|Name:||Charles Taylor Hickman||Position:||First Base|
|Tribe Time:||1902-1904, 1908||DOB:||May 4, 1876|
|Best Season (1902)||102||426||61||161||31||11||8||94||12||9||8||.399||.559||.378||.958|
For those interesting in trivia, Candy LaChance was both the first player to play first base for the American League Cleveland baseball franchise and the player to man the bag most often during the inagural 1901 season. However, like nearly every other position, he was out by year two and would never play for Cleveland again after 1901. Replacing him in 1902 initially was Ossee Schrecongost, a back-up catcher for the Spiders from 1898 through 1899 who came back to Cleveland in 1902, but he was an extremely short term fix.
The newly created team wouldn’t have a steady presence at first until a more substantial move was made and that move was the purchase of Charlie Hickman from the Boston Americans (now the Red Sox) on June 3rd. Hickman was a veteran who had broken in with the Boston Beaneaters (now the Atlanta Braves) in 1897 as a pitcher, but after playing in parts of three seasons, it was obvious he was much better with his stick than his arm. After hitting .397 in limited action in 1899, he would move to third base and only pitch 11 more games in his career.
He would get his chance to start in the field in 1900, but not for Boston as he was sold to the New York Giants. There, he hit .313 and slugged an impressive .482 thanks to 17 triples and 9 home runs. While he wasn’t nearly as impressive in his second season in New York, Hickman still had a nice campaign in 1901 and decided to test the waters of free agency before free agency existed, jumping leagues to go back to Boston with the Americans. After just 28 games played much closer to the level of 1900 than 1901, he was sold to Cleveland and his career really took off.
Playing in just 102 of the Indians 136 games, Hickman hit safely 161 times, second most on the team and good for a .378/.399/.559 line in Cleveland. Overall, Hickman wound up being the American League’s hit and total base leader between the two teams with 193 hits and 288 total bases. Among Indians, only Bill Bradley had more hits and Hall of Famer Napoleon Lajoie had a comparable season offensively. These three provided both a massive boost in offense over the previous season (Bradley was the only major carry over from 1901) and combined with an improved defense and pitching staff the Bronchos won 15 more games than the Blues had the previous season and finished 15 games better in the standings.
The 1902 team would provide much more stability than the 1901 version as, in addition to Earl Moore and Bradley from the first year, pitchers Addie Joss, Bill Bernhard and Otto Hess along with position players Lajoie, Elmer Flick, Harry Bay, Harry Bemis and Hickman would all join the team and stick around. While Hickman would be the shortest tenured of these players, for his time with the team, he would help the new AL team sustain until George Stovall eventually took over the position.
Interestingly, the 1903 season would be Hickman’s only year where he played an entire season exclusively for Cleveland. Now called the Naps after their player-manager, Lajoie, Cleveland’s offense, pitching and win total would improve for the second straight season. Hickman was again one of the top performers, behind Hall of Famers Lajoie and Flick as well as Bradley, hitting .295/.325/.466 with 12 home runs, a new Indians record breaking the one previously set by Bradley the year before (Hickman had also hit 11 home runs in 1902, but did it across both teams). This new record wouldn’t be matched until 1920 and not broken until 1921 when Elmer Smith hit 16.
This essentially made Hickman the Indians’ first power hitter (as far away as it was from modern standards, or even those just beyond the dead ball era). Once Hickman left, Cleveland would have multiple seasons at or below the 12 home runs Hickman hit in 1903 including just 19 total between the 1909 and 1910 seasons and only 9 as late as 1918. Imagine the turn of events between expecting Hickman to hit a home run about every ten games to hoping anyone on the the team would hit a home run every ten games.
Hickman would begin 1904 as Cleveland’s first baseman again and would hit .288/.318/.448 with another 22 doubles, 10 triples and four home runs, but on July 3rd, the Naps would sign a 26 year old Stovall and the doubles machine would be the starting first baseman from then through 1911. Hickman played some in the outfield and some at second base to make room, but the Indians had future Hall of Famers in both positions. In August, he was traded to the Tigers for the extremely light hitting Charlie Carr. Carr would back up Stovall for the rest of 1904 and all of 1905 before being sold to Cincinnati.
As disappointing as Carr would be, Detroit was unhappy with the initial production of Hickman and he was sold to Washington in a mistake that would haunt them as he hit 9 home runs in his last 88 games while batting .311 for the Senators. After similar, although slightly reduced production in 1906 and early 1907, Hickman was sold again, this time to the White Sox and this time he didn’t play up to expectations. After playing out the last 21 games in Chicago and hitting just .261 (his .367 slugging percent was his worst since 1898 when he was a part time pitcher), the White Sox sold Hickman back to Cleveland where he would end his career.
At the age of 32, Hickman was mostly now a part time outfielder although he also played some first and second. He hit just 9 extra base hits in total as his slugging percent dropped to .305 in his final Major League season. Hickman would continue on playing in the minors, for both Toledo and Milwaukee before finally retiring after 1911. Had the DH existed about 70 years earlier, Hickman may have stayed in Cleveland the whole time and given them another solid offensive producer beside Stovall, Lajoie and the rest. Instead, he still remains an important footnote in Indians history as the first regular first baseman and power hitter for the franchise.