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Kevin Hickey

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1984 Donruss #135 Kevin Hickey

Kevin John Hickey

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"Kevin Hickey was the ultimate long shot, the classic underdog. You couldn't help but root for him. Kevin did the absolute most with every single opportunity he received and earned every bit of his success." - Roland Hemond

Kevin Hickey grew up 3 miles from Comiskey Park. Bill Veeck, when he owned the Chicago White Sox, used to hold a annual "try out day" for everyone from weekend warriors to high schoolers. In 1977 Kevin was a 16-inch softball player who was encouraged by friends to go to the event. He had barely played baseball in high school, and his softball playing experience was limited to semi-pro industrial leagues on his free time from a job at a steel mill. In storybook style, he impressed scouts at the tryout and was signed to a contract. Chicago softball players were thrilled to see one of their own make it when he jumped from AA to the White Sox in 1981.

He had a so-so first season in the professional ranks, going 2-4, 4.00 for the Paintsville Highlanders in 1978; Paintsville was a co-op team in the Appalachian League getting its players on loan from various organizations, so he clearly did not rank high as a prospect. Still, he made it to the Appleton Foxes, an actual Sox farm team in the Class A Midwest League in 1979. His record was an unimpressive 5-10, but with a decent 3.57 ERA as a swingman. His big break came in 1980, when he made the staff of the AA Glens Falls White Sox as a starter. He made 26 starts, pitched 169 innings and finished with a 9-7 record and a 4.31 ERA. His K/W ratio was only 80/73, but as a lefthander with a good arm and durability, he was invited to the Sox's spring training in 1981, and then surprised absolutely everyone by making the team as a lefty reliever.

Hickey went 0-2 with 3 saves and a 3.65 ERA in 41 games as a rookie, then had an even better sophomore season in 1982, with a record of 4-4, 3.00, and 6 saves in 60 appearances. He did not throw particularly hard, striking out 38 in 78 innings, but was a very reliable middle reliever for those first two years. The bottom fell out in 1983­, when he was 1-2, 5.23 in 23 games, with 5 saves. He went on the disabled list on August 1st and did not play again for the rest of the season, missing out on the team's huge second-half surge that propelled the Pale Hose to the first AL West title in team history.

Hickey then bounced around the minor leagues from 1984 to 1988, playing for 11 teams in 5 different organizations over the span of four seasons. He had a very good second half with the Rochester Red Wings of the International League in 1988, putting up an ERA of 1.47 in 27 games. That performance punched his ticket back to the majors when he won a job in the Baltimore Orioles bullpen at the start of the 1989 season. It was Cinderella, Part 2. The Orioles, one of the worst teams in the majors the previous year, surged to the top of the AL East standings, and only bowed out to the Toronto Blue Jays on the season's last week-end. Kevin was one of the big stories for the team, pitching extremely well with a 2.92 ERA in 51 games, a 2-3 record and 2 saves. While he had been a middle reliever in his first stint, he was used more as LOOGY by the Orioles, pitching less than an inning per appearance. In 1990, he was down to pitching 26 1/3 innings in 37 appearances, and the results were poor, with a 1-2 record, a 5.13 ERA and one save; he went back down to Rochester for a stint, but did no better, with a 5.79 ERA in 16 games. Facing the end of the line, Hickey began the 1991 season down in AA, with the Hagerstown Suns of the Eastern League. He showed some of his old spark, with a 1.83 ERA and 3 saves in 15 games. He returned to Baltimore in late May, but was hit very hard, giving up 14 runs in as many innings in 15 games. He pitched his last major league game on July 6th and was handed his unconditional release after the All-Star break. The San Francisco Giants gave him a look with their AAA Phoenix affiliate, but the results were disastrous: in 5 games, he gave up 13 runs on 18 hits in 5 2/3 innings. Midnight had struck and Kevin's career as a professional player was over.

Kevin played the role of "Schoup" in the 1994 movie Major League II.

Beginning in 2004, he served as batting practice pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. Extremely well liked by players, he was voted a full share when the Sox won the 2005 World Series. However, he became ill just before the start of the 2012 season, missing the team's workout before Opening Day on April 5th. He was found unresponsive in his hotel room and was hospitalized in Dallas, TX. He was a diabetic and the accident was related to his condition. He was then transfered to a Chicago hospital in mid-April, where he never regained consciousness and remained in intensive care until he passed away on May 16th. He left behind a spouse, five daughters and three grandchildren.

"The energy he had every day, what he brought to the field, he always had a smile on his face, and he always worked hard... He loved the White Sox, he loved baseball, he loved White Sox baseball. Nobody wanted you to do better than he did. He'll be sorely missed." - A.J. Pierzynski

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