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Pete Hill

"[He] will probably never have an equal as a hitter.
I think he is the most dangerous man in a pinch in baseball."

--Ben Taylor, Negro League player and manager


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©Copyright 2000-2001, Kyle McNary, McNary Publishing

Negro Leaguer of the Month
May, 2002

J. Preston "Pete" Hill

Position: Centerfield
Career: 1899-1925
Pittsburgh Keystones, Cuban X-Giants, Philadelphia Giants, Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Milwaukee Bears, Baltimore Black Sox

HT: 6'-1"; WT: 220 lbs
Batted left; threw right
Died: 1951 in Buffalo, NY

Ruth, Aaron, Bonds, Mantle, Mays, Williams– Pete Hill could hit with all of them!

Hill was the first great slugger the Negro Leagues ever had. He was huge for his era, and the sound his bat made meeting the ball was different than all others.

Many compared Hill to Ty Cobb – they were both the same size, both batted left and threw right, and both hit and bunted better than their peers. But, unlike Cobb, Hill could smash the dead ball out of the park. Today he'd probably be a 50 homer a season player. He had great speed in the outfield and a strong arm – as the old timers say, "he played a whole lotta outfield!"

Hill started his pro career with the Pittsburgh Keystones in 1899, then left after two seasons to join the powerful Cuban X-Giants. The X-Giants were named the Eastern Champions from '97-'03, with the help of Hill and second baseman Bill Monroe, another early superstar.

Hill moved to the Philadelphia Giants in 1903 where he joined Rube Foster (he would continue to follow Foster to several teams), then one of the world's greatest pitchers. The Giants won the championship in '05 and '06 and then Foster and Hill went to the Chicago Lelands where they continued to dominate.

Hill, Foster, Bill Monroe and Home Run Johnson were considered the best black players in the U. S. in the first decade of the 20th century.

Hill's greatest fame came when he joined Foster with the Chicago American Giants. It was this team that Foster called the greatest team, black or white, he'd ever seen. In 1911 they reportedly went 106-7, with Hill and youngster John Henry "Pop" LLoyd both batting over .400.

Although many players of the dead ball era had trouble making the shift to the livelier ball, Hill continued to hit like a terror. He never hit lower than .300 in his entire career, and was named by Grays owner Cum Posey as "the most consistent hitter of [Posey's] lifetime."

Hill won batting titles in the Negro Leagues and in Cuba. Had he played in the Majors he would have battled Cobb for the title for years.

Hill hit the Big Leaguers just like the pitchers in the Negro Leagues: Hard! Of the boxscores found against the Big Leaguers, Hill batter over .350.

In the famous 1952 Pittsburgh Courier Poll to select the greatest Negro Leaguers ever, Hill was named the 4th greatest outfielder, behind only Oscar Charleston, Cristobel Torriente and Monte Irvin.