Clutch Master

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Jim Hickman

As a hitter, Jim Hickman specialized in both power and good timing. During his 13-year major league career, Hickman became more dangerous in the batter’s box in the game’s waning innings, when big hits counted most and Hickman consistently came up big.

Signed originally by the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Jim Hickman broke into the majors with the New York Mets. He was the Mets’ leading home run hitter in 1963.

Signed originally by the St. Louis Cardinals, outfielder Jim Hickman broke into the majors with the New York Mets. He was the Mets’ leading home run hitter in 1963.

Hickman was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1956 and toiled in the Cardinals’ farm system until he was selected by the New York Mets in the 1961 expansion draft. He hit .245 in his (and the Mets’) first season, with 13 home runs and 46 runs batted in. In 1963, Hickman was the Mets’ top home run hitter, with 17 homers and 51 RBIs. In five seasons with the Mets, Hickman batted a combined .241 and averaged 12 home runs per season.

In 1966 the Mets traded Hickman with Ron Hunt to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Tommy Davis and Darrell Griffith. In his only season with the Dodgers, Hickman batted .163 with no home runs and only 10 RBIs.

At the beginning of the 1968 season, the Dodgers sent Hickman and pitcher Phil Regan to the Chicago Cubs for Jim Ellis and Ted Savage. He spent most of the 1968 season with the Cubs’ Triple-A team in Spokane, and in 1969 batted .237 in Chicago with 21 home runs and 54 RBIs.

Hickman had a career season in 1970 with the Cubs. He batted .315 with 33 doubles, 32 home runs and 115 RBIs. He made his only All-Star appearance and drove in the game-winning run. He was also named National League Comeback Player of the Year for 1970.

Jim Hickman had his best season in 1970 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Hickman batted .315 with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs.

Jim Hickman had his best season in 1970 as a member of the Chicago Cubs. Hickman batted .315 with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs.

Hickman never again had a season that would approach his productivity in 1970. He hit .272 in 1972 with 17 home runs and 64 RBIs. He played one more season in Chicago and was traded to the Cardinals in 1973. He batted .267 in 1974, used primarily as a pinch hitter, and retired after the 1974 season.

Hickman retired with a career batting average of .252. He collected 159 home runs and 560 RBIs during his 13-year career. But in his prime he was one of the most effective clutch hitters in the National League.  He hit several walk-off hits in his career for both the Mets and the Cubs. He was also responsible for many hitting “firsts” for the fledgling Mets, including the first Met to hit for the cycle, and the first Met to hit three home runs in a single game (off Ray Sadecki of the Cardinals). His was the last home run hit in the Polo Grounds (off Chris Short of the Philadelphia Phillies), and he was the first Met batter to earn a walk and to be hit by a pitch in Shea Stadium.

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A Ray of Winning Sunshine

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Ray Culp

Ray Culp was a strapping Texan who threw hard and won often. In fact, from 1963 through 1970, the right-hander had only a single losing season – his only season as a member of the Chicago Cubs.

Ray Culp had an outstanding rookie season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1963, going 14-11 with a 2.97 ERA.

Ray Culp had an outstanding rookie season with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1963, going 14-11 with a 2.97 ERA.

Culp was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959 and worked his way through the Phillies’ farm system to make the big league club as a member of the starting rotation in 1963. He was 14-11 as a rookie with a 2.97 ERA, pitching 203.1 innings with 10 complete games and five shutouts. He was selected that year as The Sporting News National League Rookie Pitcher of the Year and was a member of the National League All-Star team.

He was 8-7 in 1964 and followed in 1965 with a 14-10 record and a 3.22 ERA, third on the team in victories behind Jim Bunning and Chris Short. He moved to the bullpen in 1966, going 7-4 with a 5.04 ERA, and then was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Dick Ellsworth.

Culp went 8-11 for the Cubs in 1967, and then was acquired by the Boston Red Sox, where his career took off to reflect the promise he showed in his rookie season. Culp was 16-6 for Boston in 1968 with a 2.91 ERA. He pitched 11 complete games for the Red Sox with six shutouts.

Ray Culp’s career rebounded when he was acquired by the Boston Red Sox in 1968. He was 71-58 with a 3.50 ERA in six seasons with the Red Sox.

Ray Culp’s career rebounded when he was acquired by the Boston Red Sox in 1968. He was 71-58 with a 3.50 ERA in six seasons with the Red Sox.

Culp followed up in 1969 with a 17-8 season and a 3.81 ERA. He also earned a spot on the American League All-Star team that season. Culp was 17-14 for Boston in 1970 with a 3.04 ERA and 15 complete games in 33 starts. He was fifth in the league in strikeouts with 197. It was his last winning season.

Culp’s record slipped to 14-16 in 1971 with a 3.60 ERA, but by this time his arm was effectively pitched out. He was 5-8 for Boston in 1972, and made only 10 appearances in 1973, going 2-6. He was released by the Red Sox following the 1973 season, and retired at age 31.

Culp finished his 11-year major league career with a record of 122-101 and a 3.58 ERA.

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No Strikeout Shortage

 

Lights Out: Chris Short Strikes Out 18 in a Game He Can’t Win

When: October 2, 1965

Where:  Shea Stadium, New York, New York

Game Time: 4:29

Attendance: 10,371

By the 1964 season, Chris Short had arrived as a premier pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. Over the next three seasons, he would be the second-best left-handed starter in the National League, looking up only to a guy named Sandy Koufax.

Chris Short pitched 15 scoreless innings against the New York Mets in 1965 but didn’t get the win as the game was called after the sixteenth inning. Short struck out 18 Mets batters

Chris Short pitched 15 scoreless innings against the New York Mets in 1965 but didn’t get the win as the game was called after the sixteenth inning. Short struck out 18 Mets batters.

Short went 17-9 in 1964 and 18-11 in 1965. He was particularly outstanding during the last month of the 1965 season, making eight starts with two relief appearances, and going 4-2 with one save and a 1.75 ERA in those 10 appearances.

In two of his best games that month, he pitched a combined 24 scoreless innings … and didn’t get the win in either game. The first game was a nine-inning shutout performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates in which he was one-upped by Bob Veale’s 10-inning one-hitter.

The other incredible Short performance occurred on the next-to-last day of the season.

It was the second game of a scheduled twi-night double header with the New York Mets. In the opener, Jim Bunning ran his season record to 19-9 with a two-hit, 6-0 shutout. Short started the second game, and continued the frustration for Mets’ bats.

In that game, Short blanked the Mets for 15 innings, striking out 18 Mets batters. The Mets’ only scoring threat came in the bottom of the third inning, when back-to-back doubles by Ron Hunt and Joe Christopher should have produced the game’s first run had it not been for great hustle and an outstanding throw by Tony Gonzalez (playing right field that day) that held Hunt at third base. With runners at second and third and one out, Short struck out Charlie Smith, walked Jim Hickman intentionally, and then caught Danny Napoleon looking to end the inning without a score.

Short simply outmatched the Mets lineup over the next 12 innings. Unfortunately, Mets rookie starter Rob Gardner, making only his fourth major league start, matched Short’s performance inning-for-inning, allowing just five hits in 15 scoreless frames. Both Short and Gardner were gone as the game entered the sixteenth inning, and the game was called for curfew after 18 scoreless innings and 4-1/2 hours of frustration.

Chris Short pitched 15 scoreless innings against the New York Mets in 1965 but didn’t get the win as the game was called after the sixteenth inning. Short struck out 18 Mets batters

Chris Short had an outstanding month of September to close out the 1965 season. In eight starts and two relief appearances, Short was 4-2 with a 1.75 ERA. In two games, he pitched at least nine scoreless innings with no decision.

The game was replayed the next day when the Phillies swept two games from the Mets to close out the season.

Short’s amazing last month of the 1965 season included five complete games but no shutouts. Had the Phillies scored at least one run in each of the two games when Short pitched enough scoreless innings to qualify for shutouts, he would have been a 20-game winner on the season, and would not have had to wait until 1966 to achieve that milestone.

Innings Eater, Wins Producer

 

Glancing Back, and Remembering Chris Short

During the mid-1960s, the Philadelphia Phillies had arguably the second-best righty-lefty starting pitcher tandem in the National League … second to the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ four-Cy Young award combo of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

Chris Short was the only Phillies pitcher to chalk up a 20-win season during the 1960s. He was 20-10 with a 3.54 ERA in 1966.

Chris Short was the only Phillies pitcher to chalk up a 20-win season during the 1960s. He was 20-10 with a 3.54 ERA in 1966.

The Phillies tandem was buoyed by right-hander Jim Bunning, who won 19 games in each season from 1964-1966. Bunning’s left-handed counterpart was Chris Short, who won 20 games in 1966 and averaged 17 victories per season from 1964-1968.

Short was signed by the Phillies as an amateur free agent in 1957 and made the big league club to stay in 1960. He was a spot starter for Philadelphia from 1960 through 1962, with a combined record of 23-30. A 2.95 ERA in 1963 was good enough for only a 9-12 record, but in 1964 – Bunning’s first season with the Phillies – Short emerged as one of the best pitchers in the National League, posting a 17-9 record with a 2.20 ERA (third best in the league).

Chris Short was a workhorse for the Philadelphia Phillies during the mid-1960s. From 1963-1968, he averaged 243 innings per season, averaging 15 wins with a 2.84 ERA.

Chris Short was a workhorse for the Philadelphia Phillies during the mid-1960s. From 1963-1968, he averaged 243 innings per season, averaging 15 wins with a 2.84 ERA.

Short won 18 games in 1965 and went 20-10 in 1966. After slipping to 9-11 in 1967, Short rebounded with a 19-13 record in 1968. It would be his last season with a winning record. He went 17-31 over the next four seasons with Philadelphia, and retired after a 3-5 season for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1973. He finished his 15-season career at 135-132 with a combined 3.43 ERA. He remains third on the list for career victories in a Phillies uniform.

 

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Curt Simmons’ Nerves of Steal

 

This Week in 1960s Baseball …

Cardinals left-hander Curt Simmons was the last major league pitcher to steal home.

Cardinals left-hander Curt Simmons was the last major league pitcher to steal home.

(September 1, 1963) The St. Louis Cardinals today defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 7-3 for their third consecutive victory.

The star of the game for the Cardinals was starting pitcher Curt Simmons (12-7).

Simmons pitched a six-hit complete game, striking out four and walking one. In notching his twelfth win of the season, Simmons already had recorded his highest victory total since 1957.

But Simmons’ performance on this day went beyond his pitching. In the second inning, Tim McCarver led off for the Cardinals with a single, and scored when Simmons hit a triple off Phillies starter Chris Short (5-11). That RBI put the Cardinals ahead 1-0, but Simmons wanted more. With Julian Javier at the plate, the 34-year-old Simmons stole home to put the Cards up 2-0.

It was the second stolen base of Simmons’ career. And it would be his last.

Simmons drove in a second run with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly. McCarver had two hits and two RBIs. Ken Boyer hit a solo home run in the fifth inning, his twentieth of the season.

Considered washed up when he was released by the Phillies in 1960, Simmons would finish the 1963 season at 15-9 with a 2.48 ERA.

And thus far, he is still the last major league pitcher to successfully steal home.

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