Thursday, May 28, 2009

1969 One Cub At A Time - #63 Jim Hickman

An airbrush special, with Hickman in a Dodger uniform

My 1969 Update card for Jim Hickman

When the Cubs acquired outfielder Jim Hickman from the Dodgers in April of 1968, his major league career was in doubt. Hickman broke into the big leagues as an original Met in 1962 and had five solid but unspectacular seasons in New York. He was traded to the Dodgers for the 1967 season but hit .163. He didn't make the team in 1968 and was sent to the minors. It is not a good career move for a 30 year old veteran to be sent to AAA. He moved to the Cubs AAA team after the trade, but a month later was called up after hitting .344 at Tacoma.

The stint in the minors somehow change Hickman because in 1969, at the age of 32, he had the best year of his career up to that point. He played in 134 games, most as the Cubs right fielder. Though he hit only .237, he blasted 21 home runs and knocked in 54 runs. He was a quiet steady influence on the team.

He peaked the following season, hitting an amazing .315, almost 65 points above his career average. He knocked out 32 homer runs and drove in 115 runs. If his numbers jumped like that today, there would be whispers of steroid use. Back then, people just said he finally figured things out. He was 8th in the MVP balloting and also made his only all star appearance.

The all star appearance was also one of the most replayed events in all star history, though most don't connect the event to Jim Hickman. In the bottom of the twelfth inning he rapped a single. Pete Rose was on second and Cub manager Leo Durocher, who was coaching at third base waved Rose in. He flew into home and barreled over the catcher, Indian Ray Fosse, to score the winning run. Fosse's career was never the same after that, and the incident was a hallmark of Rose's career. But it was Jim Hickman's bat that made it all happen.

Rose, running over Ray Fosse, with Leo Durocher also visible.

Another shot of the collision

1 comment:

  1. Great Hickman stuff. He holds a special place in Mets history for being the first Met to hit for the cycle and also hit the last home run in the Polo Grounds.