The Cleveland Indians report that longtime broadcaster and former major leaguer Mike Hegan died Wednesday morning. He was 71 years old. Before he spent his adult life working in the game, Hegan grew up watching his father, Jim Hegan, play for the Indians in the late 1940s and '50s during one of their precious few golden eras. Even in semi-retirement since leaving the Indians booth in 2011, Hegan was the hitting coach for his grandson's traveling youth team.
Indians radio man Tom Hamilton worked 14 season with him and told the Cleveland Plain Dealer he knew Hegan had been ill, but that his death still comes as a shock.
"Mike was as good a broadcaster as anyone who has done the game of baseball," Hamilton said. "I was lucky to work with him, but the listeners were lucky to hear him."
Hegan spent 12 years in the majors with the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots/Milwaukee Brewers and the Oakland Athletics as a first baseman/outfielder. He made the American League All-Star squad with the Pilots in 1969 and he played in two World Series — '64 with the Yankees and '72 with the A's. He batted .242/.341/.371 with 53 home runs in 2,452 career games.
In the photo above, Hegan appears on the left with Johnny Bench of the Reds standing on first base during the '72 Series. Of his appearance in the '64 Series as a 21-year-old, Hegan said he was all nerves:
"I faced Bob Gibson twice in the 1964 series," said Hegan. "I walked and struck out and never took the bat off my shoulder. My knees were shaking so much, I didn't know what to do."
Hegan started broadcasting with the Brewers shortly after his playing career ended in 1977, and he was with the Indians on TV and radio for 23 seasons. Many of those experiences were spent calling their return to prominence in the 1990s.
Here's audio of Hegan with the Brewers calling a game in 1979.
In a profile written by Paul Hoynes for the Plain Dealer two years ago, Hegan explained a reason for his long career in broadcasting — versatility:
Hegan feels a key to his longevity was learning how to do play-by-play. Most players stick to being an analyst, but Jerry Coleman, when he was broadcasting the Yankees, told Hegan, "Learn to do play-by-play."
When Hegan asked why, Coleman told him, "If you're doing color, you're only as good as the next player who retires."
Hegan leaves his wife, Nancy Hegan.
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