Friday, January 4, 2013

#278 Kevin Hickey - Chicago White Sox

Kevin Hickey looks like he has a tailwind trying to push him off the mound on his 2nd Topps card.  An unfortunate ink spot mars his chin in the inset

Baseball Card Database

Player:  Kevin Hickey fulfilled the dream of every working man who thinks they could play in the big leagues for their hometown team.  20 year-old Hickey was a struggling laid off factory worker in Chicago who played softball and semi-pro baseball in his spare time.  His life changed when he was convinced to attend the White Sox annual open tryout.  Hickey who hadn't played baseball in high school was signed and sent to Rookie ball in '78. 

Hickey wasn't exactly blowing anyone away in the minors with ERA's of 4.00, 3.57, and 4.31 in his first three years but lefties are are always in high demand.  He made the White Sox bullpen in '81 despite never having pitched above double-A.  Working primarily in middle relief he did fairly well posting a 3.68 ERA and 1.263 WHIP in 44 innings.

The southpaw modeled his mechanics and delivery after fellow lefty Tug McGraw and got by with a high 80s fastball and a slider.  The '82 season would be Hickey's best as he logged 78 innings with a 3.00 ERA, 1.321 WHIP, and six saves.  In '83 the White Sox were thriving but Hickey struggled with a few rough outings in June and was placed on disabled list with shoulder stiffness on August 1 and did not return. 

Hickey spent the next five years pitching in the minors bouncing through five franchises before reappearing with the Orioles in '89. By now the role of relief pitches was evolving and Hickey was used as a lefty specialist. He did well in the role limiting lefties to a .206 batting average and recording a 2.92 ERA in 49 frames.
 
He struggled to stay in the majors in '90 and '91 pitching just 40 innings for the Orioles before they released him in August of '91. The Giants gave him a chance at Fresno but he was released after allowing 18 hits in 5.2 innings.

Baseball Card Database
 
Flipside: Looking at his numbers, Hickey averaged a little over an inning per outing in '82. Although the LOOGY came into popularity in the last 25 years, Manager Tony LaRussa was using Hickey as a lefty specialist way back then but it is hidden in his stats as he also used him at times as the long man. Hickey had 21 outings where he faced just one or two batters. However he also had 14 outings of 9 batters or more.

Oddball: Hickey played the role of Schoup in the movie Major League 2.

History: Hickey's rise to the majors is a great one and he parlayed it into a 13 year playing career. Across six major league seasons he recorded a 3.91 ERA, 100 ERA+, and 17 saves. He was particularly tough on Hall of Fame lefties George Brett (0-15), and Wade Boggs (1-11).
After some hard times and years away from the game he joined the White Sox staff as a batting practice pitcher in 2004. He held the role until he passed away in 2012.  A great article on Hickey can be read here.



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