Emil Bildilli

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Emil Bildilli
(Hill Billy)

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Biographical Information[edit]

Emil Bildilli was born, appropriately enough, in the western Indiana town of Diamond, near Terre Haute. He attended Clinton High School and played sandlot and semipro baseball before signing his first professional contract. In 1937, the left-handed curveball specialist started his career pitching for the Terre Haute Tots of the Class B Three I League, finishing 7-7 in 92 innings while allowing only 45 earned runs. He also was with the Johnstown Johnnies of the Class C Middle Atlantic League where he finished with a 5-4 mark and a 4.97 ERA in 45 innings.

Emil's contract was purchased by the St. Louis Browns in August. His big league debut came August 23rd at Sportsman's Park in St. Louis, when he started against the Washington Senators. The Sens team drove Bildilli from the mound in a five-run 4th inning, en route to a 9-6 win. The loss was Bildilli's lone decision in four starts for the 1937 Browns. With the Springfield Browns in 1938, Bildilli's 185 strikeouts led the Three-I League. He posted a 3.07 ERA to go with an 18-4 record, tying Floyd Giebell of the Evansville Bees for the most wins in the circuit. Bildilli briefly rejoined St. Louis that year and posted a 1-2 record in 5 games. Bildilli spent most of the 1939 season with the San Antonio Missions in the Texas League, compiling a 22-9 record, pitching 287 innings with a 3.20 ERA. Back with the Browns for the tail end of the campaign, he pitched two complete games for St. Louis and was 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA.

In 1940, Bildilli began the season with the Browns. On April 30th at Yankee Stadium, manager, Fred Haney started Bildilli after Lefty Mills, the scheduled starter, came down with the flu and could not pitch. Emil allowed the New York Yankees only two base hits and retired the last 19 batters he faced en route to a 2-1, complete game victory. Later that season, the Detroit Tigers offered St. Louis $200,000 for Bildilli, third baseman Harlond Clift and first baseman George McQuinn. The Browns nixed the deal, and Bildilli finished the year a 2-4 record in 28 games as a reliever and spot starter. After two appearances and no decisions in 1941, the Browns dispatched him to the Toledo Mud Hens of the American Association. Bildilli, who was 5-9 for the Mud Hens, quit baseball after the season and moved from Terre Haute to Muncie where he joined the Fire Department in October.

Bildilli returned to the semipro ranks as a member of the Muncie Citizens Baseball Club for the 1942 and 1943 seasons. The Citizens folded due to World War II and he joined the Fort Wayne Electrics for the 1944, 1945 and 1946 seasons. While with Fort Wayne, Bildilli pitched and won exhibition games against the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, the Homestead Grays of the Negro League, and the famed House of David club.

On September 14, 1946, Bildilli was scheduled to pitch a night game against an all-star team at Fort Wayne's Dwenger Park. Bildilli got the win in a 9-3 game. Afterwards, he visited friends in the area. Early on Sunday, September 15th, Bildilli was heading south on State Road 3, some five miles north of Hartford City, IN, when he apparently fell asleep at the wheel. His car veered off the road, sideswiped a tree and plowed through a fence. Paramedics found Bildilli unconscious but still alive. He had suffered multiple injuries, including severe head lacerations and a fractured skull. Emil was taken to Blackford County Hospital in Hartford City, where doctors did not expect him to survive the night. He died on his birthday, September 16th. The day of his funeral, all offices in the Muncie City building were closed.

In 1981, with his family attending the ceremony, Emil Bildilli was inducted into the Delaware County Hall of Fame in Muncie.


SABR Data base
Delaware County Hall of Fame
Image: Courtesy Frank Russo, Author

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