Kevin Hickey, who served as a Chicago White Sox pre-game instructor for the club since 2004 and pitched for the team from 1981-83, passed away Wednesday morning at Rush University Medical Center. Hickey was 56.
Hickey had remained unresponsive in the intensive care unit at Rush University Medical Center after being moved to Chicago from Dallas in early April. Hickey initially was taken to Parkland Hospital in Dallas on April 5 after missing the team’s morning workout prior to Opening Day.
The left-hander pitched six seasons in the major leagues with Chicago (1981-83) and Baltimore (1989-91). He was 9-14 with a 3.91 ERA (114 ER/232.2 IP) and 17 saves in 231 career games, all in relief. He went 5-8 with a 3.52 ERA (56 ER/143.0 IP) and 14 saves over 124 games with the White Sox, with his best season coming in 1982 when he was 4-4 with six saves and a 3.00 ERA (26 ER/78.0 IP) in 60 games.
“Kevin Hickey was the ultimate long-shot, the classic underdog,” said former White Sox general manager Roland Hemond, who signed Hickey in 1978. “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.”
“Ask anyone in our clubhouse, every person here appreciated what Kevin did to help the White Sox win baseball games,” said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko. “No one wanted to win more, no one was more optimistic, no one cared more and no one took more pride in his job. He made all of us better.”
Hickey rejoined the White Sox organization prior to the 2004 season as a pre-game instructor and the team’s left-handed batting practice pitcher.
“Hick came to the park every single day ready to work and with a smile on his face,” said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski. “He will be sorely missed by us all.”
A native of Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood, Hickey attended St. Rita High School and Kelly High School.
Hickey’s route to the major leagues was unique, to say the least. He did not play high school baseball. Following a successful run as a 16-inch softball player – he helped lead his team, the Bobcats, to the 1976 World 16-inch Championship – and a stint with the Markham Cardinals semipro baseball team, he was invited to a summer tryout at Comiskey Park. He impressed White Sox scouts George Sobek and Joe Begani at the tryout and was offered a minor-league contract, the only one of 250 players at the tryout to be signed. Following three seasons in the Sox farm system, Hickey made his major-league debut on April 14, 1981.
He is survived by his partner in life, Anna D’Agata; five daughters: Samantha, Elizabeth, Kristen, Jessica and Sarah; three grandchildren; his mother, Kathleen; brothers, Jim and Tom; and sisters, Karen and Kathy.
Information on services is pending.