Elmore Hill was a pioneer in Gastonia and a minor league baseball star who made it to the majors as a hitting instructor

By Richard Walker

Gastonia’s Elmore Hill (right) spent much of his life in professional baseball, ending his career as a longtime hitting instructor. Hill is shown here during his time as a Bowie, Md., Baysox assistant coach.

Gastonia’s Elmore “Moe” Hill has been voted the greatest player in one of the country’s oldest professional baseball leagues. He’s also been considered one of the best hitting instructors in the sport.

At home, he’s considered a pioneer as he and teammate Willie Gillispie became the first African-American to play American Legion baseball in North Carolina when both helped Gastonia Post 23 win the 1964 Area IV championship. He also has the second-longest minor league baseball tenure in local history.

And in 2010, Hill was inducted into the Gaston County Sports Hall of Fame because of those athletic exploits.

A 1964 graduate of old Highland High School, Hill became a top professional baseball prospect the last year before the major league draft began in 1965.

Signed by a pair of Baltimore Orioles scouts, Mount Olive’s Ray Scarborough and Lowell’s Columbus Gilmore, in September 1964, Hill would spend much of the rest of his life in professional baseball.

Hill embarked on a 15-year playing career interrupted by one season (1969) due to stomach issues.

After getting released by the Orioles, Hill signed with the Minnesota Twins and set a record likely never to be broken as he won four straight home run titles in the Class A Midwest League for Wisconsin Rapids from 1974 to 1977.

Additionally, Hill the league’s Triple Crown in 1974 with a .339 average, 32 home runs and 113 RBIs and also led the league in RBIs in 1976 and 1977.

The Midwest League career leader in games played (969), home runs (201) and RBIs (720), Baseball America magazine in 1999 voted him “Best Midwest League player ever.”

When the Twins promoted Hill to Class AA Orlando before releasing him after the 1979 season.

After one season in the Kansas City Royals’ organization (1980), Hill got into coaching.

He spent six years with the Royals, five years with the Seattle Mariners, eight years with the Chicago Cubs, four years with the Texas Rangers and nine years with the Orioles. The Orioles would eventually promote Hill to the major leagues as a late-season coaching call-up.