That said, my next post will feature cards I received in the mail! Hooray!
This post, though, is another history post. In the Brewers first game in Milwaukee on April 7, 1970, the first out the team recorded was a ground ball out, 4-3 on the putout. Leadoff hitter Tommy Harper was the second baseman, and catching the ball at first base for the out was the third hitter in the lineup: Mike Hegan.
Mike was raised partly in Lynn, Massachusetts, before the family moved to Cleveland in 1954 so that Jim could focus in his offseason on his appliance store that he started with Browns great Otto Graham. When it came time for post-high-school plans, as his SABR biography mentions, Mike decided to go back east to Worcester, Massachusetts to attend The College of the Holy Cross.
|1971 Topps Coin|
When the Yankees sold Hegan's contract to the Seattle Pilots on June 14, 1968, Hegan -- then in Triple-A Syracuse -- became the first official player under contract for Seattle. He had to stay in Syracuse for 1968, but for Hegan it was light at the end of the tunnel -- he'd finally have the opportunity to play regularly in the major leagues. Hegan was named as the Pilots representative to the All-Star game in 1969 on the back of a first half in which he hit .293/.426/.463. But, he got hurt in the second half of the season and started in just 9 games.
As a result, Hegan's only full season as a major league starter was 1970. He played in 148 games and hit .244/.336/.366 -- not exactly the kind of production you'd expect from a first baseman, but Hegan was always known more for his glove than for his hitting prowess. Indeed, he set a major league record (since broken) of 178 straight errorless games at first base, starting on September 24, 1970.
So it's not entirely on Hegan that his contract was sold to the Oakland A's in 1971. There, he was a backup to the Superjew, Mike Epstein, essentially providing late-inning defense and a lefty pinch hitter off the bench (Career in Oakland: 238 games, 230 plate appearances over 2-1/2 seasons). In 1972, he then claimed another first: he became the first second-generation World Series Champion thanks to his role with Oakland.
|1970 McDonald's Milwaukee Brewers|
Soon thereafter, in August of 1973, Oakland sold Hegan's contract back to the New York Yankees. His father, Jim, had been working as the team's bullpen coach from 1962 onward and was still there when Mike came back to New York. While there, Hegan provided even more trivia: he was the last batter in the "House that Ruth Built" before it was completely rebuilt during the 1974 season.
In 1974, Hegan was platooning with Bill Sudakis for the first several weeks of the season. Then, however, the Yankees picked up Chris Chambliss from Cleveland -- putting Hegan out of a job. So, Hegan asked the Yankees to trade him one of three places: Milwaukee (where he lived in the offseason), Boston (where his wife's family lived), or Detroit (where his father had gone after the 1973 season with Ralph Houk). The Brewers bit, and back to the City of Festivals went Hegan.
Hegan closed out his career in Milwaukee, backing up George Scott and getting playing time at DH and in the outfield. On September 3, 1976, Hegan provided more Brewers trivia. He became the first Brewer ever to hit for the cycle -- hitting a double, triple, and home run off Mark Fidrych followed by a single off Bill Laxton.
At the age of 34 in 1977, however, Hegan started to feel as though Manager Alex Grammas really didn't want him to be on the team. Hegan was quoted in an AP story as saying that, "Grammas is a nice guy, but as a manager, he makes a good third-base coach." I'm guessing that was not meant as a compliment. He fulfilled his duties at the All-Star break as the team's player representative, then stepped aside and stepped away from playing.
But his tenure in Milwaukee as a sportscaster continued. He immediately joined the Brewers broadcast team in 1977 and stayed with the club in that role until 1988. It is as the TV Color Commentator -- and as the namesake for Mike Hegan's Grand Slam USA (now Mike Hegan's Field of Dreams) -- that I remember him.
Yet, he is not remembered now as the Brewers Announcer. After the 1988 season, the Brewers changed their TV affiliation from one UHF station to another. The new broadcaster (then a Fox affiliate, now "My 24") retained the play-by-play announcer, Jim Paschke, but pushed Mike Hegan out in favor of former Cy Young Award winner (and more recently a former Brewer) Pete Vuckovich.
(A side note: that story about Hegan getting pushed out from Milwaukee quotes Super NFL Draft Genius Mel Kiper saying that Tony Mandarich was "the best offensive lineman I've ever graded." Thanks, Mel!)
|1994 Milwaukee Brewers 25th Anniversary Commemorative Set|
He stayed with the Indians from 1989 until the end of the 2011 season. He left the broadcast booth at the age of 69, saying he wanted to coach his grandson's baseball team. He was also suffering from some health issues. For his work with the Indians and his high school exploits at St. Ignatius High School, he was inducted into the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
Unfortunately, on Christmas Day, 2013, Hegan could fight an untreatable heart condition no longer. He passed away at his home on Hilton Head, South Carolina, at the age of 71.
You can see in this post the 6 cards of Mike Hegan that I could find reasonably quickly that I own.