First-round MLB pick in 1971 was a Uvalde-born athlete

Charley Robinson

Staff writer

Who was John David Hilton, born in Uvalde, Texas on Sept. 15, 1950? A 47-year mystery now has some clarity. 

In September of 2017, Leader-News owner/publisher  – and my boss – Craig Garnett handed me an obituary and asked if I knew Dave Hilton.

My initial response was that I had been trying for 45 years or more to find out more about him.

The obituary stated that Hilton was born in Uvalde Sept. 15, 1950; he died unexpectedly two days after his 67th birthday, in Chandler, Arizona, where he had lived for several years.

Let’s go back to the 1971 Major League Baseball draft. The San Diego Padres had first choice that year, and in the first round they selected infielder John David Hilton, from Southwest Texas Junior College and Rice University. The press release revealed he was born in Uvalde.

This was certainly news to me at the time, and as sports editor at the Leader-News I wondered how this exclusive eluded me. I even got a call from John Hines at the San Antonio Express wanting more information. As you might imagine, I felt mighty imbecilic.

I grew up in this area and came back to Uvalde to coach, among other sports, baseball in 1966. I also knew that while SWTJC fielded a baseball team in the mid 1960s there was never a player of this calibre on the team. If there had been, Coach Kennith Dismuke would have certainly known about it, and he had absolutely no clue.

The Houston Chronicle cleared up the SWTJC mystery when they reported that Hilton attended the junior college in Nolan Ryan’s hometown of Alvin.

I suppose some writers assumed that if Hilton was born in Uvalde the junior college that he attended must have been SWTJC.

One mystery cleared up but what about the younger days? Did he start to school in Uvalde? How long did his family live here?

In my quest to finally solve this mystery, I secured a phone number and email address for Hilton’s widow in Arizona. Using the internet, a source that not been heard of in 1971, I determined Hilton’s parents were educators.

I also discovered he had four younger brothers, and I found addresses and phone numbers. To date, I have not received a response to phone messages left or emails.

I hoped to learn how long the family remained in Uvalde after the birth of their first son.

Uvalde County Judge Bill Mitchell determined that the Hiltons lived on North High Street at the time of Dave’s birth in 1950. George “Gus” Hilton was the distributive education teacher at Uvalde High School in the early 1950s. His wife, Minnie, was also a teacher, but in those days there were no child care programs so mothers usually stayed home until children were old enough to go to school.

What remains a mystery is how long the Hiltons remained in Uvalde.

According to news coverage, young Dave showed a propensity for baseball at a young age. He proclaimed he was going to be a professional baseball player.

His father, recognizing he possessed some talent and a strong desire, moved to Houston where Dave attended Jessie Jones High School and caught the eye of Major League scouts.

After community college he attended Rice University on an athletic scholarship and excelled on the diamond, thus earning the first-round draft choice.

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