By CHRIS LARICK
For the Star Beacon
At 5-foot-8, Rowe High School’s Dick Hill was usually the smallest player on the basketball court. But Hill more than made up for it, scoring nearly 1,000 points in a four-year career between 1951-1955.
As a result, Hill has been selected for the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame and will be inducted on April 7.
Hlll led Ashtabula County scoring in his senior year, 1954-1955, with 389 points in 21 games, an 18.1 average, and led the Vikings in assists as well.
He was an honorable mention selection for the Big Seven all-star team as a sophomore, scoring 249 points. In his junior season, he was a first-team all-tournament pick and was the top vote-getter in the Big Seven poll as a senior, getting 115 of a possible 120 points.
He was also named to the Star Beacon All-Ashtabula County first team, finishing second in the voting to Geneva’s Dave Love. After his senior year, he was named as an honorable mention selection to the Associated Press’s Ohio Class B team. Unfortunately, some of Hill’s statistics were lost while he was going through the process of a divorce, or the list of accolades (as well as his final point total) would be more complete.
“His best shot is a right-handed set shot,” the Star Beacon reported in 1955. “He can fake and drive, having speed, too.”
“He works at basketball or any sport for that matter,” his coach in both basketball and baseball, Stan Humphrey, said at the time. “Very cooperative with me and his teammates. He is also very popular in school.”
A co-captain of the Rowe team (with Bob Williams), Hill was also a fine baseball player and ran track (the 880-yard relay, pole vault and long jump).
“I’lll take five small ones like him any time,” Humphrey said.
“I made up for (my small size) on defense and good scoring,” Hill said recently. “I had a jump shot (rare in that age) from around the key and was good out front. It’s too bad we didn’t have the three-pointer then; I’d have a lot more points.
“I drove the ball well and was fast on defense, stole the ball a lot.”
“We played a 1-2-2 (zone),” he said. “I was out front. Me and another guy used to switch, and I’d chase. We also play a 1-3-1, with me in the center. I handled the ball. Mostly, we played a man-to-man defense.”
Rowe, which has since merged into Conneaut, played in the Big Seven at the time, a conference consisting of Rowe, Edgewood, Jefferson, Andover, Austinburg, Kingsville and Spencer. The Vikings also played games against the Buckeye Division, which included Rock Creek, Williamsfield, Dorset, Pierpont, Deming and Grand Valley. Of those schools, only a few remain, of course.
“We played a lot of bigger schools, too,” Hill said. “We played Conneaut, Geneva, Harbor and Erie Prep my senior year.”
Despite Hill’s talents, Rowe struggled during most of his high school years.
“We probably won 14 or 15 games my senior year,” Hill said.
Hill’s teammates varied over his four-year career, but included Bob Williams, Buck Smith, Bill Lynch, George Mallorie, Rich Ring, Bill Woodworth, Jack Oakes and George Hogle when he was a senior.
The Vikings were coached by John Toth Hill’s freshman year, Humphrey when he was a sophomore and senior and John Townsend as a junior. Townsend went into the service during Hill’s junior year, returned to coach for a year, then left to become a superintendent in southern Ohio.
In baseball, Hill played second base as a freshman and third base thereafter. The Vikings went to the state baseball tournament his senior year.
“I probably averaged .378, right around there,” Hill said. “I got my hits. I went to the St. Louis Browns’ camp in Barberton.”
Hill was expected to attend Ohio University to play baseball and possibly basketball, but it never happened.
“Bob Wren was interested in me,” he said. “Erwin Albert took me down there. When I didn’t hear anything by September, I tried to get into Thiel College, but it was too late.”
Instead of attending college, Hill went into the United States Air Force and spent four years, seven months and 14 days there. Like most servicemen he kept track.
“I was in a refueling outfit,” he said. “I got out of tech school in Oregon and they sent me to Columbus, Ohio, to Lockborn Air Force Base.”
In the air force he was able to play baseball and, for a while, basketball.
While playing air force baseball, he competed against the likes of Frank Howard, Hopalong Cassidy and Galen Cisco. Those last two were outstanding football players for Ohio State (Cassidy won the Heisman Trophy), but were great at baseball, too, Cassidy as a shortstop and Cisco as a pitcher.
In October that year, Hill was sent to England, to Homewood Park, eight miles from London. From there he went to Greenham Common, making the air force base team as a third baseman. He got to travel all over England with the team.
“We’d play three games a week, traveling on Friday, then playing once Saturday and a double-header on Sunday,” he said.
“At Lockborn Air Force Base, we had a game with Ohio University. We were the Skyhawks. In the seventh inning, we were getting beat 5-2 and Bob Wren (the OU baseball coach) brought in this pitcher to relieve. It was Gordon Griffey from Rowe High School, a hometown boy. I also played against Bob Horowitz from Springfield in the summer.”
He also got married in England in 1959, a marriage that would last 23 years.
By the time he got out of the service, he was 25.
“Matt Carson sent me to Lee Tressell at Baldwin-Wallace,” he recalls. But, according to Hill, he hadn’t taken plane geometry at Rowe, and B-W required that course. He did continue his athletic career, playing baseball for West Springfield.
Hill went to work for Ashtabula Bow and Socket, where he toiled for 13 years. Then he took a job with the Pittsburgh and Conneaut Dock Company. He retired at the age of 62, nearly 13 years ago.
Hill has three children by his first wife: Steven, 48, a paramedic and fireman in Jefferson and Kingsville; Paul, 46, who works for Ashtabula Molded Fiber; and Shannon, 43, who lives in Roaming Shores. One of Shannon’s children, Zach Mucci, plays tennis for Jefferson. Another, Vincent Mucci, played tennis for the Falcons and is now a serviceman who has spent stints in Iraq and Afghanistan in the special forces.
Hill has remarried, to Carol (Dixon). The couple has been married for 22 years now. Carol has five daughters, Michelle, Robin, Paula, Cindy and Tracey.
For the past 11 or 12 years, Hill has been playing golf.
“My brother got me into it,” he said. “It’s just great. I didn’t play much when I was working. Now I play every Wednesday in a morning senior league at Village Green.”
He averages about 88-90.
Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.