Local 89-year-old throwing 1st pitch Sunday at the South Bend Cubs game

Bill King takes his football stance // Credit: Bob King

Today (Sunday) will be a special day for a local life-long Cubs fan.

Bill King, 89, will throw out the first pitch ahead of today’s South Bend Cubs game.

Residents who live at the Primrose Retirement Community in Mishawaka put their names in a hat, and Mr. King was the lucky winner.

This opportunity is special for him. As a kid his family went to a lot of Cubs games in Chicago.

"My mother and her girlfriends – they didn't miss a game! So, we'd get to go, too. It was fun,” says King.

Sports have always been a big part of his life.

King was born and raised in Elkhart, and he went to college at Ball State Teachers College (now known as Ball State University) to run track and play football for their undefeated 1949 team. After college, King served in the Army at Ft. Leonardwood, MO. He was also drafted by the Cleveland Browns. He’s a member of the Ball State Hall of Fame, Elkhart Hall of Fame, and Indiana Hall of Fame.

Since he loves just about every sport played with a ball, he was delighted when two South Bend Cubs players moved into his retirement community -- Catcher Tyler Payne and Pitcher Chad Hockin.

They recently caught up with Mr. King and his friend over a meal – swapping sports stories and advice.

"These guys have a lot of wisdom. It was awesome getting to know these guys. They both grew up Chicago fans, Cubs fans, so that's awesome to hear,” says South Bend Cubs Pitcher Chad Hockin.

"It was great. We had a good conversation,” adds South Bend Cubs Catcher Tyler Payne.

Even King learned some things from the young players.

He says, "They are interesting young men. You can learn a lot, just listen and watch."

King really misses his athletic days, but he is excited to get back out there today.

"I'm going to do my utmost. I don't play that much or use the ball, but I've been playing a little bit. So hope I get it from here to there, but I'll have fun just being there.”

When the players learned more about King’s impressive sports record, they weren’t shy with their expectations for his big pitch.

"Bill, you better get it there!” says Hockin.

"I expect a strike and a big smile,” nods Payne.

"Well I hope I get it out there right across the plate,” says King.

He knows his body is not in the shape he was during his heyday. In fact, he says football gave him two bad ribs, and two bad arms.

"But I'm going to have fun," says King.

He will toss out the first pitch at Four Winds Field just before game time around 2 o’clock today.

His family and friends from Primrose Retirement Community – including Hockin & Payne – will be there to cheer him on.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off