With the onset of darkness and dreary indoor living that come with snow and cold, I retreat into books at times. That statement is especially true if Doug Melvin has seen his shadow recently ensuring six more weeks of hot stove-less purgatory. Just a few days ago I pulled out my copy of Ball Four, a book I shamefully hadn’t read the full first quarter of, much less finished. Originally turned on to Jim Bouton’s opus by good word of mouth and written reference, plus the obvious Brewers connection, I must have been distracted at some point and let it rust. Well, by coincidence I happened to pick up Ball Four once again only yesterday and immediately came across the name of original Brewers player and broadcaster Mike Hegan, who recently passed away at the age of 71. Hegan appears in Ball Four as a Seattle Pilot; he played 95 games for the Pilots in 1969 before the franchise went bust and was moved to Milwaukee. Not having finished the book yet I can’t say whether Hegan’s story continues or in what fashion in the rest of the book, but thought it would be timely to share Bouton’s notion on Hegan from March 28, 1969, during spring training with the Pilots:
“Mike Hegan has been hitting like fury. He does that from time to time. His history is streaks. He’s either hitting .450 or .150.
I wondered if he ever got any help from his father, who has been in baseball twenty years and is now a Yankee coach. Mike said he never did. In fact, when he was growing up he hardly saw his father at all, and to this day they seldom talk about baseball.
The help he gets is from his mother. He said that he believed it was she who put him into his current hot streak. She knows a lot about hitting and she sends him little reminders all the time of what to do and think about while he’s hitting. She’s a big reader of golf manuals and applies them to baseball, sending him helpful hints for the duffer that actually help.
We don’t have a hitting instructor here. So I’ve been thinking that maybe Mike Hegan’s mom, since she has such a good record…ah, I don’t think Eddie O’Brien would go for it.”
Pretty funny stuff from Bouton, and an interesting take on Hegan’s hitting gifts. Just for clarification, a ‘duffer’ is apparently a poor golfer, and Eddie O’Brien was the Pilots’ bullpen coach that year. Bouton and Hegan were teammates in 1969 until Bouton was traded to Houston. Hegan then wound up as a newly minted Brewer the next year. Both men started out in the New York Yankees organization.
Anyway, if by chance you’re unaware of Ball Four, definitely pick it up because it’s a hugely influential and notorious book and you’ll learn a bunch of critically important and enlightening stuff in the process. Plus it’s funny, and Bouton doesn’t shy away from the ugly side of the business of baseball.
R.I.P. Mike Hegan. You are immortalized in more ways than one.