On New Year’s Eve it was announced that Rich Hill had signed with the Minnesota Twins, and though not surprising, was still a blow to Dodger fans who had been treated to his presence since his acquisition from the Oakland A’s in July 2016.
Rich, who would become affectionately known as Dick Mountain, came to mean a lot of different things to Dodger fans in the short 3 ½ seasons that he wore Dodger Blue. Here, the Dodgers Nation editorial staff and members of the Dodgers fan base pay tribute to number 44, one of the more endearing Dodgers in recent history.
What were your first thoughts when you heard Rich had signed with the Twins?
Gail: When I first heard that Rich had signed elsewhere, it didn’t take me long to start composing some farewell thoughts to him, as he is the type of player and person who I feel deserves more than a simple goodbye. Rich was more than a pitcher; he became a pillar of strength and resilience, on and off the field. In fact, I had already started jotting down some farewell thought earlier this season when I thought he was done for good on a couple of occasions, but like the phoenix, he kept rising.
Marshall: Given he’s my absolute favorite player, honestly…acceptance. I figured he wasn’t coming back anyway, and the team is better off pursuing the likes of David Price and Mike Clevinger. Plus, it helps he went to my other favorite team, the Twins. That ensures I can keep rooting for him with passion and urgency.
Brian: My first thought was, “damn, this sucks.” I knew Hill probably wasn’t going to be a huge factor for the Dodgers’ rotation this year, but I was still hoping he’d come back to L.A and possibly help the team during the second half. Even if it was just a few starts here and there to eat up some innings. I was pretty surprised by the signing because I thought he’d want to come back to the Dodgers and they’d like to have him back, even if it was just for his veteran presence. But Minnesota obviously had the better offer and more need for him in 2020.
Clint E: I felt like the writing was on the wall, with little chatter linking him back to LA. So I was prepared for it. I felt slightly surprised he was going to continue playing, I felt like he might retire. I think the injury he came back from last year was very serious and almost ended his career. Lastly, while he was remarkably effective in 2019 when on the mound; I felt that his shuttling off and on the IL really is something the Dodgers were looking to avoid headed into 2020. While they will surely miss his fire and leadership, they probably want to cement roles. Having guys who are constantly in and out of the rotation due to injury really effects that for a Urias or Stripling, even May. It was just time. This is the hardest part of sports.
What was your favorite on-field Rich moment?
Gail: My heart still hurts a little at the memory, but the moment he threw his first pitch in Pittsburgh back on August 23, 2017, I had a feeling we were in for a special night. I was afraid to move from the 5th inning on, frozen in place by the possibility that he’d finally get his no-hitter or perfect game. He was masterful, and as always, eloquent in his post-game comments, even after the crushing defeat.
Marshall: Without a shadow of a doubt, game 6 of the 2017 World Series. It was the first game in Los Angeles after Yuli Gurriel (aka Cubano Cap Anson) decided to fill the series with hate and bigotry against Yu Darvish. In addition to not being suspended in the series, Gurriel ridiculously received a standing ovation from Astros fans, with some even imitating the “slant-eye” gesture in selfies and on TV.
That wasn’t the case in Los Angeles, with over 50,000 Dodger fans ready to shower him with boos. Hill was all too happy to oblige, stepping off the mound for a whole minute to let Gurriel drown in an avalanche of jeers. He later confirmed his intention, and echoed the widespread sentiment that the deferred suspension wasn’t a fitting punishment. Thus, he issued his “silent gesture” to condemn Gurriel’s inexcusable actions. Timeless.
Brian: I don’t know if I’d say “favorite” since they both were bittersweet, but the two times that really stick out to me are when he nearly pitched a perfect game on two separate occasions. Both times he came up just short, but neither were his fault.
The first time was against the Marlins, when he was removed from the game after seven perfect innings, just six outs away from history. It’s still one of the worst moves I’ve ever seen made by Dave Roberts or any manager. Roberts claimed it was a “precautionary” move because of Hill’s past blister concerns, but he seemed perfectly fine at the time and wanted to continue. And we’re talking about a perfect game for goodness sakes. The second time was when Hill blanked the Pirates for eight perfect innings before an error by Logan Forsythe in the ninth broke it up. He still had the No-hitter going but the Dodgers offense took the night off and didn’t score a single run. Hill would eventually give up a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th, and every Dodger fan’s heart went out to him.
Clint E: Without a doubt, in the NLCS thriller against the Brewers that was in LA and went into extra innings. Hill froze Christian Yelich at the top of his game with three of the greatest curveballs I’ve ever seen. I think the bases were juiced or loaded with traffic. It was one of the biggest spots in the series. Of course, the Dodgers went on to win it in extra innings on Cody Bellinger single and got back to the World Series. I hope no one forgets that moment.
What will you remember most about Rich’s time with the Dodgers? Any parting words of thanks you’d like to share?
Gail: Many will remember Rich for his evolution into the cult hero Dick Mountain – after he donned the now-classic 2018 Players Weekend jersey, but I’ll remember him most fondly for the way he so often inspired me to keep going throughout life’s roadblocks and maybe even, someday, become as great of a human and teammate as he was while he wore a Dodgers uniform. In April 2019 he penned a piece for the Players Tribune and made profound statements about dealing with grief that I still think about. It was an incredibly moving piece – brave and honest – qualities he’s become synonymous with among Dodgers fans.
As my adventure with baseball continues, and players as well as life challenges come and go, I’ll remember Rich Hill in the somewhat unorthodox image of the moment his now infamous timeshare jersey was born on July 4, 2018. There he was, lying on the ground at home plate – as though asleep or dead – after making one of the most ungraceful, ill-advised slides in baseball history. What’s most noteworthy about this iconic moment, to me, is that after spending a mere few seconds lying still, he got back up.
As Rich has taught us, it’s not about how graceful the fall – it’s about how quickly you get back up. So thank you, Rich Hill, for teaching me about grace in defeat, and the value in getting right back up after falling. I have no doubt you’ll continue to do the same.
Marshall: I hate to be bitter in this passage, but honestly it’s my anger over him not getting a perfect game in 2017 against Pittsburgh. He was dealing, and the offense that made Absolute Madness happen night after night suddenly couldn’t get him one single run. He lost the perfecto, no-hitter AND the game, and the team unsurprisingly went into the 1-16 death spiral. That cost them the all-time wins record.
To be clear, when the Dodgers win it all someday, I will let go of EVERYTHING they’ve put me through. I’m not going to be some weeny who whines more about the heartbreaks than the good times. A championship should cleanse your soul of all prior sins. But I will never forgive the team for squandering that opportunity. Hill deserved the royalty of the 24th perfect game in MLB history, and the offense failed him. Forever shameful.
Beyond that, I will always remember the weird leg kicks, the grunts, the way he ran the bases like Mose Schrute from The Office, his ridiculous at-bats…he brought pure passion and fortitude to Dodger baseball. And he inspired my greatest bowling memory ever, as you’ll read about in my first article.
Oh, and more than ever…here’s hoping we finally get that 1965 World Series rematch, amiright?
Brian: More than anything, I’ll remember the competitor that he was, and the fire he brought to every start. The leg kicks after each pitch. The cursing to himself after giving up a bloop hit or bunt single. I loved that emotion. And his career really is a great story when you consider all that he had to overcome, both personally and professionally. Not many players make such a positive turnaround that late in their career, but Hill managed to do it. Good luck in Minnesota, Rich.
Clint E: I was a fan before he was a Dodger. I will always be a fan. He’s always been one of my favorite pitchers due to his will to never quit and battle back from injuries. I love how he competes. I love his edge on the mound. Most of all, Rich makes baseball fun. I can’t think of a player I giggled like a kid at more watching him swing the bat (he’s a pitcher, so I cut him a break) or the way he ran so dainty like. Of course the episode at home plate where he laid dead after being tagged out only added to that. Rich made me smile.
The Dodgers fanbase is also sorry to see him go:
Probably the best description of Rich Hill we’ve ever seen. https://t.co/1oISCkl1M8
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) January 3, 2020
This one I shot back in 2018 will forever be my favorite memory of Rich and his wonderful family. pic.twitter.com/eX1xo9GcoH
— Ron Cervenka (@RonCervenka) January 3, 2020
Rich is the kind of guy I always wanted to be like,and the jury is still out.
The way he has stuck it out when I probably would have packed it in is inspiration for me and many others, I'm sure.
The emotion he displays on the mound is usually exactly mine at that moment too.
— Danny no-hops (@danielscottmyer) January 3, 2020
He patiently answered a bunch of questions on Dodger Social Media Night and it was very kind of him to take even the silly ones seriously.
— TheSmartfulDodger (@SmartfulThe) January 3, 2020
— TheSmartfulDodger (@SmartfulThe) January 3, 2020
An incredible competitor and just an awesome guy. He’s a forever Dodger, and I hope he comes back in some capacity.
— Jonathan Farren (@Jonathan_Farren) January 3, 2020
As Howard Cosell would say: “He’s a battluh!” – good Luck in the twin cities pic.twitter.com/1Ztqa2Ri1H
— DrAPSings?? (@DrAPSings) January 3, 2020
And needless to say:
I don’t know what I’m going to do without Dick in my life
— Pedro Baez Fan Club (@PedroBaezFanClb) January 3, 2020