After receiving a reader request last week for one of the most obscure Blue Jays of all time Dave Revering, 500 Level Fan received another reader request for a profile of a slightly more well known Jay – Glenallen Hill.
I’ll be honest: for the Revering article I struggled mightily for material. It was a challenge to write something long enough that was worthwhile to post. With Hill I have an equal but opposite challenge. He has a virtual gold mine of material.
Glenallen Hill was an original Pat Gillick draft pick, a 9th round (219th overall) choice in the 1983 draft. After a few years in the minor league system he made his MLB debut July 31, 1989 going 2 for 3 against the Yankees. Unfortunately for Hill, he only found his way into 19 games that season, and never really became a full time player in Toronto (138 total games spread across three seasons). At the trade deadline of ’91 he was shipped to Cleveland with Mark Whiten and Denis Boucher, for knuckleball pitcher Tom Candiotti and the whitest man in the history of baseball Turner Ward.
Hill bounced around with several teams the rest of his career, and actually enjoyed a few very productive seasons. In 1995 with San Francisco he hit .264 with 24 HR, 86 RBI, and 25 SB – a 20/20 season. In 2000 he was dealt at the deadline again, this time from the Cubs to the Yankees, and hit a combined .293 with 27 HR for both teams. He even won himself a World Series ring that year as the Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway Series – though his total contribution of 0 for 3 in the Series didn’t really help.
In fact, when you look at Glenallen Hill, it isn’t the stats that stand out. Sure he lasted 13 seasons, hit 186 HR, stole 96 bases, and knocked in 586 runs. Sure he made the playoffs three different seasons with three different clubs (though his career postseason average of .074 – 2 for 27 with no extra base hits – tells you how little he contributed). But the career of Glenallen Hill, and his true specialties, lie beyond the numbers.
To put it bluntly: Glenallen Hill sucked in the field. He was horrendous, atrocious, miserable, you name it. The “Apperances on Leader Boards” section of his baseball reference page shows him finishing in the top-5 in errors committed on five separate occasions (1992 and 1998 as a LF, and 1995-1997 as a RF), and ranks him 58th on the all time list in errors by a RF. His career fielding percentage was a vomit-inducing .964 and an advanced stat called Total Fielding Runs Above Average was -33 for his career (meaning his defense actually cost his teams 33 runs).
But like I said, you can’t judge everything by the numbers. Even the plays he made lacked flair, confidence, and style. Wikipedia mentions that his nickname during his playing days was The Juggler, because even when trying to field balls cleanly he would bobble them. Bryan Price, a former Mariners pitching coach, is said that watching Glenallen play defense was “akin to watching a gaffed haddock surface for air.” Not exactly sure what that means, but you get the point.
Don’t get me wrong – nobody will ever confuse Hill with Einstein or Edison. Despite my best efforts I was unable to find out his IQ, his school marks, or his general knowledge level or aptitude. But on the field, though he often got in his own way, he had a baseball sense that goes beyond normal. One night in particular higlights what I’m talking about.
Against Detroit one night during his days with the Indians, Hill found himself on first when a commotion began in the outfield. While players, fans, and umpires alike were focused on the disturbance, Hill nonchalantly walked to second base and stood as if he had always been there. When play resumed, somehow nobody noticed what happened. Hill remained on second. The play became known as the Phantom Steal and Glenallen Hill entered baseball legend. A brilliant man.
For all that Glenallen Hill accomplished in his career, or in his entire life for that matter, he will forever be remembered for an incident during his stay with the Jays. His intense fear of spiders landed him on the 15-day DL.
The story has it that Hill had such a terrifying dream about being covered in spiders that he fell out of bed, into a glass table, and down a staircase. The bumps, cuts, and bruises he suffered were severe enough to disable him for a few weeks. Judging by his stats for the remainder of his days in a Blue Jays uniform he never recovered. He did earn a pretty cool nickname though (aside from the Juggler) – Spiderman.
So there you have it. The life and times of Glenallen Hill. For those of you who loved him and miss him, fear not. He spends his time today as a first base coach for the Colorado Rockies, a team Toronto had the pleasure of playing just last week. Seeing his beautiful face on TV again was enough to make any Jays fan smile.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends and enemies, the Juggler and the Spiderman, Glenallen Hill.
Glenallen Hill: Career Major League Statistics
13 seasons (1989 – 2001)
7 teams (TOR, CLE, CHC, SF, SEA, NYY, ANA)
.271 average, 186 HR, 586 RBI, 528 R, 96 SB, .804 OPS
*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better. If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.