Former MLB player and broadcaster Mike Hegan passed away on Christmas Day following a lengthy illness. He was 71.
Hegan grew up in a baseball family. His father, Jim Hegan, spent 17 seasons in the big leagues as a catcher mostly with the Cleveland Indians calling pitches for future Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn. Despite this baseball lineage, as Jim Bouton recounted in the sports classic Ball Four, the younger Hegan said he learned his baseball from his mother.
Hegan signed with the New York Yankees in 1961 as an outfielder and first baseman and played parts of three seasons with them, but could never crack the starting lineup although he did play in the 1964 World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1969, Hegan got a chance to play everyday with the expansion Seattle Pilots and would make his only All-Star Team though he did not play. When the Pilots moved to Milwaukee the following year, Hegan came with them hitting a career best 11 HR and 52 RBI.
During the 1971 season, the Brewers sold Hegan to the Oakland A’s. It was at this stage of his career that Hegan was relegated to pinch hitting and late inning defensive replacement duty. But Hegan did earn a World Series ring with the 1972 A’s. But by the middle of the 1973 season, Hegan was back in a Yankees uniform at the beginning of the George Steinbrenner era. A year later, he was sold back to Milwaukee where he spent his final four seasons before the Brewers released him in 1977. In 12 big league seasons, Hegan hit .242 with 53 HR and 229 RBI.
In 1978, joined the Brewers broadcast booth on both radio and TV. During a series between the Brewers and Tigers in 1986, I recall Hegan filling in for Al Kaline on the Tigers broadcast which aired on WDIV. Hegan would return to his hometown of Cleveland to join the Indians TV and radio broadcast crew where he would remain through 2011 when his health began to decline.
Here is a clip of Hegan broadcasting the first and the top of the second inning of the final game of the 1979 season between the Brewers and the Twins at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota on Milwaukee’s WTMJ-AM. The Twins won this game 5-0 on a complete game, nine-hit shutout by Jerry Koosman (of the 1969 Amazin’ Mets fame) earning him his 20th win of the season. Ray Fosse, normally a catcher, played first base for the Twins. It would be Fosse’s final big league game. Fosse is best remembered for being knocked over by Pete Rose at home plate in the 1970 All-Star Game to win the game for the NL.
In any case, if you listen to the broadcast I think you’ll agree that Mike Hegan was a natural in the booth.
But for fans of Ball Four, the 1969 Seattle Pilots have begun to leave us in earnest. In the space of less than four years, catcher Jim Pagliaroni, catcher-first baseman Greg Goossen (who later became a stand in for Gene Hackman), utility man Merritt Ranew, first baseman Don Mincher, pitcher Fred Talbot (whose passing last January was overshadowed by those of Earl Weaver and Stan Musial) and now Hegan have passed on. With their 45th anniversary coming up in 2014, the Pilots might want to convene a reunion sooner rather than later.