AU Loses Former Star "Mr. Billy" Hitchcock

Opelika, Ala.--Former Tiger football and baseball standout Billy Hitchcock, whose name is on Auburn University's baseball field, will be missed.

That is the conclusion of two men who knew him very well. Hitchcock, who was 89, died on Sunday following an illness.

Visitation for Mr. Hitchcock is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. at Jeffcoat Funeral Home in Opelika on Monday and a funeral service is set for 2 p.m. on Tuesday at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Opelika.

A star athlete for the Tigers in the 1930s, he played Major League baseball for nine seasons and managed three Major League clubs--the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. Hitchcock scored Auburn's only touchdown as a single-wing tailback in Auburn's first bowl game, the 1937 Bacardi Bowl tie with Villanova, and he also played on Auburn's first SEC Baseball championship team.

Trey Johnston, chairman of the Billy Hitchcock Intercollegiate golf tournament and director for the Auburn chapter of the College Football Hall of Fame, says that the former Major League baseball player and manager was a special person.

"I have been honored to be on the committee for the Billy Hitchcock Intercollegiate for 19 years," Johnston says. "When we decided to name it after Billy Hitchcock, who was one of the greatest Auburn athletes and supporters of all time, he has just been a wonderful person to work with on the tournament.

"It was a great association," Johnston adds. "Up until a couple of years ago, he was at the tournament on the No. 1 tee box for every starter. It was amazing the kids that came back to the tournament who said, ‘He remembered me, he remembered my parents and where I am from.'

"Mr. Hitchcock was a very special person and I think it is going to be tough for Auburn folks to lose him. He was such a gentleman. He was out of the old Coach (Shug) Jordan mould.

"I think everybody who has been around Mr. Hitchcock a great deal will tell you he was one of the kindest individuals you will ever meet and one of the most thoughtful individuals you will ever meet. He was one of the most gracious and thoughtful individuals you would ever meet."

Billy Hitchcock is shown at a dedication ceremony at Plainsman Park.

Auburn men's golf coach Mike Griffin, whose team won a golf tournament on Sunday named after Hitchcock, says, "The whole Auburn family wanted to honor Mr. Billy for all of the great things he has done for this university. Going beyond that, I had the opportunity to learn to respect him as a personal friend.

"Once you got to know him, everything you ever heard about what a great human being he was turned out to be true and more," Griffin adds. "He must have been a great coach. He certainly was a great athlete--just look at the record. But, the person he was superceded all of that.

"Until his health wouldn't allow him to do it, he was at the first tee of every day of every Hitchcock Intercollegiate," Griffin says. "He got to know each kid personally, he got to know the coaches. I know he really hated it when it got to a point when his health wouldn't allow him to come out any more. Losing him is a very tough blow, but he we will obviously miss him, but his memory will be with us forever."

Hitchcock was also supportive of a variety of Auburn athletic teams, including the baseball Tigers, who play their home games at Hitchcock Field at Plainsman Park. An amateur adult baseball league in central Alabama is also named in his honor. After finishing as a manager in the Major Leagues, he served as president of the Southern League, a Class AA professional league.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs issues a statement saying, "We are very saddened by the passing of Mr. Billy. A true gentleman, he was a very compassionate and giving person who meant a great deal to this university. He had a great love for Auburn and Auburn people and will truly be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Hitchcock family."

Hitchcock, who was a lieutenant in the Army reserves, served in the Army Air Force and advanced to the rank of major by the end of World War II, earning the Bronze Star for service in the Pacific and three battle stars.

Hitchcock is survived by his wife Betty Ann and five children.

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