Friday, September 11, 2015
#51) CHUCK HILLER
Chuck made his Mets debut on May 18th in Milwaukee facing the Braves. His first game at Shea Stadium was on May 26th during a 8-6 loss to the Chicago Cubs. Hiller was used as a second baseman in 80 of the 100 games he appeared in to complete his first year in Flushing. Chuck saw his role shift to that of a pinch-hitter when Ron Hunt returned from injury on August 4th. The 30-year-old infielder was never know as a superb fielder. "Chuck Hiller was one helluva hitter, but he had iron hands," joked teammate Ed Kranepool. "You couldn't play him on a rainy day; his hands would rust."
Hiller took to his assignment as the Mets primary pinch-hitter during the 1966 campaign, "We're a stronger club when I have him available in an emergency," Mets manager Wes Westrum explained to The Sporting News in April of 1967. Chuck did register a then single-season club record and 1966 National League season high, 16 pinch hits. He finished with a fine .280 batting average on the year.
The Mets traded Ron Hunt and announced the plan to platoon Hiller with Eddie Bressoud at second base for the 1967 season. Chuck injured his shoulder during spring training and then weeks later fractured a bone in his right hand when struck by a ball during batting practice. Hiller returned from the disabled list and on July 11, 1967 he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Phil Linz. It was the end of his playing career with the New York Mets.
Chuck returned to the organization mostly at the minor league level as a manager and instructor for 24 years. He did serve as the New York Mets major league third base coach under manager Buddy Harrelson during the 1990 season. "I've never met a better communicator and teacher," said Jim Duquette, the Mets senior vice president of baseball operations in 2004. "He just loved to instruct young players. Even in retirement he always came down to spring training and had such a passion for working with our young players."
Hiller passed away at the age of 70 in St. Pete Beach, Florida on October 20, 2004.
I created Chuck Hiller's card in the set from a signed index card from my collection.