Mike Hegan was a throwback broadcaster. This may shock a few people because experts use the word to describe someone who plays the game instead of talks about it. However, to me, there is no better word to describe Hegan. The reason for this often overused accolade? He was able to meld the conversational style of a radio announcer with the pictures of the early days of baseball on cable thereby introducing a whole generation of fans to the game in the right way.
I was exposed to Mike and his unique style during the mid 1980s. At that time, Hegan was serving as partner to Jim Paschke on Brewer broadcasts that were beamed to my home thanks to a cable hookup that brought us television stations out of Milwaukee. Back then the Brewers only broadcasted twenty-seven or twenty-eight games state wide and looking back on those games, they seem spartan compared to the fair given a baseball fan today. There were no cutaways to a studio for an update; there were no admonishments to visit the team’s website for more post-game analysis. In many cases, there was no music in the ballpark. Instead, an announcing team was expected to fill the gap between pitches and to be the main link between the fan at home and what was happening to a team both on and off the field. This necessity required a special kind of broadcaster and Mike Hegan was one of those people.
If Hegan broke into the broadcast game today, he would be a color analyst. His main job would be to tell the viewer, in as few words as possible, what the pitcher or the hitter was thinking from one pitch to the next. That is of course, when he was not reading promos for outdoor shows. This was not the case when Hegan began his career in the Brewers booth. Sure, Hegan was required to “Pay the Bills” by reading an occasional promo for local Milwaukee programming. However, his main job was baseball. That meant both the analysis and the play by play. For the first few innings, he would provide analysis while Paschke described the pictures. Then, in a style more reminiscent of radio, Hegan would become the play-by-play man for the middle innings. All the while, he regaled viewers with stories of why Teddy Higuera was blowing away the Mariners or why Robin Yount was attempting to go to right field during an at-bat. Oh, and he could tell a kid how to join the Brewers official fan club.
This style lasted in Milwaukee for twelve seasons. During that time, he was there for many big moments. He was there for Bambi’s Bombers in the late seventies and Harvey’s Wallbangers in 1982. He was also there in 1987. That year the Brewers opened the season 13-0, Juan Nieves threw the team’s first and only no-hitter, and Paul Molitor hit in 39 straight before going 0-4 against Indian rookie John Farrell.
After that season, the Brewers changed local affiliates and Mike was out of a job and on his way to Cleveland. Following this move, I lost track of him until I became a closet Tribe follower during the early 2000s. When that happened, I felt like I was young again. Hegan and Hamilton became my second favorite announcing team next to whoever was working with Bob Uecker.
His voice was still strong and his style was still compact. He did not compromise and he was anything but a talking head. For all these reasons, baseball fans from the banks of the Cuyahoga to the shores of Lake Michigan should miss him.