December 25, 1871: Mike Hickey
Mike Hickey was a Christmas baby born on the Christian holiday 148 years ago today. The right-handed second baseman, despite cracking into professional baseball in the 1890's actually played in lower levels of organized ball before making his one career appearance in the majors leagues. Of course, today, the minor leagues are a given, but in Hickey's day, players were often plucked from factory and semi-pro teams and were placed right on the big-league roster.
It appears that Hickey attended College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts at the same time he was beginning his professional baseball career when he was just 19 years old. Very few stats are available from his time in the minor leagues starting in 1891, but he played in towns all over the Northeast including Waterbury, Lewiston, Brockton, Pittsfield, Amsterdam (whose team name was the Carpet Tacks), Troy, Scranton, Springfield, Syracuse, Rochester, Schenectady, Nashua, Galt, Winstead, Torrington, London (Canada), Toronto, Hamilton, Newport and New Haven.
Anywhere there was professional baseball to be played, Hickey was there. After more than eight seasons of bouncing around from team to team, town to town, Hickey finally got his shot with the Boston Beaneaters. On September 14 of the 1899 season, he made his one career appearance in one game of a doubleheader against the St. Louis Perfectos at Robison Field in the Gateway to the West.
Though Boston lost each game, 11-1 and 7-4, Hickey managed to record a base hit in three trips to the plate, forever cementing himself as a big-league ballplayer. It may have been the only day he could ever truly call himself a big leaguer, but having that one hit to look back on must have made the entire journey seem worth it. Despite going 95-57, the Beaneaters finished in second place out of 12 teams, eight games back of the juggernaut Brooklyn Superbas.
In an effort to jump back to the majors, Hickey continued jumping around in the minor leagues after his one big-league appearance. His career took him to Meriden, Worcester, Manchester, Lowell, Kansas City, Nowrich, Holyoke, and back to New Haven, where he ended his career in 1905 after six additional seasons in the minor leagues. By the time he hung them up, Hickey had played 13 professional season, much more than the average ballplayer back then or today for that matter.
Hickey passed away fewer than 13 years after retiring from the game, gone at just 46 years old. He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Chicopee, Massachusetts, the same town in which he was born.