Original Met Jim Hickman Dies At 79
Jim Hickman, the centerfielder for the New York Mets for their first win in franchise history and the player who drove home Pete Rose to win the 1970 Major League Baseball All-Star Game died Saturday at the age of 79.
Hickman also played for the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals over a 13-year Major League career. Hickman was also a long time hitting instructor in the Cincinnati Reds organization before retiring in 2006.
Although he had a solid career in which he hit .252 with 159 home runs, Hickman is perhaps best known for delivering the two-out single to centerfield in the bottom of the 12th inning of the 1970 Major League Baseball All-Star Game that set off the turn of events in which Rose barreled over Oakland A’s catcher Ray Fosse to win the game.
A native of Henning, Tennessee, Hickman played six years of minor league baseball before being selected by the Mets 33rd overall in the 1961 expansion draft. He made his debut the following spring during the inaugural season of the Mets. He first appeared as a pinch hitter in the team’s third game of the season and was the starting centerfielder on April 23, 1962 when the Mets recorded the first win in franchise history.
Hickman was the first Met to hit three home runs in a game and also the first Met to hit for the cycle, accomplishing the feat on August 7, 1963. Hickman’s cycle is one of just 14 “natural” cycles in MLB history as he hit a single leading off the game, a double in the second, a triple in the 4th and a home run leading off the bottom of the sixth inning.
Interestingly enough, Hickman was the last player to hit a home run in the Polo Grounds, connecting off Chris Short of the Philadelphia Phillies on September 18, 1963.
Hickman played five seasons for the Mets before he was traded along with Ron Hunt to the Dodgers for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith. At the time of the trade, Hickman and Hunt were the last two original Mets still on the team. After one season, he was dealt to Chicago where Hickman would blossom into a trusted veteran.
Hickman’s best season came in 1970 when he hit .315 with 32 home runs and drove in 115 runs. That season he made his only All-Star game and finished eighth in the National League MVP voting, ahead of Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Hank Aaron and Joe Torre. Hickman was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year after his stellar season.
Hickman was released by the Cardinals on July 16, 1974 and retired at the age of 37. In his final plate appearance, Hickman walked against Phil Niekro while pinch hitting for Torre.
From 1987-2006, Hickman served as a hitting instructor for the Reds’ minor league system.