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Mike Hegan

August 18, 2009

mike hegan 76

I went to a White Sox game three weeks ago and saw Melky Cabrera hit for the cycle. The feat, nearly as rare as a no-hitter—287 cycles and 263 no-hitters in major league history—has been accomplished twice since then, by Felix Pie and Troy Tulowitzki, bringing the number of cycles for the year to seven, more than in any season since 1933, in which a record eight players hit for the cycle. Here’s that list of eight:

05/05/1933 Pepper Martin SLN NL PHI PHI Baker Bowl
05/26/1933 Chuck Klein PHI NL SLN SLN Sportsman’s Park III
06/24/1933 Arky Vaughan PIT NL BRO BRO Ebbets Field
08/02/1933 Mickey Cochrane PHA AL NYA NYA Yankee Stadium
08/06/1933 Pinky Higgins PHA AL WS1 WS1 Griffith Stadium
08/14/1933 Jimmie Foxx PHA AL CLE CLE League Park II
08/17/1933 Earl Averill CLE AL PHA CLE League Park II
09/30/1933 Babe Herman CHN NL SLN SLN Sportsman’s Park III

Quite a list! Besides five Hall of Famers, you’ve got three other renowned baseball figures (Pepper Martin for epitomizing the Gas House Gang; Babe Herman for epitomizing the lovable, hapless “Dem Bums” era of the Brooklyn Dodgers; and Pinky Higgins for reputedly being, while manager of the Red Sox, a racist) who all had very good playing careers.  

The jury is still out on whether the cycle-hitting class of 2009 can match 1933’s collection of stars and superstars. See any future Hall of Famers in the list below? (I count one can’t-miss, as long as he stays healthy.)

04/13/2009 Orlando Hudson  LAN NL SFN LAN  Dodger Stadium
04/15/2009 Ian Kinsler  TEX AL BAL TEX  Rangers Ballpark in Arlington
04/17/2009 Jason Kubel   MIN AL ANA MIN  Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
05/22/2009 Michael Cuddyer   MIN AL MIL MIN  Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
08/02/2009 Melky Cabrera   NYA AL CHA CHA  U.S. Cellular Field
08/10/2009 Troy Tulowitzki  COL NL CHN COL  Coors Field
08/14/2009 Felix Pie  BAL AL ANA BAL  Oriole Park at Camden Yards

As for the Cardboard Gods era, the one year when the cycles came the most frequently was 1976.

04/21/1976 Tim Foli  MON NL CHN CHN  Wrigley Field       
06/04/1976 Larry Hisle   MIN AL BAL BAL  Memorial Stadium   
06/25/1976 Mike Phillips  NYN NL CHN CHN  Wrigley Field      
07/24/1976 Lyman Bostock  MIN AL CHA CHA  Comiskey Park I             
08/09/1976 Cesar Cedeno  HOU NL SLN SLN  Busch Stadium II               
09/03/1976 Mike Hegan  MIL AL DET DET  Tiger Stadium

No Hall of Famers here. The closest to Cooperstown would be Cesar Cedeno, an unsurprising member of the list. (In fact, the slugging speedster hit for the cycle twice in his career.) On the other hand, infielders Tim Foli and Mike Phillips, who had a career 36 home runs between them, seem very unlikely cycle-hitters. Mike Hegan is perhaps an even more inexplicable member of this club, as the triple he legged out that day on his 33-year-old wheels was the last of the 18 triples he managed in his career. Amazingly enough, he did all his damage against arguably the best pitcher in the league that year, Mark Fidrych. Because the Bird started the game, Hegan had a much greater audience than a late-season matchup between the Tigers and Brewers would have otherwise drawn.

I wonder if there was much, if any, of a fuss made over Hegan when he had completed his feat. If my experience of being at a game where an opposing player hits for the cycle is any guide, I doubt it. When Cabrera slid into third for a triple, few at the game even knew this was all he had needed to add his name to the list of cycle-hitters. I saw a guy in a Yankees cap a few rows ahead of me say the word “cycle” to his buddy, but I didn’t know for sure what was happening until they put it up on the big screen. The game was already all but over for the White Sox, who were getting blown out, so there was no reason to hold back on acknowledging a little bit of history, but I would characterize the applause for Cabrera as somewhere between “polite” and “a smattering of.” Certainly there had been a much bigger roar when “fries” edged “Big Mac” and “Egg McMuffin” in the between-innings McDonalds race on the big screen.

Anyway, here’s some belated applause for Mike Hegan, whose career had some high points (a World Series appearance at age 21; the distinction of being the one and only All-Star for the one and only edition of the Seattle Pilots), but who never matched the perennial all-star status of his father, Jim, considered by some to have been the greatest fielding catcher in baseball history.

7 comments

  1. Arky Vaughan, on the impressive list you cite, was one of the most underrated players ever (Rob Neyer mentioned him today, coincidentally). I’ve always had a hard time figuring where Vaughan fits exactly. He played in an era of great offense and he didn’t play all that long, but he put up amazing numbers at short. I guess what you think of him depends on your view of “peak vs. longevity.” His career reminds of Nomar Garciaparra’s, actually.


  2. Mike Hegan is of course a lefty. An earlier card of his showed him with a first-baseman’s mitt. It was the first time I realized the 1B’s glove looked different from a regular glove. Being a lefty myself, I immediately fell in love with that glove and became a 1B from age eight through college baseball. Also, Hegan played a fairly significant role in “Ball Four”.


  3. I saw Jose Reyes hit for the cycle at Shea a couple of years back…
    Hadn’t realized it was almost as rare as a no-no, perhaps because the Mets have had
    a number of players achieve the distinction (while no Met has ever thrown a no-hitter).

    Reyes needed a single to complete his cycle, which he hit late in the game;
    there were a couple of hi-fives, some polite applause, and a boldface announcement on DiamondVision, but the boos from Billy Wagner’s atrocious 9th-inning two-out blown save and defeat are what echoed the longest.

    Mike Phillips was fairly anonymous, but he did figure in the 1977 ‘Black Wednesday’ purge that saw Seaver, Kingman, and any semblance of a contending ball club vanish from the horizon.
    Phillips was dealt that same day to St. Louis, for Joel Youngblood, perhaps the only (somewhat) positive move the Mets would make during the firestorm.

    Ultimately, though, my childhood still came to an abrupt, crashing halt. ..


  4. That 1933 list is absolutely terrifying. The five Hall of Famer members in the bunch aren’t just scrubs who made it in thanks to Frankie Frisch, but people who have strong cases for the Hall even if they may not be slam dunk (like Cochrane or Foxx.)

    Anyways, I was lucky enough to see a cycle in one of the 20 games I’ve been to, when Cristian Guzman accomplished the feat last August (it’s scary to think it’s been almost a year since then.) The thing is that it seems as though EVERYBODY in the stadium knew what was going on. I suppose it’s because there’s nothing else to look forward to as fans of the Washington Nationals…


  5. Interesting note about Mike Phillips, the weekend he hit for the cycle, he homered in three consecutive games at Wrigley and only had one other homer the whole season. I guess the wind was blowing out.


  6. hegan is a good broadcaster here in cleveland now….he has been doing it a while…he use to team up with rick manning who is was my childhood star and is a great broadcaster on tv.


  7. i guess i have a soft spot for hegan because i recall my dad mentioning his fathers name once as a kid….amazing the seemingly meaningless details of childhood we remember



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