KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Dave Hillman made his Major League debut in 1955 with the Chicago Cubs, but his baseball journey is a winding one.
The native of Dungannon, Virginia served his country before he even thought of playing organized baseball. It took him a couple years to get noticed by professional scouts, but finally got a chance with the Rock Hill Chiefs, an affiliate of the Cubs.
During his early years, Hillman learned a valuable lesson from one of his former managers and former big league catcher Al Todd.
“Location, location, location…I don’t care how hard you’re going to throw, there’s someone out there that can turn that ball around,” Hillman said.
After floating around in the minors the next five years, Hillman finally got the call to the big leagues in 1955.
“I don’t remember just exactly how it come, but it came through from the Cubs that they wanted me in Spring Training by next year,” Hillman said.
The righty found himself on Chicago’s roster and finished the season with a 5.31 ERA, 25 walks and 23 strikeouts in 57 and two-thirds innings. As Hillman spent more time in the major leagues, his statistics improved, but it also gave him the chance to face some of the games all-time greats.
“Jackie Robinson came up, he hit in the left field stands and it went out like a rocket, so you could here to ricochet in the box seats,” Hillman said. “I loved to pitch to Yogi (Berra), Ted Williams, I talked to him. He was the first man I met on the Red Sox. I threw Mickey (Mantle) one fastball and he hit it straight up in the air. Eh Lordy. Vic Wertz told me ‘Dave if it ever comes down, it’ll bring rain.'”
Hillman ultimately played eight MLB seasons with five different teams. He finished with a 21-37 record, 296 strikeouts and 185 walks. The 92-year-old knows he made the most of his career.
“I had a good career, met a lot of friends, a lot of ball players as friends…most of them are dead and gone now, but no regrets, none whatsoever,” Hillman said.