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Billy Hitchcock

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William Clyde Hitchcock

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[edit] Biographical Information

Billy Hitchcock was an infielder for 19 years (1933-1954), six in independent/semipro leagues (1933-1938); three in college (1936-1938); four in the minors (1938-1941 and 1954) and nine in the Majors (1942 and 1946-1953), losing three years to the Military.

Hitchcock was one of seven children and the son of James Franklin Hitchcock, clerk of the circuit court of Bullock County, Alabama, and Sallie Louise Davis Hitchock. His brother, Jim Hitchcock, played briefly with the Boston Bees (1938). Starting his professional career even before he graduated from high school in Union Springs, AL, Hitchcock played summer ball at Union Springs, in the Dixie Amateur League (1933), Abbeville, AL (1934-1935), Greenville, NC in the semi-pro Coastal Plain League (1936) and a textile mill team in Langdale, AL (1937).

He attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). He was an All-Southern Conference tailback and led Auburn to its first bowl game, the Bacardi Bowl in Havana, where he scored Auburn's only TD, a 40-yard run, in a 7-7 tie against Villanova. As captain and shortstop on the baseball team he led the Tigers to their first conference baseball title. He graduated from Auburn with a Bachelor of arts degree in Business Administration in 1938. Hitchcock was signed by scout Johnny Nee of the New York Yankees as an amateur free agent in 1938 but a knee injury sustained playing football kept him from playing until the following year when he played for the Kansas City Blues in the American Association (1939-1941).

A knee operation after the 1939 season improved his range. He married former Auburn co-ed Rebecca Rice of Opelika, AL on March 8, 1941. With Phil Rizzuto's promotion to New York, Hitchcock moved to shortstop from third base, where he had been playing. He batted a solid .296 with 59 RBIs and 24 stolen bases. Joe Williams reported in The Sporting News "at least six big league clubs are after him" (TSN, 9/11/1941) and, unable to beat out Rizzuto as shortstop of the Yankees, was sold to the Detroit Tigers and was 25 years old when he broke into the big leagues with them on April 14, 1942.

He was the Tigers' regular shortstop until the U.S. Army activated him from the Reserves, where he was a lieutenant and he spent four years (1942-1945) in the U.S. Army Air Corps, receiving the Bronze Medal, three battle stars and a promotion to major for his service in the Pacific (N&C/BP).

After the War, he rejoined the Tigers and played for Detroit and the Washington Senators in 1946; the St. Louis Browns (1947); the Boston Red Sox (1948-1949); the Philadelphia Athletics (1950-1952); and the Tigers again (1953), where he played his final MLB game on August 27, 1953 at age 37. He returned to the minors with the Buffalo Bisons of the International League (1954), ending his playing career at age 37. After Boston traded him to the A's, he became Connie Mack's regular second baseman in 1950. He batted a quite respectable .273, with personal highs in doubles and triples. In 1951 he compiled a .306 average, the only year he hit over .300 in either the major or minor leagues. The following year, as the regular third baseman, his average dropped to .246, but he posted his major league high of 56 RBI. The only team for which he played more than a hundred games in a season was the Athletics, in 1950 (second base) and 1952 (third base); and also played in 101 games in 1946 with the Tigers and Senators combined. He led American Association shortstops in errors in 1941 (52) and the American League third basemen in errors in 1952 (22).

The Tigers' organization liked Hitchcock and believed the affable Alabaman had a future in the game. They appointed him as manager of their Triple A farm club in Buffalo for one season, 1954, and then brought him to Detroit as a coach in 1955. He stayed in that position for the next seven years under six different managers. In 1960 the Tigers and Cleveland pulled off one of the strangest deals in baseball history, trading managers. Jimmy Dykes left Detroit for Cleveland, and Joe Gordon came to the Tigers. Detroit had a game to play before Gordon could reach the club, and Hitchcock managed for one game, a Tigers victory. Another chance to manage came in 1962 and 1963 with the Baltimore Orioles. Brooks Robinson remembered, "Billy was the nicest guy you ever wanted to meet, but we didn't play very well under him". After Hitchcock's firing, Lee MacPhail kept him on as field coordinator and scout for the Orioles. Then John McHale hired him as scout for the Milwaukee Braves in 1965. When the team moved to Atlanta in 1966, Billy became a coach under fellow Alabaman Bobby Bragan. After winning 84-88 games the three previous seasons, the Braves slumped in Atlanta. Following a 52-59 start under Bragan, McHale handed the reigns to Hitchcock.

Hitchcock announced his retirement after the 1967 season. In winters he had helped in his father-in-law's hardware store in Opelika. Now he would run the store, but his retirement from baseball proved short-lived. When McHale moved from the Braves to the expansion Montreal Expos in 1969, he persuaded Hitchcock to serve as special assignment scout and then director of minor league instruction for Montreal. Hitchcock continued to live in Opelika. Hitchcock then served as president of the Southern League from 1972 to 1980. He was replaced by Jimmy Bragan, whose brother Bobby he had coached under in 1966.

His first wife having died in 1973, he married Bette Ann Miller of Opelika, a widow with five children, in 1976. He played slow-pitch softball until he was 60, but his major retirement avocation has been golf, a sport he has enjoyed throughout his adult life. He combined his love of golf with his commitment to bettering his alma mater by establishing Auburn's Billy Hitchcock Golf Tournament, which has become a premier collegiate golf event. Auburn has returned his loyalty by naming its renovated baseball field Hitchcock Field. In 2003 Baseball America named this 4,090-seat facility the best college stadium in the country.

He died peacefully at his home in Opelika on April 9, 2006 at age 89, survived by his wife of 29 years, Betty Ann, four stepdaughters: Kim (Mike) Mann, Sherri (Geter) Meadows, and Debbie (Bob) Karcher all of Opelika and Beverly (Dan) McKeever of Auburn, AL, two sons, John Hitchcock of Salem, AL, and Toby Miller of Harrisonburg, VA, 27 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren; three sisters-in-law, and several nieces and nephews.


Preceded by
Lum Harris
Baltimore Orioles Manager
1962-1963
Succeeded by
Hank Bauer
Preceded by
Bobby Bragan
Atlanta Braves Manager
1966-1967
Succeeded by
Ken Silvestri

[edit] Year-By-Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1954 Buffalo Bisons International League 71-83 6th Detroit Tigers
1960 Detroit Tigers American League 1-0 -- Detroit Tigers interim between Jimmy Dykes (44-52) and Joe Gordon on August 3
1961 Vancouver Mounties Pacific Coast League 87-67 2nd Milwaukee Braves none
1962 Baltimore Orioles American League 77-85 7th Baltimore Orioles
1963 Baltimore Orioles American League 86-76 4th Baltimore Orioles
1966 Atlanta Braves National League 33-18 5th Atlanta Braves replaced Bobby Bragan (52-59) on August 9
1967 Atlanta Braves National League 77-82 -- Atlanta Braves replaced by Ken Silvestri on September 29

[edit] Chronology

  • 1916: born on July 31 in Inverness, AL
  • 1933: graduated from High School in Union Springs, AL
  • 1938: Graduated from Auburn University and signed as an amateur free agent by Johnny Nee of the New York Yankees.
  • 1939: Broke into Organized Ball at the age of 22 with the Kansas City Blues
  • 1941: Married Rebecca Rice of Opelika, AL on 8 March; on 8 September, purchased by the Tigers from the Yankees.
  • 1942: Broke into the big leagues on 14 April with Detroit.
  • 1942-1945: United States Army Air Force
  • 1946: On May 16, purchased by Washington from Detroit.
  • 1947: On February 8, purchased by the St. Louis Browns from Washington. On November 18, traded by St. Louis with Ellis Kinder to the Boston Red Sox for Sam Dente, Clem Dreisewerd, Bill Sommers, and $65,000.
  • 1949: On October 8, traded by Boston to the Athletics for Buddy Rosar.
  • 1951: On September 7, the A's split a pair with the Red Sox, losing 8–5 to Bill Wight, before winning, 11–4. Hitchcock has two triples and a double in game two good for five RBIs.
  • 1953: On January 29, traded by the Athletics to Detroit for Don Kolloway. Played his final MLB game on August 27 at age 37. On October 13, released by the Tigers.
  • 1954: Ended his playing career at age 37 with Buffalo as player/manager.
  • 1960: On August 3, Frank Lane trades managers with Detroit's GM Bill DeWitt. The Indians' Joe Gordon (49-46) is dealt to the Tigers for Jimmy Dykes (44-52). For one game, until the pair can change places, Jo-Jo White pilots the Indians and Hitchcock guides the Tigers.
  • 1961: On October 10, Hitchcock takes the place of Lum Harris (17-10) as manager of the Orioles.
  • 1962: On May 24 the Tigers score their first four runs on homers, then score the winner on a passed ball in the 11th to beat the Orioles, 5–4. Charlie Lau misses a Hoyt Wilhelm knuckler to allow Dick McAuliffe to score. Jim Bunning pitches the first nine innings for Detroit and is accused by O's manager Hitchcock of notching the ball with his belt buckle.
  • 1963: On November 19 Coach Hank Bauer is named to replace Hitchcock as manager of the Orioles.
  • 1966: On August 9, the Braves fire Bobby Bragan (52-59) and install Hitchcock as their new manager.
  • 1967: On September 30, Hitchcock (77-82) is fired by the Braves.
  • 1972: Named President of Southern League
  • 1973: Death of first wife.
  • 1976: Married Bette Ann Miller of Opelika, a widow with five children
  • 1980: Established Auburn's Billy Hitchcock Golf Tournament
  • 2003: Baseball America named the 4,090-seat facility Hitchcock Field at Auburn the best college stadium in the country
  • 2006: Died at Opelika on April 9 at age 89

[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Billy Hitchcock include newspaper obituaries (OB), government Veteran records (VA,CM,CW), Stars & Stripes (S&S), Sporting Life (SL), The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs {{{WW}}} (WW), old Baseball Registers {{{BR}}} (BR) , old Daguerreotypes by TSN {{{DAG}}} (DAG), Stars&Stripes (S&S), The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase (PD), The Baseball Library (BL), Baseball in World War II Europe by Gary Bedingfield (GB) {{{MORE}}} and independent research by Walter Kephart (WK) and Frank Russo (FR) and others.

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