BOOM! Revisit 1970 All-Star Game With Cub Slugger ‘Gentleman Jim’ Hickman

Perfect Penmanship
To This Day!

True story…

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.


Phillies Coach Billy DeMars Makes Hall of Fame Case For Fellow Shortstop Larry Bowa

Billy DeMars was a marvel. A talented batting coach long before the advent of videotape and other technological boosts, DeMars had a fan in Pete Rose. They worked together in Philadelphia, Montreal and Cincinnati. DeMars wrote:

“Pete would have been a very good manager. All he needed was more experience.”

DeMars began his 13-year association with the Phillies at the 1968 World Series. He recalled:

“I was at the World Series in Detroit in 1968 and ran into Paul Owens and John Quinn from the Phillies. As I was leaving, I told Paul Owens who I knew that if they ever needed a good person to let me know. A month later, they called and offered me a coaching job. I spent 13 yrs with the Phillies, 3 with Montreal Expos and 3 with Cin Reds.”

During his service with the Phillies, DeMars remembers one crowning glory named Larry Bowa:

“I was very pleased at what I did for Larry Bowa. He only hit one year left-handed in the minors before coming up to the Phillies. He was a very poor hitter and not much power. But we worked hard almost 365 days a year and it turned out he hit about .265 lifetime. Had 2,191 hits, 25 less than Joe DiMaggio. that’s more hits than 6 shortstops in the Hall of Fame, and he had one of the highest fielding averages lifetime of any shortstop that played the game.”

How does DeMars sum up his half century-plus in baseball?

“Baseball was my lifetime, 58 years. Every job has its ups and downs, but I still can’t see me doing anything else. It was a great ride.”

Reds Manager Dave Bristol Recalls Pete Rose, Crosley Field and Nasty Umpires

Manager Dave Bristol wants to set the record straight.

I quoted Baseball Reference’s bio to him:

He saw the writing on the wall as a player before the 1962 season with the Macon Peaches, when a young hotshot named Pete Rose beat him for the second baseman’s job.

Bristol’s reply?

“I was the manager in Macon. I didn’t compete with Rose. He needed to play and he surely did.

We had so many good players in Cincy in the 1960s. His move to the outfield fit into the scheme of things, much as it did when Sparky moved him to third base.”

Bristol’s first job in Cincinnati cemented his love for the local ballpark:

“I had seen Crosley Field in 1951 when I was there to work out prior to signing with Reds. In 1966, we were rained out opening day, so my first big league coaching third base took place in Philly when we opened the season there. Crosley was my all-time favorite park. Loved it. No park like it today — bank in outfield, 387 in center with high wall.”

Lastly, I gave Bristol the chance to confess his sins. The stunning documented 23 ejections (four as coach, 19 as manager). Were they mostly balls-and-strikes disputes? Was there one time he could laugh about today? His defiant answer surprised me!

“I should have done more, but it doesn’t help your team when the manager is in the clubhouse.”

Watch out, retired umpires. Bristol hasn’t skippered a team since 1980. However, I’m betting he’s kept a list of the men in blue who wronged his clubs.

I enjoyed writing to Dave Bristol. Sparky Anderson may have operated the Big Red Machine, but I let Bristol know he should be credited for assembling some of the lineup gears that powered the team.

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