Jim Hickman: The Mets First Regular Centerfielder (1962-1966)

James Lucius Hickman was born May 10, 1937, in Henning, Tennessee. The tall lanky six foot three, Hickman known as “Gentleman Jim” was originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1956.

Hickman toiled in the minor leagues for five seasons, despite hitting over twenty HRs from 1957-1959 at the AA level. 

In the 1961 expansion draft, he was selected by the New York Mets becoming an "original Met".

1962: He made his MLB debut as a pinch hitter, going 0-1, in the Mets first home game at the Polo Grounds, in a loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Three days later he made his first start in centerfield, going hitless in two at bats. On April 22nd, on the road in Pittsburgh he had a big three hit day driving in two runs. On April 28th, he hit his first career HR & then another the next day both coming in the Polo Grounds in wins over the Philadelphia Phillies.

In May, Hickman hit three HRs in the first two weeks of the month. On May 19th, his 8th inning sac fly capped off a Mets four run rally driving in what was the winning run off Milwaukee's Lew Burdett. 

On July 22nd he drove in all three Mets runs in a 4-3 losing effort at Cincinnati. In August Jim had two more three RBI games but all coming in Mets losses.

On September 1st, Hickman blasted two HRs in St. Louis driving in three runs in the Mets 10-5 loss. He finished the year with 13 HRs (3rd best on the club) 18 doubles, 46 RBIs & a .328 on base % while batting .245. He led the team strike outs (96) that season & again the next in 1963 (120).

1963: In his first game of the season, he hit a HR off Lew Burdette at Milwaukee. On April 21st he hit a grand slam HR off Milwaukee's Claude Raymond in an 8-5 Mets win at the Polo Grounds. That week he drove in runs in five straight games. Hickman closed out April batting .315 with 14 RBIs. 

On May 10th, in a game against the Reds, he drew a bases loaded walk for an RBI & in later the bottom of the 8th, he broke up a tie game with a HR, which turned out to be the games winning run. 

A week later in a wild home game, his 8th sac fly helped the Mets tie the game 12-12. Choo Choo Coleman's base hit in the next at bat, would bring home the winning run.

On June 2nd Hickman hit a walk off HR against the Pittsburgh Pirates' Roy Face. 

Hickman had some shining moments as a Met and is in the history books with team some firsts. On August 7th, at the Polo Grounds, he became the first Met to hit for the cycle, coming in a 7-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Two days later he hit a dramatic walk off grand slam HR off the Cubs' Lindy McDaniel giving the Mets a 7-3 victory in front of 11,000 fans at the Polo Grounds. 

Hickman would also be the hero to pitcher Roger Craig that day, since it was this win that ended his Craig's personal 18 game losing streak.

He would hit two more HRs against the Cubs later in the month as well. On September 18th he would hit the last ever HR at the Polo Grounds in a 5-1 loss against the Philadelphia Phillies. 

For the 1963 season he led the team in HRs (17) and triples (6). He batted .229 with 21 doubles (second on the club to Ron Hunt) & a .291 on base %. 

That year in the outfield he played in 82 games making six assists with a .963 fielding%. He also played in 59 games at third base but made 14 errors in 162 chances.

1964: On April 17th, Hickman was the starting centerfielder, batting in the sixth position in the first game ever played at Shea Stadium. He goes down in the record books as the first to draw a walk & get hit by a pitch in the new ballpark.

After a quick start the first week, he struggled batting just around the .200 mark until early June. From June 7th - June 14th Hickman hit three HRs & drove in eight runs, hitting safely in all but one of those games that week.

On July 26th, he hit HRs in both ends of a double header against the Milwaukee Braves although the Mets lost both games. He hit well in August with a hit streak a streak of 12 out of 14 games where he drove in ten runs. 

On August 19th he hit a grand slam HR, driving in all four Mets runs in a 4-2 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That season he hit a Mets career high .257 with 11 HRs, 14 doubles a .319 on base % & 57 RBIs.

In the outfield he had eight assists & posted a .976 fielding %. 

1965: Hickman had a slow start to the year, batting under .200 until May 31st. On May 31st he drove in four runs against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, including a two run HR leading the Mets to a 5-3 win. The next day he hit two HRs leading the Mets to a 10-5 win over the Cubs again.
Later that month he hit two HRs & drove in runs in three of the four games on a road trip to Dodger Stadium. 

Hickman struggled in August but did hit a three-run bottom of the 8th inning game winning HR on August 22nd, to beat the Cardinals 7-5. 

On September 3rd, he had a tremendous day, hitting three HRs at St. Louis, all coming off (future Mets) pitcher Ray Sadecki. Hickman also had four hits on the day with four RBIs. He had two four hit games on the road that September.

Hickman would hit 15 HRs (3rd best on the team) with 18 doubles, 40 RBIs while batting .236 playing in 141 games. 

1966: He would only play in only 58 games this year, after hurting his wrist in a May game, then missing two months of action. Jim was hitting .237 with 4 HRs & 16 RBIs, when he got traded along with the popular Ron Hunt to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for Tommy Davis. Hickman was the last of the original Mets to play on the ball club at the time of his departure.

Hickman spent five seasons with the Mets primarily as their first regular centerfielder. In 624 Mets games, he would play all outfield positions, as well as first base & some third base in 624 career games as a Met, batting .241 with 60 HRs with 210 RBIs. 

Post Mets Career: After one season batting a lowly .163 in Los Angeles, he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Ted Savage & Jim Ellis. He would bat .223 in first year at Wrigley Field, followed up by a .237 mark in 1969. 

That season he was the team’s main right fielder and watched as his old team, now the Amazing New York Mets, took over first place from the Cubs. Hickman blasted 21 HRs with 11 doubles & 54 RBIs on the season.

Walk Off HRs: Hickman helped the Cubs first place bid in June, hitting two walk off HRs in the same week. The first was on June 22nd, in the first game of a double header, against the Montreal Expos & former Met, Donnie Shaw. 

The next came four days later, on June 26th against the Pirates & pitcher Bruce Dal Canton.

On August 23rd he hit two HRs against the Houston Astros including a 7th inning grand slam that was the game winner.

1970 NL Comeback Player of the Year: Hickman batted .315 with a 415 on base % (5th in the NL) 162 hits, 33 doubles, 32 HRs (10th in the NL) 115 RBIs (6th in the NL) 102 runs scored (10th in the NL) and 93 walks (9th in the NL)—all career bests that placed him 8th in the MVP voting.

1970 All Star Game: He made his only All-Star appearance that year & drove in the games famous walk off winning run. 

In the 12th inning tie, with Pete Rose on second base, Hickman singled off the California Angels Clyde Wright. Rose rounded third and coming to the plate, barreled over Cleveland Indians' catcher Ray Fosse. Rose was safe, the NL won the game, but Fosse lay on the ground in pain. 

The play is still considered controversial even today, especially since knocking over the catcher has been banned. Even though the play was legal at the time, since it was an All-Star game. 

Rose could have just slid around Fosse & probably would still have scored. Fosse suffered a dislocated shoulder & was never the same player. He did have a decent career, winning three World Seres with the Oakland A's (1972-1974) as their main catcher.

1971: Hickman came back to earth the next season but still had good numbers for the Cubs, 19 HRs 60 RBIs & a .256 average. 

In his years with the Cubs he hit four walk off HRs helping his team to victory. He hit a solid .272 in 1972 & then dropped to .244 the next year, playing in just 92 games.

1974: He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for Scipio Spinks, batted .267 in 50 games, but was released in July, ending his career.

Career Stats: In his 13-year career, Hickman played 1421 games, batted .252 with 1002 hits 159 HRs, 163 doubles, 25 triples, 560 RBIs & a .335 on base %

Retirement: Hickman was a batting instructor in the Cincinnati Reds organization & then ran a farm in Tennessee.

Honors: Hickman was elected to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

Passing: In 2016 Hickman passed away at the age of 79.


Popular posts from this blog

Remembering Vixen Founder / Guitarist; Jan Kuehnemund (1961-2013)

Remembering Bobby Ojeda's Tragic Boating Accident (1993)

Willie Mays "The Sey Hey Kid #24": The Mets Years (1972 - 1973)

The 1970's Oakland A's Ball Girls- (MLB's First)

Fictional Mets Infielder Chico Escuela ( of SNL) Visits Mets Spring Training (1979)