Monday, May 25, 2009

Grave of Hugh Hill

My wife and I were able to visit Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston, WV, on May 17 and found the grave of Hugh Ellis Hill, pictured here. The top view shows the landscape behind Hill's grave, second marker to the right in the foreground; the next shows a similar view for panoramic perspective.

Born July 21, 1879 at Ringgold in northern Georgia, Hill began his professional baseball career at the age of 21 with the Nashville Volunteers (or Vols) of the Southern Association in 1901 as a pitcher. The following season he plateaued as a moundsman, compiling a record of 22 wins, seven losses. Why his pitching career didn't develop after such a successful start is not immediately known.

In 1903 he played in his first season in the American Association, performing for both Nashville and the Kansas City Blues, when he showed considerable acumen for hitting. He posted a .400 mark in 75 at-bats for the Volunteers, and a .280 mark under Dale Gear in KC where he was used only as an outfielder.

A dependable performer with the Blues in 1904, Hill showed his speed as well as his durability, appearing in 140 games with 567 at-bats and a .261 batting average. He was among the leaders in various offensive categories, leading the league with 39 doubles; he out-paced his teammates with 148 hits and 21 stolen bases.

In 1905 Hill split the season between the Blues and the Buffalo Bisons of the Eastern League, appearing in a total of 96 games.

Returning as a full-timer to KC in 1906, Hill had a breakout season. He led the Association by appearing in 156 games (two beyond what was scheduled) and swatted .284 in 598 at-bats, ranking 20th in the league among hitters with 300+ official trips. Again he showed his fleetness afoot with 35 doubles and 32 stolen bases; in addition, he led the Blues with 10 triples and tied for the team lead with three home runs. His fine slugging average of .391 was a strong measure of his value to the team. The Blues finished sixth in '06 under manager Jimmie Burke at 69-79.

The 1907 season was Hill's last complete term with Kay-see. Showing remarkable stamina, he appeared in 152 games and hit .267 with a .376 slugging average. The lefty-bat/righty-throw Georgian led Burke's Blues with seven home runs and 30 stolen bases as the Kansas Citians elevated their league standing to the first division with a 78-76 record, finishing fourth.

Hill's career was on the decline after that. He appeared in only 33 games as a Blue in 1908, while playing for no other sanctioned teams. In 1909 he took up with the New Orleans Pelicans and Mobile Sea Gulls of the Southern Association for a combined 78 games, hitting .220 in 286 at-bats. At the age of 34 he attempted resurrecting his pro career with the San Antonio Bronchos of the Texas League, hitting a meager .154 in 39 at-bats.

Hill also played in the major leagues early in his career, performing for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1904 and the Cleveland Naps in 1903. He was the brother of another major leaguer, Bill Hill.

How he wound up buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston is a bit of a mystery, born in Georgia and dying in Cincinnati on Sept. 6, 1958. The Almanac will keep readers informed should any information come to light as to how he came to his final resting spot; could have been something to do with his wife. More to come.