- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 190 lb.
What makes Moe Hill unique
In the first 60 years or so of the 20th century, it was somewhat common for players to win repeated home run crowns in a low- or mid- level minor league. By the 1960s, such players were extinct as prospects were moved up or let go. A one-dimensional threat or a player blocked by others in the system could win several HR titles at AAA, but not at class A. From 1960-1994, no player won two home run crowns in the California League, Florida State League, South Atlantic League, New York-Penn League or Northwest League. Bubba Smith won two in the Carolina League. In the Midwest League, one player also won multiple titles - four in a row, to be exact. His name was Moe Hill.
The Baltimore years
Out of high school, Moe Hill signed with the Baltimore Orioles. He began his career with the 1965 Fox Cities Foxes, batting .275/.323/.384, not bad for an 18-year-old in full-season A ball. Hill struggled in 1966, batting .135 for the Miami Marlins, then .159 for the Stockton Ports and finally .367 for the Batavia Trojans. Put back in regular action with Miami in 1967, he did better, hitting .234/~.315/.377 with 114 strikeouts and 9 homers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Hill's average was better than the norm for his team (which was 5th of the 10 teams in average) and he hit a quarter of their 36 homers. Returned to Miami in 1968, Moe put up a .261 average, 10 homers and 65 RBI. He was sixth in the FSL in home runs and third in RBI. Due to stomach problems, he was unable to play at all in 1969 and was released by the Baltimore chain.
The 1970s: the Moe Hill decade in the Midwest
Hill was signed by the Minnesota Twins system in 1970 and played for their Orlando Twins farm team. He hit .274/~.320/.474, stole 18 bases in 21 tries, led the FSL outfielders in fielding (.995), had 14 outfield assists, drove in 84 (two behind league leader Lee Robinson), smacked 22 homers (leading the league; only two other players hit 10 or more) and led in total bases (230). The only weak spot in his game was his walk-to-strikeout ratio (29 BB, 116 K in 485 AB). Moe hit 15 homers for three teams in 1971 - he began with the Charlotte Hornets and went just 5 for 36 with 15 strikeouts, 2 walks, a double and no homers in 11 games. He would not return to AA for eight years. Demoted to the Lynchburg Twins, Moe hit .221/~.260/.394 with 65 Ks and 11 BB in 208 AB, homering seven times. Hill then finished up with the Wisconsin Rapids Twins, which would become home for the bulk of the decade. Hill hit .231/.310/.641 for Wisconsin Rapids, homering eight times in 20 games.
Moe was returned to Wisconsin Rapids to provide a veteran presence in 1972 - as a 25-year-old with some success at A, he was a middling prospect. Fielding a poor .887 that year, Hill hit .245/.319/.448 with 20 circuit clouts, tied for fourth in the Midwest League. After a .271/.340/.401 season with only seven long balls, Moe talked with Tony Oliva and Rod Carew about hitting and exploded in 1974.
At age 27, a rather old age for a guy still to be playing in class A, Moe hit .339/.421/.621 with 32 homers, 113 RBI, 95 runs and 11 steals in 13 tries as an OF/1B. He led the MWL in average (28 points ahead of Al Woods, slugging, presumably OBP, total bases (275), hits (150), homers (6 ahead of Gary Ward) and RBI (35 ahead of runner-up Ward) and won the first Triple Crown of league history (Joey Meyer won one 10 years later; no one has won one in the 21 years after Meyer).
The Twins did not promote Hill. Perhaps they saw a guy well past the age when one can be a prospect, a guy who had not done anything in his glance at AA. Other theories have included racism, a desire to put a veteran guidance on a team of youngsters (the Twins' stated position) and a plan to build approval for young black players in the white town of Wisconsin Rapids. Whatever the reason, a legend was being born.
Hill returned to the WR Twins in 1975 and hit .275/.377/.542. He led the league in homers (31, 14 more than runner-up Willie Aikens) and total bases (219). He failed to make the All-Star team, as Willie Wilson, Thad Bosley and Terry Puhl won that honor in the MWL. In '76, Moe hit .272/.379/.535 for Wisconsin Rapids. He led the league in homers (30, 11 more than anyone else) and total bases (260) for a third straight year. He also tied for the lead in doubles (30, even with Sam Monteau) and scored the most runs (112). He made his second MWL All-Star team in his 7th year in the league, this time at DH. He thought about hanging up the spikes that season, but did not do so.
In 1977, Moe batted .304/.423/.610 after not being interviewed for the open managerial job he wanted with the team. Moe was sixth in average, drew a surprisingly high 94 walks (for a guy who barely walked early in his career), fanned 114 times and again led in total bases (291), homers (41, 18 more than the next players) and RBI (112, 15 morethan the runner-up). Now a full-time first baseman, Hill again was left off the All-Star team, this time in favor of John Harris (.318/~.391/.561). Moe had won the last of his four straight MWL homer crowns and his fifth home run title overall. At age 31, he bashed 25 homers and hit .279/.384/.519, but was nine homers behind leader Bill Foley, tied for second in the Midwest League. He drove in 94, but it was seven less than leader Brian Harper. He made the All-Star team at DH. He had played his 9th and last year in the Midwest League. Overall, Hill hit .283/.369/.515 in the MWL with 201 homers and 720 RBI in 969 games.
Hill ended the decade with the Jacksonville Suns after Minnesota sold him to the Kansas City Royals. Getting a second try at AA eight years after his first glance there, Moe batted .181/~.244/.333 with 8 homers in 182 AB. He finished his playing career with the 1980 Fort Myers Royals, hitting .364/~.429/.591. In his minor league career, he had gone deep 263 times.
After retiring, Moe became a coach for the GCL Royals from 1980-1982, then was the roving hitting coach for the Royals for three years, then spent five years in the same role for the Seattle Mariners. He coached and scouted for the Chicago Cubs for eight seasons, then became the hitting coach of the Tulsa Drillers from 1999-2002. He was the field coach for the Frederick Keys from 2003-2005, then became bench coach of the Bowie Baysox in from 2006 to 2010. He then moved to the Aberdeen IronBirds in 2011.
Sources: Midwest League Guide.com biography of Moe Hill, 1968 and 1970-1981 Baseball Guides, Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database, Buzzle article on Moe Hill, part one, Buzzle article on Moe Hill, part two, Bowie Baysox website