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.
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.
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.