Kevin Hickey, the quirky left-handed reliever who pitched parts of three seasons for the Orioles including the storybook 1989 "Why Not?" season, died Wednesday at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He was 56.
A Chicago native who spent three of his six major league seasons with his hometown White Sox, Hickey had been a pregame instructor/batting practice pitcher with the that club since 2004. He was discovered unresponsive in his hotel room before Chicago's Opening Day game in Texas this April. He had been hospitalized since.
No official cause of death was announced.
Hickey wasn’t drafted but was discovered during an open White Sox tryout in 1978. He didn’t play baseball in high school but was an amateur softball player and semi-pro baseball player.
He played for the White Sox from 1981-83, then made a comeback at age 32 with the Orioles in 1989. He excelled that year, going 2-3 with a 2.92 ERA in 51 games – and was one of the poster boys for the surprising and exciting Orioles squad that almost went from worst to first.
He pitched two more less-than-stellar years for the Orioles before being released in July 1991, and he didn’t play in the majors again. In six seasons, he was 9-14 with a 3.91 ERA in 231 major-league games (107 with the Orioles).