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Rich Hill is of true Brockton stock: his dad is a former Brockton High football star who once sparred with Rocky Marciano. His aunt Norma, a lifelong city resident, is his No. 1 fan.
BROCKTON — Don’t be thrown by her authentic Red Sox uniform.
Norma Peterson, who has lived all 86 years of her life in the City of Champions, is rooting solely for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
And if her fellow residents or any of the workers at Copley at Stoughton nursing home give her any guff about it, she taps the top of her colorful Los Angeles Dodgers cap and toyingly sticks out her tongue.
Blood is thicker than that dirty water.
Peterson’s nephew, Milton native Rich Hill, will take the mound for the Dodgers in a Game 4 matchup Saturday night against the Red Sox, and she’ll be rooting unwaveringly for the Los Angeles squad to battle back from a series deficit.
But what about that beloved Red Sox uniform she wears? It comes from her nephew’s brief stint with the team in 2015 — the No. 53 jersey with Hill’s name was actually plucked straight from the Fenway Park clubhouse after he was traded.
If you ask Norma, the Red Sox were silly to let the homegrown talent go.
The southpaw’s Massachusetts roots, including his dominating years at Milton High School, have been well-told in the days leading up to the World Series. But what’s less known is that he comes from true Brockton stock.
His dad, Lloyd Hill, was a star football player for Brockton High School who once sparred with Rocky Marciano. His uncle, Donnie, was a longtime Brockton police officer. His aunt Norma, who only recently moved into the Copley at Stoughton nursing home, lived her whole life in Brockton.
And the history goes back even farther. On his grandmother’s side, Hill traces his roots to the Packard family, who were shoe manufacturing royalty in Brockton’s industrial heyday.
So while he grew up in Milton, where his parents settled down, he’s still got some Brockton grit running through his veins.
“One thing he can do, he can pitch in the most demanding environments,” his father, Lloyd Hill, told The Enterprise. “He has no problem pitching anywhere, anytime and any place.”
Years ago, Lloyd Hill used to bring his young son Rich (who is now 38) to Brockton in the summer for baseball games and tournaments at the James Edgar Playground. Afterward, they’d stop by George’s Cafe — not far from Lloyd’s childhood home on Belmont Street — where Lloyd would usually be reminded of his time with Rocky Marciano.
Lloyd Hill, now 90, was friends with Marciano back in the 1940s.The two would box at the former Brockton YMCA on Main Street, he said, after Marciano returned from service in World War II.
Football, however, was Lloyd’s true talent. He was part of the unbeaten, untied Brockton squad of 1945, which actually led to a little bit of kismet almost 75 years in the making. The Boxers’ stellar season earned them a trip to New York City, where they had the chance to watch the Dodgers — the Brooklyn Dodgers, mind you — at Ebbets Field.
Lloyd Hill later played football at Brown University and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers before returning to Massachusetts, where he served as the longtime principal at Quincy High School.
His siblings, however, stayed around Brockton. His brother Donnie served as a Brockton police officer, and passed away in 1997. His oldest brother, Fred, fought in World War II and returned to work as a contractor in the city before dying young at the age of 38.
The baby of the Hill family, however, Norma, is still around. She married and settled down at a home on Messina Drive, and was an active congregant of the Central United Methodist Church on West Elm Street.
Her 86th birthday is coming up on Tuesday, and she said she only has one wish.
“We want to get Rich a ring,” she said.
The last few weeks at the Stoughton nursing home on Sumner Street, she’s been wearing her special Dodgers hat every day. It features the typical “LA” lettering, but is covered in images of tropical flowers and flamingoes — a special gift from a friend a few years ago.
She’s been her nephew’s No. 1 fan for years. Back when he played in the Cape Cod League, she attended every one of his games.
He’s obviously not around as much now (he lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son), but has made his way back to the area a few times.
“He’s very down-to-earth,” said Larry Peterson, Hill’s cousin and Norma’s son. “Even though he’s been something of a celebrity for years now, he’s still very accessible and personable.”
Lloyd Hill and a group of family members attended the first two games of the World Series at Fenway Park, where they visited with Rich (who hasn’t yet seen any action) after the game.
“To have a son in the World Series, I just thank God, because it’s a blessing,” Lloyd Hill said. “Great players don’t make it. In my opinion, becoming a major league baseball player is the ultimate success. It’s just so hard to achieve.”
Asked what it would mean to him if his son became a World Series champion, he did not hesitate.
“Oh God, that would be the ultimate success in terms of athletics,” he said. “He’s chosen to go to the highest levels, and that is major league baseball. And to just be in a World Series, and realize that goal is spectacular, but then to win it, well that’s above and beyond. You’d don’t get there very often, and if he achieves it, he has certainly earned it.”
The Quincy Patriot Ledger contributed to this report.