- CF, LF, OF, RF, 3B, 1B, P
- Gentleman Jim
- May 10, 1937
- 6' 3"
- 192 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-14-1962 with NYN
Jim Hickman Biography
In 1970, his ninth season in the major leagues, Jim Hickman slugged 32 homers and batted .315, by far his highest mark, and finished 8th in National League Most Valuable Player Award voting.
Hickman, born on May 10, 1937 in Henning, Tennessee, was a somewhat smaller (6'4", 205) and less extreme version of Adam Dunn. Hickman was snatched out of the St. Louis Cardinals' organization in the 1961-1962 expansion draft by the New York Mets. Though he wasn't in the lineup for the first game in Mets history, Hickman platooned in center fielder with veteran Richie Ashburn and hit 13 homers. He was the last of the original Mets still on the team when he was traded in 1966. In 1965 he became the first Met to hit three homers in a game (he also was the first to hit for the cycle). On September 18, 1963, Hickman hit the last homer ever hit in the Polo Grounds.
After five years of horrid Mets teams, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for one season, where he struggled, he was part of the Tommy Davis trade. He came to the Cubs on April 23, 1968, along with reliever Phil "The Vulture" Regan, in exchange for light-hitting outfielder Ted Savage and minor-league pitcher Jim Ellis and then spent most of the rest of his career with the Chicago Cubs. He was part of the famous 1969 team that supposedly "choked". He had 21 home runs with the Cubs that year, while his former teammates went on to win the World Series.
The following year had a career year as he hit 32 home runs with 115 RBI, 93 walks and a .315 batting average. He was eighth in the MVP voting and made the All Star team. He won Comeback Player of the Year award in 1970 after hitting .237 in 1969 with a .326 OBP, twenty points below league average. The famous collision at home plate between Pete Rose and Ray Fosse occurred during the 1970 All-Star Game when Jim hit a game winning single in the bottom of the 12th inning to drive in Rose.
In 1971, he slumped to .256-19-60, and was once again used by Durocher in only about two out of every three games. The same scenario held true in 1972, in which Hickman posted .272-17-64 numbers. His power abandoned him in 1973, as he hit only three homers in 201 at-bats. He was dealt to St. Louis in spring training of 1974 for the uniquely-named pitcher Scipio Spinks, and after a half-season of undistinguished work as a pinch-hitter was released by the Cardinals and announced his retirement.
Before he was a Cub:
Hickman and the Cubs crossed paths in a memorable 1963 game. Mets pitcher Roger Craig had pitched into the ninth inning of this August 9 game at the Polo Grounds, trying to break a personal 18-game losing streak, which was at the time the longest in NL history. With the game tied and the bases loaded, Hickman came up (note in the boxscore -- he hit leadoff and played 3B that day) and hit a grand slam off Lindy McDaniel to win the game for Craig, whose record became 3-20.
Walk-offs and other clutch hits
Hickman gained a reputation as an exceptional clutch hitter, particularly during his tenure with the Cubs when he hit several walk-off home runs and other clutch homers for the club.
One of them came on May 16, 1971, at Wrigley Field, when he helped rookie relief pitcher Earl Stephenson earn his first big league win. Hickman hit a 2-run game-winner in the bottom of the 10th inning against the San Diego Padres. Stephenson had given up a run in the top of the 10th.
On May 28, 1970, Hickman hit another come-from-behind 2-run homer, in the 9th, to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7.
Although 1970 was his banner year, Hickman came through in 1969 as well. Even as the Cubs were beginning to struggle toward the end of August, Hickman hit a pair of homers against the Houston Astros on August 23 including a grand slam in the 7th inning that iced the game. Ron Santo, scoring just ahead of Hickman, was so happy he put a near choke-hold hug on Hickman as he crossed the plate, a moment discussed by Santo in This Old Cub. On June 22, Hickman had hit a walk-off 2-run homer, capping a 4-run ninth inning rally against the Montreal Expos.
Before he was a Cub:
Hickman and the Cubs crossed paths in a memorable 1963 game. Mets pitcher Roger Craig had pitched into the ninth inning of this August 9 game at the Polo Grounds, trying to break a personal 18-game losing streak, which was at the time the longest in NL history. With the game tied and the bases loaded, Hickman came up (note in the boxscore -- he hit leadoff and played 3B that day) and hit a grand slam off Lindy McDaniel to win the game for Craig, whose record became 3-20. The homer was probably the shortest in Hickman's career, as it grazed the overhanging left field upper deck at the Polo Grounds, even as Billy Williams was camping under it hoping to catch it.
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- Jim Hickman