Jim Hickman: An original Met and an overlooked All-Star Game hero


Jim Hickman

Jim Hickman had the walk-off hit in the 1970 All-Star Game, but the game-winning run is best remembered for who scored it than who drove it in. Hickman died last month at 79. Hickman replaced starter Rico Carty in the fifth inning and only came up in the bottom of the 12th with Pete Rose at second because the NL had scored three times off Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter in the ninth to tie the game 4-4. Hickman was hitless in three at-bats — two strikeouts and a popout — but he singled to center off Angels’ lefty Clyde Wright (the father of 1997-2007 MLB pitcher Jarret Wright) in the 12th, leading Rose into his collision with AL catcher Ray Fosse at the plate. Rose threw a pretty good lead block, separated Fosse’s shoulder and created a controversy. Overlooked was Hickman’s line drive game-winning hit. Link to the play here. (Two American Leaguers, shortstop Luis Aparicio and outfielder-first baseman Carl Yastrzemski, played all 12 innings, and second baseman Davey Johnson played 10 and a half, leaving only when Wright entered. Let’s see how many play half as long in tonight’s All-Star Game). Nineteen-seventy was Hickman’s only All-Star Game, and at age 33, it was his best season. He batted .315, hit 32 homers, drove in 115 runs, walked 93 times, slugged .582, had a 1.001 OPS and was eighth in the MVP vote (Rose was seventh; Hickman was third in the NL in OPS behind Willie McCovey at 1.056 and Carty at 1.037; they were ninth and 10th, respectively, in the MVP vote). Hickman had only one season when his OPS came within 200 points of 1970’s (1972, .826). Though Hickman had his best years for the Cubs, he’s just as well-known for his time with the Mets. Hickman was an original Met, and remained one for five seasons. He was the last of the original 1962 Opening Day Mets, and he was the first Met to hit for the cycle and three home runs in a game. He hit the last home run at the Polo Grounds, and his ninth-inning grand slam in 1963 made a winner of pitcher Roger Craig, ending the latter’s 18-game losing streak. The win improved Craig’s record to 3-20 and he finished 5-22. Hickman hit 60 homers in his five Mets seasons and batted .241; he was traded to the Dodgers with Ron Hunt for Tommy Davis, and batted .163 in L.A. in 123 at-bats. The Dodgers sent him to the Cubs and Hickman hit .223 in his first season in Chicago. But in his second, in 1969, he hit .237 and 21 homers, the first of four seasons in which he hit 89 homers. Hickman credited manager Leo Durocher with his revival, according to the New York Times. In an interview with chicagobaseballmuseum.org, Hickman said: “Leo saved me. I was just a part-time player. He gave me a real good chance to play. After I had a little success, I felt he had a little confidence in me, and that helped me.” Hickman was a Cub through 1973, and played 50 games for the Cardinals in 1974 before being released. Career numbers: .252 average, .335 on-base percentage, .426 slugging percentage, 1,002 hits, 159 homers, 560 RBIs, .760 OPS, 108 OPS+, 13.3 WAR, 1 Hall of Fame vote in 1980, his only year on the ballot.

 

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