Diunte: Hicks’ heroics helped Mets slay Giants in 1963

From SABR member Nick Diunte at Examiner.com on October 30, 2012:

Joe Hicks never fancied himself as a home run hitter, yet for one magical day in 1963 as a member of the New York Mets, Hicks supplied the necessary power to slay the defending National League champs, the San Francisco Giants. The 80-year-old Hicks, speaking from his home in Virginia, vividly recalled a shining moment from his career that put the bat in his hands with a chance to win the game against one of the elite teams in baseball.

“We were playing the Giants in the Polo Grounds on a Wednesday afternoon. The Giants were in town and they were the defending National League champs. They had Gaylord Perry pitching against us,” he said. “Gaylord was in the early stages of his career and we knocked him around pretty good. … We jump off to a 5-3 lead and they started to chip back, and at the end of the 9th [inning] it was 7-7. We’re batting in the bottom of the 11th inning and they bring on Don Larsen to pitch. Joe Christopher, he was the leadoff hitter, and he led off with a single,” said Hicks, who was the next batter to the plate.

Everyone in the house including Hicks knew what was coming next, a sacrifice bunt. “I knew I was going to be sacrificing. I look down at third [base] and sure enough Solly Hemus gives me the bunt sign,” he said. Hicks, an expert bunter, placed the ball in the perfect location, but the laws of physics intervened. “I lay down a nice bunt, and would have had a hit, but at the last minute it kicked foul. I’m walking back [to the plate] and I’m so glad it went foul because as I’m going back to the batter’s box, I’m looking back at Solly Hemus, and Old Casey had taken the bunt off,” said an excited Hicks. Stengel knew as Larsen’s former manager, what his next pitch would be after the bunt rolled foul. “He had managed Larsen in New York, and knew that if a guy sacrificed, on the next pitch he would throw him that high hard fastball. I was looking for that pitch and I pull it down the right field line to hit a home run into the upper deck to win the game. We didn’t call them walk-offs back then, just a game winning home run. That day against Larsen was my best in the major leagues.”

Read the full article here: http://www.examiner.com/article/hicks-heroics-helped-the-mets-to-slay-the-giants-at-the-polo-grounds-1963

Originally published: October 30, 2012. Last Updated: October 30, 2012.