The real passion of the Hill-IJ Game started from the legendary game of 1958 when the Hill was down six runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning with little hope at hand. What happened next is the stuff of lore as the Hillmen scored seven runs in the final stanza to win leading to the cheshire grins of Hank Aberman, Ducky Kauffman, and Connie Chalick in the photo above.
As you can see from the game shot below, the tension involved was riveting. The uniforms of this era were the best that a white T-Shirt and some magic marker could create. Hell, this was 1958 and screen printing was still in its infancy. But when the dust had settled, the term “Hill Rally” had been midwived and conceived to live with us evermore.
The team mood after a win is euphoric as you can tell by the celebration charge being led by Herbie “Puck” Cohen busting out of the batting cage. Also pictured are Eddie Abrams, Dave Auerbach, Joel Levin, Billy Dinerman, Jim Korman, Bob “Mayer” Kutler, Harold Levinson, Wayne Zelnick, and Danny Gottsegan.
By 1963 the game was taking on real significance each summer and the Hill had moved to swanky team shirts and hats. They seemed to dominate the outcome each year and Mickey Rothstein’s pitching was a big reason for this.
Herbie Cohen was the spiritual heart and soul of the team as he anchored the corner at first base in this game. Harvey Forman was at shortstop where he was a virtual vacuum cleaner for ground balls. Lore has it that this was a low scoring affair and Bruce Zelkowitz had the only hit for the Hill in this victory.
The 1964 Hill Hawk team was murder’s row-this was a collection of some of the best athletes who ever threw on a pair of Chuck Taylor’s on Hill Court and a few supporting cast hangers on. They won the game 10 to 3 and ace pitcher Mickey Rothstein was the game MVP.
The song goes “Twice there was a ballgame….things looked mighty low…then old Herbie Cohen got things on the go”, and it was in 1968 that the lore of Hill Rally got it’s second shot in the arm when the Hill rallied from a six-to-one deficit behind the bat of the game MVP Herbie Cohen to win the game.
It is not an exaggeration to say that generations of Hillmen have returned summer after summer just to be part of the tradition of this historic game.
There was a seminal change in 1974 marking the beginning of the first “Hill Blue Period”. After having won 16 Hill-IJ Games in a row, the Hill lost 3 out of the next 4 between 1974 and 1977.
The 1974 game was a 16 to 1 whitewashing carried on the arm of the IJ’s MVP Bruce Fried. He threw a one hitter, with seven strike outs, and the Hill literally never got out of the batters box. After carrying him on their shoulders back up the IJ Camp, Zeus I Connie Chalick, who knows from these things, shook Bruce’s hand and said “You realize what you have done here don’t you?…….You have changed a lot here”. Needless to say it was stone silent at dinner that night in the Mess Hall.
The IJ backed it up in 1975 with another 15 to 1 victory, Bruce Fried providing another pitching gem and winning the game MVP. Once again no Hill Campfire and no celebrating in the Mess Hall…..this was becoming a trend.
With the leadership performance of Zeus VI Murray Rosenzweig the Hill exacted some revenge in 1976 batting around the order in the first inning on their way to a 10-7 victory. To their dismay they lost again in 1977 by a 7 to 3 margin as the Blue Period trudged on.
Finally things seemed to turn when the Hill won 11 to 2 behind the commanding pitching of Brad Heffler. But it was 1979 that ended the Hill Blue Period, as the Hill posted a convincing 22 to 2 win lead by the MVP pitching and hitting performance of the younger brother Curt Heffler in what the Hill has termed the “Return To Dominance Game” .
The tradition of the game has been shaped and perpetuated by the repeated incidents of snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat in these games. It started in the legendary 1958 Hill-IJ Game and was repeated in 1968, 1985, and 2000.
The spirit constituted in preparation for this game is reiterated through songs and banners that are updated regularly but never wander from the central themes that define The Hill.
The tradition of the spirit for the annual Hill-IJ game has been sustained for the last 50 years, just the uniforms and the banners are much nicer now.