Chicken on the Hill with Will

I had an interview on Wednesday for an Internet marketing job in San Carlos, California, which meant another chance to talk baseball.

My interviewer was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, who looked to be about 40, give or take.  He thought I might not be familiar with the teams of his era.  No bother: I named Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen and Danny Murtaugh.  I briefly described Steve Blass Disease, which I wrote about here in August, an affliction named for a Pirates starter of the early 1970s who, for no clear reason, lost his ability to pitch.  My interviewer and I of course discussed how Pittsburgh has struggled since 1992.  And I mentioned “Chicken on the Hill with Will.”

Allow me to explain that last thing.

When I was growing up, one of my friends, Alec, had family from the Pittsburgh area.  Alec’s mom told me that Pirates great and future Hall of Famer Stargell had a restaurant and whenever he would homer, everyone in the restaurant got free chicken.  I never knew for sure if this was legit, though I just did a Google search and saw a reference to it on Stargell’s Wikipedia page.  Talk about happier times in Pittsburgh– a restaurant could stockpile a warehouse with unused chicken if it tried a promotion for the current Pirates.

Anyhow, I discussed Stargell and more with my interviewer.  For all that we talked baseball, though, he seemed most impressed with the fact that I could name all four members of The Beatles.  I have a follow-up interview set for Monday afternoon.

(Postscript: He hired me)

0 thoughts on “Chicken on the Hill with Will”

  1. The phrase “Spread some chicken on the hill with Will” was used frequently by the Pittsburgh Pirates radio announcer Bob Prince back in the 70’s, when Stargell was playing with them. It was legitimate. My cousin had an LP of their championship run season and we used to listen to all of Bob Prince’s quips and quotes. He also used “Can of Corn” and when a pop fly was easy to be played, he also used to say “that’s a 100lb can of golden danum” Not sure what danum was but I think the same as can of corn. A close inside pitch would be “closer than fuzz on a tic’s ear”. He was a great baseball announcer at KDKA, in the same vein as Vin Scully.

    1. Hi Doug,
      Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading. I read about Prince in Stargell’s Wikipedia entry and wasn’t sure what to make of it. I couldn’t figure if Stargell’s restaurant or Prince’s quip came first, but it sounds like Prince was a creative guy either way.
      As an aside, Scully’s one of my favorites– and I’m a Giants fan.

  2. as a Pittsburgh Pirate fan / historian.. Vin Scully is not even remotely in Bob Prince’s league.. Vin Scully is a product of the Los Angeles media market… Willie Mays once said “If Clemente had played in New York they’d be talking about him and not me.” Same goes for Prince.. he spoke his mind.. players treated him as one of the team… if Scully thinks Kirk Gibson’s home run was “something he can’t believe he saw” then what was Billy Maz’s 1960 home run? Maz’s home run ended a World Series… you are being driven marketing people.. come on now… you guys buy cheez whiz cuz some d-bag tells you you need it..

    1. I dunno Jon, I think Vin Scully’s call in the 1988 Series was poetry. Broadcasters are usually annoying chatter or glorified cheerleaders for the teams that employ them (though that’s not to take anything away from Prince.)

      And for what it’s worth, I think Willie Mays was being modest– though Roberto Clemente certainly deserved the same amount of hype as, say, Joe DiMaggio.

  3. I grew up outside of Pittsburgh and my first remembrance of Pirate baseball was the 1960 World Series. I like Vin Scully, but to me Bob Prince is the only broadcaster. “Chicken on the Hill” is legit. It came from “Pops” Stargell owning a chicken restaurant in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh’s Harlem if you will). Like others have written, every time Starg hit a home run (now I’ve heard two scenarios. 1.Everyone in the restaurant and 2. Only the person at the counter at the time) received free chicken. Now I always thought it was that everyone received the free chicken.

    What I find bothersome is that White Sox Broadcaster Ken Harrelson uses the term “Can of Corn” for an easy fly ball and acting like he coined that phrase. That was one of Bob Prince’s many “Gunnerisms” as they’re called now for Prince’s nickname “The Gunner”. I grew up hearing that and as kids we used to say it when we played ball at the local field.

    Next Harrelson will be using “You can kiss it goodbye.” when a home run is hit, or bringing out the “Green Weenie”!

  4. Bob Prince’s use of the “can of corn” expression, sometimes included “a number 8 can of golden bantam” (not danum). And a “bug on the rug” wasn’t for infield grounders, but hits (by the Buccos) to the outfield that found the gap.

  5. I recall an night game in San Diego where the Pirates were losing by three runs late in the game and Willie Stargell came to bat with the bases loaded. Bob Prince stated in his broadcast, “Come on Willie, spread some chicken on the hill.” He then added, “And the Gunner will pay the bill!”” Willie proceeded to hit a grand slam and the Pirates won the game. Reportedly, all the chicken in the store was given out and Bob Prince happily paid the bill. It just added to the fame of this great broadcaster.

  6. Rumor has it that Bob Prince got his nickname “the gunner” because he was flirting with some married man’s wife while on a road trip and when the guy heard about it, he showed up at Price’s hotel wielding a pistol!

    Some other Princisms:
    Closer than a gnat’s eyelash
    Chin music..”which do you prefer brushless or lather” in reference to a shave.
    Strikeout..”he lit up the lights on broadway”
    The hiddden vigrish (the longer you win, the closer you come to losing and vice-versa)
    A hoover vacuum job was a double play when the pirates moved to three rivers stadium.
    When down by 2 runs late in the game, Prince would beckon the pirates for “a bloop and a blast”.

    I’m sure there are many more. I sure do cherish those memories sitting on the back porch with my dad listening to those battlin’ buccos on his transistor radio.

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