Hickman came to the majors as a 25-year-old rookie for the brand new 1962 Mets. You wonder if he ever would have made the big leagues if not for expansion. He spent five years with the Mets before being traded to the Dodgers. Things didn't go well in LA and in 1968, at old baseball age of 31, he was back in the minors.
The Cubs picked him up from the Dodgers in a midseason trade and he spent a short time in AAA before being recalled by the Cubs. The old man finally figured things out and had the best years of his career with the Cubs. His best season was 1970, when he smashed 32 HR and drove in 115 runs to go along with an average of .315. He made the All Star team that year and had game winning RBI for the NL, though Pete Rose barreling over Ray Fosse also helped.
His power and average dipped consistently each of the following years and he was traded to the Cardinals when the Cubs were backing up the truck in 1974.
Some of my scattered thoughts on Jim Hickman:
- A native of Henning, Tennessee, the Cubs organist played "The Tennessee Waltz" when he came to the plate. Roots author Alex Haley is also from Henning.
- Hickman hit one of his 32 homers in 1970 with me in attendance. It was on July 22, 1970, my first visit to Wrigley Field.
- The 1970 Cubs had three first baseman in 1970...Ernie Banks, Jim Hickman, and Joe Pepitone. Talk about three completely different personalities!
- HIckman was #28 he is the player I associate the number with.
- He wasn't a major star, so he had limited appearances in non-Topps sets
- I have just two cards of him that were made after he retired, both from the Legendary Teams set. One is the base card, the other is an autographed card.
- His 1973 Jewel Foods picture is one of two I'm still missing from that set. I have yet to see one appear on Ebay, Beckett, or COMC.
- RIP Jim Hickman