Har Bell Heritage Hero Coach - Dick Birmingham
For almost forty years Dick Birmingham and baseball have been practically one-in-the-same in the Ozarks. Birmingham has been responsible for launching baseball leagues, baseball programs and baseball careers since becoming the head coach at Hillcrest High School in 1959.
In 1960 he added the duties of Hillcrest American Legion coach to his resume and during the next 28 seasons guided the two programs to a combined record of 855 wins against just 413 losses. In 1979 his Hillcrest High School team posted a 24-1 record and captured the Missouri State Championship which earned him the American Baseball Coaches Association’s National High School Coach of the Year honor.
Birmingham spent 25 years as coach and teacher at Hillcrest and in addition to winning that state title in 1979, his teams also were state semi-finalists on five occasions, while also claiming ten district championships and fifteen conference titles.
he list of players produced from the Hillcrest program under Birmingham is legendary in local baseball circles. Former professionals such as George Frazier, Keith Drumright, Kelly Snider and Bobby Deathridge learned their skills during the Birmingham era.
A total of 120 players received college baseball scholarships or signed professional contracts out of the Birmingham system, with an astounding six players drafted professionally from the 1966 Hillcrest team (a national high school record) and four others taken six years later during the 1972 major league draft.
Birmingham’s coaching talents have been recognized away from the Ozarks as well. He’s coached at the Olympic Sports Festival, was on the staff of the USA Junior Olympic Team and three times worked on the Pan American Junior Baseball staff. Winning a silver medal in the 1990 games in Brazil as head coach, a silver medal as the team’s general manager in 1991 in Guatemala and a gold medal as head coach of the 1993 team in Chicago.
The list of honors Dick Birmingham has attained during the past four decades is a lengthy one. In 1990 he was inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and that same year was given membership in the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of fame as well.
A much sought after baseball clinician and speaker, Birmingham was honored in 1991 by the Iowa Baseball Coaches Association with a spot in its Hall of Fame based on his role as a longtime contributor to the growth of baseball in the state.
In 1995, Birmingham was also inducted locally into the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame. In 1987 upon the completion of his teaching and coaching days, he founded Dick Birmingham Sports, which continues to flourish as one of the top baseball camp and clinic organizations in the country. Birmingham has organized and participated in baseball camps and clinics in more than 40 states as well as in Canada, Latin America, South America, the Caribbean and in Europe.
Now approaching his 40th year in the game, Dick Birmingham has lived the sport of baseball on an almost daily basis. The successes associated with his teams will rank forever as among the greatest accomplishments of not only local and area programs, but also among those on a state and national scale.
Big Sports is proud to recognize Dick Birmingham as this month’s Heritage Hero for his never-ending contributions to baseball in this community.