To This Day!
The first time I ever heard a Cubs game on the radio, I thought Jack Brickhouse called Jim Hickman “Jim HITMAN.” Even though I found his name spelled correctly in a box score, I couldn’t wait to get a look at his baseball card, or whole personage on TV.
I was stunned. Stone-faced. Stoic. Until the 1970 Cubs needed some offense. Wow!
I asked how he felt having the award “Comeback Player of the Year.” Hickman wasn’t any slouch during the 1969 season, with stats good enough to please most teams. While 1970 was a career year, I didn’t think he “came back” from rack and ruin. How did he feel about the label?
“Really didn’t matter to me one way or the other.”
You want humility? Listen to this explanation of his ’70 power explosion, with career bests in homers and RBI:
“I was blessed with some power. In 1970, I was a better hitter and used the power.”
During that momentous year, Hickman even smacked a game-winning single in the all-star game. When did he realize how Pete Rose cashed in on that hit, steamrollering catcher Ray Fosse for the winning run?
“I saw the play from first base. It happened so fast I didn’t take it all in at the time.
In the replays, you can see Pete started to slide then changed his mind.
Pete played hard on every play. I’m just sorry Fosse got hurt and I’m sure Pete was, too.”
Tomorrow: A note arrives from another Chicago fan favorite, “Jungle Jim” Rivera.
|Osteen’s classic pose,
year after year!
Who would have won this footrace: Willie Stargell or Claude Osteen?
Pitcher. Pinch-runner. They sound a bit related. And Claude did have two stolen bases in his previous 12 seasons.
Such mystery and spectacle surrounded the 1970 All-Star Game. Osteen remembered:
“A bit of trivia. I got into the ’70 All-Star game as a pinch-runner for Willie Stargell, who had walked. I stayed in the game to pitch three shutout innings. One of my biggest thrills.
Gil Hodges used me a pinch-runner because he wanted the pitcher in that slot in the batting order.”
Bashful Osteen never mentioned that his scoreless work in the 10th through 12th innings paved the way for the senior circuit’s 5-4 win, crediting the Tennessee native with the victory.
Tomorrow: From moundsman to batsman — Claude Osteen challenges the DH rule.