They seem to be going quickly now, the heroes of my childhood.
Former Major League All-Star Jim Hickman, who was born and raised in Henning, Tenn., died Saturday. He was 79 and in hospice care.
Hickman's son Joey is the longtime golf pro at Old Hickory Country Club.
Jim Hickman was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Cubs acquired Hickman, along with reliever Phil Regan, from the Dodgers April 23, 1968 for Jim Ellis and Ted Savage, one of the lesser-appreciated trades of GM John Holland's regime. He played just part-time in 1968, but became a semi-regular in the outfield in the star-crossed 1969 season, hitting 21 home runs in 134 games.
It was in 1970 that Hickman made his biggest impact on the Cubs, and baseball. He hit .315/.419/.582 with 33 doubles, 32 home runs and 115 RBI and posted 5.0 bWAR. He finished eighth in MVP voting and made his only All-Star team. Hickman is the batter in this video; it's his single that led to Pete Rose crashing into Ray Fosse at the plate with the game-winning run in the 1970 All-Star Game at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati:
A footnote in major-league history belongs to Hickman, with a Cubs connection: On August 9, 1963, Hickman, then with the Mets, hit a walkoff grand slam off Cubs reliever Lindy McDaniel. It ended a then-record 18-game losing streak for Mets starter Roger Craig.
Hickman, whose kind manner got him nicknamed "Gentleman Jim," hit .267/.362/.467 in 682 games as a Cub, with 97 home runs; the 97 homers is 23rd in Cubs franchise history.
Like many of the Cubs who were part of the teams that came close but never made it to the ultimate goal in that era, Hickman was traded away, in March 1974, for Scipio Spinks, a pitcher of some promise who never made it. After his baseball career ended later in 1974, he returned to his native Tennessee, where he had been born in the small town of Henning on May 10, 1937, and lived a quiet life running a farm, in addition to spending 20 years as minor-league hitting coordinator for the Reds. This 2014 article sums up Hickman's career and life quite well.
Rest in peace, Jim Hickman.