Hinton's pre-draft 'accident' in '60 was good break for Senators

BASEBALL

November 15, 1992|By JIM HENNEMAN

When Jeff Tackett fell off a bike and broke his collarbone last weekend, it caused a flashback to a rather hilarious incident that took place shortly before baseball's first expansion draft.

Tackett, who is among those left unprotected by the Orioles in this year's player pool, hadn't even been born when the American League stocked new teams in Washington and Los Angeles in 1960. That was near the end of the Paul Richards era in Baltimore, when chicanery was a staple of the Orioles' efforts to become a winner.

Among the players left unprotected by the Orioles that year was outfielder Chuck Hinton, whose skills suddenly blossomed in the Florida Instructional League that winter. His exploits were reported almost daily back in Baltimore -- until the shocking news that he had suffered a severe shoulder injury after running into an outfield fence.

Hinton's career reportedly was in jeopardy -- a fact apparently known by every team in baseball except the fledgling Senators. Either oblivious to his condition or willing to take a gamble, Washington used one of its selections to take Hinton off the Orioles' roster.

Much later it was revealed that Hinton's accident had been staged, a ruse orchestrated by Richards, who just happened to be there when it happened.

"I think I was there that day," said Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, then a young executive about to move from the Milwaukee Braves to the Angels. "I've heard the story so many times, I don't know if I'm visualizing it or not, but I remember a lot of baseball people being there and that it was a very cold day.

"Richards spent most of the day watching from his car. "When it [the fake crash into the fence] happened, Paul got out and trotted all the way to left field."

For Richards to move at anything faster than a deliberate gait, his trademark when approaching umpires for a debate, was unusual enough for anyone to notice. "Well, maybe it was more like a semi-trot," said Hemond, "but for Paul, that was fast."

Two years later, Hinton hit .310 with 17 home runs and 75 RBI for the Senators. He went on to play 11 years in the big leagues, the first four in Washington, where he is now the baseball coach at Howard University.

Tackett is one of the players who will draw consideration from Florida and Colorado when they stock their rosters Tuesday. He is expected to be completely healed in time for spring training, and it is doubtful if his status will be affected by the injury.

Just in case anybody thinks there's a similarity between Tackett and Hinton, a logical disclaimer is offered by Hemond. "Jeff's wife Wendy just had a baby boy a couple of weeks ago," said Hemond, "and now she can't get all the help she needs around the house."

The first pick?

Trying to guess who will be the first player picked in Tuesday's draft could be as tough as predicting next year's MVPs.

However, you can't be right unless you make a pick, so the prediction here is Atlanta Braves pitcher David Neid. He is one of several reasons some baseball people question the authenticity of the protected lists revealed last week.

Neid was regarded as possibly the top pitching prospect in the minor leagues last year.

"I can't believe the Braves left both Neid and Pete Smith unprotected," said one baseball official.

Atlanta surprised a lot of people by protecting Otis Nixon, who will be 34 with a $2.6 million contract next year, and Deion Sanders, who plays two sports very well but neither exclusively. Nied, a right-hander, was 14-9 with a 2.84 ERA for Triple-A Richmond last year. He struck out 159 and walked 44 in 168 innings.

Right behind Nied is Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Nigel Wilson. He hit .274 with 34 doubles, seven triples and 26 home runs at Double-A Knoxville last year.

There are some other mysterious absences from the protected lists.

The New York Yankees are gambling they won't lose Danny Tartabull, a native of Miami, who has a $20 million contract that runs four more years. And they might be taking an even bigger risk by leaving third baseman Charlie Hayes exposed.

Hayes is the player for whom the Yankees had to make room when they designated Alan Mills for assignment. Mills was traded to the Orioles and ended up on the 15-man protected list.

Hayes, who played good defense and was a solid hitter in the middle of the lineup, seemed to solve the third-base problem. But they Yankees will be right back where they started if they lose Hayes, which would make the Mills trade look even worse than it already does.

Speeding up the game

Whether it survives or not, the new Arizona Fall League will leave a legacy for baseball if one of its experiments is successful.

Bill Murray, director of baseball operations for the major leagues, is overseeing ways to reduce the elapsed time it takes to play the game. A special emphasis has been placed on keeping the batter in the box between pitches.

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