Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jim Hickman (#612)

Here is Cubs’ 1B-OF Jim Hickman, about to enjoy his finest season in 1970. It was his 9th season, but his 1st and only all-star appearance. He also hit a career-high 32 homers.

Hickman was signed by the Cardinals in 1956, but languished in the minors until he was selected by the Mets in the expansion draft prior to the 1962 season. Jim was the Mets’ primary (though not everyday) center fielder for his first 4 seasons, sharing the post with Richie Ashburn in ’62, Jim Piersall in ’63, Larry Elliot in ’64, and Johnny Lewis in ’65. He also started over 40 games at third base in 1963.

In 1966 the Mets promoted rookie Cleon Jones and acquired veteran Al Luplow from the Indians, so the outfield was crowded from the start of the season. Hickman was the starting center fielder for the first week, until Jones took over. Jim missed all games from mid-May to mid-August, and when he returned, could only find spot starts in left and right fields. Hickman wound up as the 6th outfielder, behind Jones, Ron Swoboda, Luplow, Elliot, and Lewis.

Now expendable, Jim was included in the trade that sent 2nd baseman Ron Hunt to the Dodgers for Tommy Davis and Derrell Griffith in October 1966. In an outfield already manned by Willie Davis, Ron Fairly, Al Ferrara, and Lou Johnson, Hickman only managed to start 16 games in his lone season with the Dodgers, with most of his appearances as a pinch-hitter. He also pitched the last 2 innings on June 23rd vs. the Giants.

In late-April 1968 Jim and pitcher Phil Regan were traded to the Cubs for outfielder Ted Savage (seems like a steal for the Cubs). Although Hickman had a hard time breaking into the lineup in 1968 (and spent part of the season in the minors), he found new life with the Cubs, playing 6 seasons in Chicago.

In 1969 (his 1st season as a regular since 1965) he was the starting right fielder, and hit 21 homers, the most since hitting 17 as a sophomore.

1970 was his career year. With the off-season acquisition of Johnny Callison, Hickman began the season in center field. By late-May he began alternating at 1st base with the veteran Ernie Banks, while also continuing to play center when he wasn’t at 1st base. He reached a career-high 613 plate appearances, 32 homers, and 115 RBI. His RBI total was double his previous mark. He also made the all-star team that year and was 8th in the MVP voting [Jim Hickman?]. 

With Banks’ career fading and Joe Pepitone getting the majority of playing time at 1st base, Hickman split his time between right field and 1st base in 1971. His numbers (19/60) were way down from the previous year.

Jim played 2 more season as the Cubs’ 1st baseman, then was traded to the Cardinals during spring training in 1974 for pitcher Scipio Spinks. The Cards had Joe Torre at 1st base and Lou Brock, Bake McBride, Reggie Smith, and Jose Cruz in the outfield, so there wasn’t much for Hickman to do. He was released in July, ending his 12-year career.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chuck Taylor (#119)

This post is about Chuck Taylor, not Chuck Taylors, But as long as I have your attention, behold the Holy Grail of sneakers from back in the day:

We always referred to these as "Converse All-Stars", not "Chuck Taylors" or "Chucks" as is done these days. I also recall that all the "cool kids" had these as early as elementary school, while the rest of us didn't catch up until jr. high (having been saddled with "sensible" sneakers like Keds or PF Flyers prior to that). The other thing I remember is that the only style that "mattered" was black hi-tops. Having white Converse sneex, or black low-tops just wasn't the same.

Oh yes, Chuck Taylor:

This is Chuck Taylor's rookie card, the first of his 6 consecutive cards.  He pitched for 8 seasons (1969-76), mostly for the Cardinals and Expos. Although he started half his games as a rookie, he was a reliever for the rest of his career.

Taylor was signed by the Cardinals in 1961, and pitched 8 seasons in the minors before making his MLB debut with the Cardinals in May 1969.

Prior to the 1964 season, he was traded to the Houston Colt .45s (with outfielder Jim Beauchamp) for outfielder Carl Warwick. Midway through the following season, Houston returned him to the Cardinals (with pitcher Hal Woodeshick) for pitchers Mike Cuellar and Ron Taylor.

After a few games in AAA in 1969, Taylor was called up to St. Louis in late May. After spending 2 months in the bullpen, he joined the rotation and made 12 consecutive starts from late-July to the end of the season. Chuck appeared in 56 games in 1970 – all in relief except for 7 starts in June and July. He also led the team with 8 (!) saves that season.

During the 1971/72 off-season, he was part of a 4-for-4 trade with the Mets that included Beauchamp going to New York, and Jim Bibby and Art Shamsky going to St. Louis. Taylor split his time in 1972 between the Mets, their AAA club, and the Brewers.

The Brewers released him in spring training 1973, but he was quickly snapped up by the Expos. Chuck pitched for Montreal for 3 full seasons and part of 1976, also playing for the Expos’ AAA team for part of 1976.  He retired after the season.