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Must-Click Link: Why Billy Dillon never played ball

Aug 6, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT

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This is a long, engaging and at times horrifying read. And it’s only tangentially about baseball. But if you have the time you should definitely check it out. If you don’t have the time, make the time.

It’s about Billy Dillon, a young man who, in 1981, had a promising tryout with the Detroit Tigers. They called him back for a second tryout which, back in those days, was a pretty good indication that the team was going to offer you a contract.  The second tryout never happened, though. Dillon was arrested for a brutal murder. He was later convicted and served 27 years in the worst maximum security prisons Florida had to offer.

Only problem: Billy didn’t do it.

Read Brandon Sneed’s harrowing tale of how Dillon found himself in and then made his way through his ordeal. Memories of baseball, transferred into prison league softball played a big part. But mostly it was about will and inner peace, the likes of which most of us don’t have and, hopefully, will never need.

  1. rbj1 - Aug 6, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    “Only problem: Billy didn’t do it.”


  2. largebill - Aug 6, 2013 at 3:27 PM


    According to linked article name is Dillon not Dillion.

  3. dlf9 - Aug 6, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    As a person – wow, what a story; I’m glad he has found his internal peace.

    As a baseball fan – how frequently were undrafted 22 year olds, especially those who haven’t played in college, signed by clubs 30 years ago? It is vanishingly rare these days.

    • alang3131982 - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:15 PM

      brandon beachy, right?

  4. psunick - Aug 6, 2013 at 3:59 PM

    And why do do many of these types of stories sprout from below the Mason Dixon Line?

    • largebill - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      I don’t think police problems are isolated to any one section of the country.

      • jwbiii - Aug 6, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        We’ve certainly had our share, if not more, in Illinois.

  5. RickyB - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    If his innocence had been proven early on, you never know. He could have become another Ron LeFlore, who was signed out of prison at age 25, in the bigs the following year.

  6. largebill - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:03 PM

    Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see anything about discipline for those in the legal system who railroaded this man. If police can be promoted for getting convictions then they should also be subject to firing or prosecution for aggressively targeting an innocent man and manipulating evidence to convict him. While I don’t agree with guilty getting off on a technicality there should never be such a desire to make an arrest hold up that we accept police behavior like this. I’d go even further and say that because of the level of trust placed in law enforcement personnel punishment for police overreach and misbehavior should be excessive to deter this kind of crap.

    • cohnjusack - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:53 PM

      Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see anything about discipline for those in the legal system who railroaded this man.

      Simply put, they never do. Ever.

      Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in Texas after burning down his house to kill his two small children. But turns out…oop! It wasn’t arson at all and an electrical fire. Some local investigators with no knowledge of fire investigation mistook flashover for pour patterns.

      Texas installed a commission to investigate it. The day before the commission was to release it’s findings, governor Rick Perry suddenly decided to replace several members of the board. The replaced members said that Willingham was in fact innocent.

      This is what they do. When the legal system fucks up, they don’t try to correct it. They try to cover their ass, no matter what lives it destroys. Just ask Damien Echols and the West Memphis 3 about that.

  7. ditto65 - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    He did it.

  8. psousa1 - Aug 6, 2013 at 4:48 PM

    My God. Wow. At a loss for words after reading this.

  9. cur68 - Aug 6, 2013 at 6:14 PM

    Worth the read. It reminds me that someone spoke of athlete malfeasance making it “complicated in teaching our kids right and wrong ” earlier.

    In this case the authorities looked for a simple answer. They wanted one man, of a certain character, with certain attributes who could answer for a crime. They set up that guy and they got him. In the end they ruined the life of an innocent man. Why? Because the truth was complicated. It wasn’t one man who did it but four. And four was complicated. Dillon was an easy answer to a problem. And even though he HAD NOT done it, he was going to pay an inordinately high price just to get a simple answer.

    It was just his bad luck that the truth, that which what was right, was complicated.

  10. ironhorseblues - Aug 6, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    Bad arrests like this is why I taught my children NEVER talk about anything with police when being questioned. Ask for a lawyer. Police aren’t the enemy, but they’re not your friend either.

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