CLEVELAND -- Mike Hegan spent most of his life around the Cleveland Indians. He shagged fly balls in the outfield of Cleveland Municipal Stadium as a boy, played in the ballpark as a visiting big leaguer and went on to call some of the franchise's most memorable games as a broadcaster.
The Indians lost a close friend on Christmas morning.
With family by his side on Wednesday, Hegan passed away in his home of Hilton Head, S.C., after a battle with an untreatable heart condition. He was 71.
Hegan's family ties to Cleveland date back to his father Jim Hegan, the longtime Indians catcher and member of the franchise's 1948 World Series championship team. During Jim's second season with the Tribe in 1942, James Michael "Mike" Hegan was born in Cleveland, where he was raised and embarked on his own path in baseball that had its roots in Northeast Ohio.
Most Indians fans might be more familiar with Hegan's voice than his accomplishments in the Major Leagues. After spending 12 seasons as a color commentator with the Brewers, Hegan joined the Indians' WUAB-TV broadcast team in 1989, alongside Jack Corrigan. Hegan went on to spend 23 years doing play-by-play and color in Cleveland's radio and TV booths.
In 1998, Hegan also was teamed with Tom Hamilton and Dave Nelson as part of a three-person radio broadcast on WTAM and shuttled between radio and television. Matt Underwood replaced Nelson in 2000 and the new trio stayed together through '06, when Underwood moved to TV and Hamilton and Hegan became a two-man team for three seasons, with Hegan focusing solely on radio work.
That partnership continued through 2011, when Hegan transitioned to an alumni ambassador role with the organization to focus more on family and his health. Hegan did return to call his final game on May 23, 2012, when the Indians pulled off a dramatic 4-2 victory over the Tigers.
Before his 50 years in professional baseball, Hegan starred as a three-sport athlete (football, basketball and baseball) at St. Ignatius High School on Cleveland's West Side. He was inducted into the St. Ignatius Hall of Fame in 1989. The Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame similarly honored him in 2011.
After one season at Holy Cross, Hegan signed with the Yankees in 1961 and made his big league debut with the club in 1964. A first baseman and outfielder in his career, Hegan appeared in eight games between the regular season and World Series for the '64 Yankees, who lost the Fall Classic to the Cardinals in six games.
Hegan's big league career spanned 12 seasons, which included stints with the Yankees, Seattle Pilots, Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland A's. He was the first player to sign with Seattle's expansion team and belted the franchise's first home run in his first at-bat on Opening Day in 1969, his lone All-Star season. The Pilots moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers in 1970.
That year, Hegan began an errorless streak at first base that spanned 178 games and extended into the '73 season. It stood as the American League record until Boston's Kevin Youkilis surpassed it in 2007. Hegan also captured a World Series title with the 1972 A's in the midst of that record run.
Later, from his perch high above the playing field, Hegan helped describe many of the Indians' historic moments throughout their incredible run in the '90s. He took pride in not only providing color commentary, but in being able to also provide play-by-play for his audience.
Hegan is survived by his wife, Nancy, his two sons, Shawn and J.J., and four grandchildren.