WASHINGTON — Chuck Hinton, the last player for the Washington Senators to hit .300, and who later became the head baseball coach at Howard University and the founder of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, died Sunday at his home in the District of Columbia. He was 78.
He had Parkinson’s disease, his daughter Kimberly Stewart said.
Mr. Hinton was considered the best player on some atrocious Senators teams of the early 1960s. He joined the club in 1961, when a new expansion team began playing in Washington after the original Senators had departed for Minnesota.
In his four seasons with the Senators, the fast and powerful Mr. Hinton was one of the few bright spots on a team that lost at least 100 games each year. He was primarily an outfielder, but he was so skilled that he played seven different positions for the Senators.
His finest season came in 1962, when his .310 batting average was fourth in the American League. No Senator ever hit .300 again before the franchise moved to Texas after the 1971 season.
Mr. Hinton led the Senators in stolen bases all four years he was with the team and finished second in the league in 1962 and 1963, behind only Hall of Famer Luis Aparicio. Mr. Hinton was named to the American League all-star team in 1964.
“I thought he was going to be the next Willie Mays,” his former Senator teammate Jim Hannan said Tuesday. “He was an exciting player. He could do everything.”
But Mr. Hinton did not reach the major leagues until 1961, when he was already 27. He was seriously injured Sept. 5, 1963, when he was struck in the left ear by a pitch thrown by the New York Yankees’ Ralph Terry.
Carried from the field unconscious, Mr. Hinton was hospitalized but returned to the lineup after only eight days. He later told The Washington Post that the effects of the concussion hampered his game.
“If I turned my head sharply, I’d see two balls coming up to the plate,” he said. “And in the outfield, it was like running uphill and downhill. At night, there were times when everything had a halo on it.”
After the 1964 season, Mr. Hinton was traded to the Cleveland Indians and later played with the California Angels and a second time with the Indians before retiring in 1971. He is one of the few major leaguers to have played every position except pitcher. He finished his career with a .264 batting average, 113 home runs, and 130 stolen bases.
Throughout his baseball career, Mr. Hinton made his off-season home in Washington, where he opened several businesses and worked for the Department of Recreation.
In 1972, his first season as Howard University’s baseball coach, he led the Bison to their first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.
“That’s one of the biggest thrills ever,” Mr. Hinton said at the time, “on a par with hitting .310 for the Senators.”
He coached the Howard baseball team for 28 years, retiring when the university discontinued the program. Two of his players, Milt Thompson and Gerry Davis, reached the major leagues.
In 1982, Mr. Hinton was the driving force behind the formation of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, which promotes baseball to young people and has raised millions of dollars for charity.
“The idea came from Chuck Hinton,” said Fred Valentine, who played with Mr. Hinton for the Senators and is vice president of the alumni association . “Thirty years later, we’ve grown to be one of the strongest associations in sports.”
Charles Edward Hinton Jr. was born in Rocky Mount, N.C. He played football, basketball, and baseball at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., and served two years in the US Army in the 1950s.
In 1956, he hitchhiked 300 miles to attend a baseball tryout camp, where he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles. He won two minor-league batting championships in the Orioles system before he was claimed in an expansion draft after the 1960 season by the newly formed Senators.
In 1965, while still playing in the major leagues, Mr. Hinton began working for the D.C. Recreation Department, where he mentored young people for more than 30 years. He was an outstanding golfer who often played in charity tournaments, and a member of the Integrity Church International in Landover, Md.
He leaves his wife of 57 years, Irma Macklin Hinton of Washington; three children, Charles Hinton III of Washington, Kimberly Stewart of Mitchellville, Md., and Tiffany Salaberrios of City Island, N.Y.; and three granddaughters. A daughter, Jonquil Branch Hawkins, died in 2002.
Chuck Hinton remained a fan favorite in Washington, and Howard named him to its coaching hall of fame.
“This job with Howard is thrilling,” Mr. Hinton told The Washington Post in 1972. “Every ballplayer has a desire to manage. Mine is to coach youngsters. What more can a man want?”