving them to boo louder once he homered off an enemy pitcher.

Chino Smith contracted yellow fever in 1931, and succumbed to the affliction, failing to reach his 30th birthday. He finished his career with a lifetime .377 average.

Brian Wilson is an editor/producer for the MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.