Right the Record: John Preston “Pete” Hill


Portrait of John Hill


  • John Preston “Pete” Hill, Negro League baseball player and manager for the Negro Leagues, was born on 12 Oct., probably 1882 in Buena, Culpeper County, to Ruben Hill and Elizabeth Seals, both likely previously enslaved.


  • Elizabeth Hill, Pete and two brothers relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where he later started playing professional baseball at the age of 17 in 1899 with the Pittsburgh Keystones, one of the many all-black teams that existed before the first Negro Baseball League was founded.


  • Hill married Gertrude Lawson in 1906 to 1907. The couple had a son born in 1910 named Kenneth Hill.
  • Banned from whites-only major leagues, Hill became a star outfielder for African American teams, notably the Philadelphia Giants and Chicago American Giants; A Cuban league 1910/11 winter-season earned him a batting champion (with a .365 average).
  • Hill hit 28 home runs for the Detroit Stars in 1919 (when Babe Ruth hit 29 in more games), marking Hill as one of black baseball’s earliest power hitters.


  • Hill retired from professional baseball in 1925 at the age of 43 and spent the rest of his life in Buffalo, New York where he worked as a porter on the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad.


  • Hill died 19 Dec. 1951 from coronary thrombosis in Buffalo, New York and is buried in Alsop, Illinois
  • Pete was inducted posthumously into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006. At the time of his induction, he was listed as Joseph Hill born in Pittsburgh, PA. Through the efforts of baseball enthusiasts, his great nephew and the detailed research of Zann Nelson, the Hall of Fame corrected the errors and changed his plaque.

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