Sunday, August 30, 2015

1953 Topps Project - Jim Hegan

After spending the day out kayaking in the sun, I'm exhausted. How about a quick 1953 Topps Project post as a night-cap?

Jim Hegan was born in Massachusetts, and was signed by the Cleveland Indians coming out of high school in 1938.  Jim worked his way through the farm system and eventually made his big league debut with Cleveland in 1941.  Like so many from his generation, he stepped away from the game during the 1942 season to get involved in the war effort (in Jim's case, the Coast Guard).

When things on that front quieted down, Hegan returned to Cleveland for the 1946 season, and became the team's primary catcher.  He never swung a huge bat, and wasn't known for his offensive prowess, but was recognized as one of the best defensive catchers/pitching staff managers in the game.  His selection for the 1947 American League All-Star team is proof of this (a feat he'd accomplish four more times in his career).

Jim was a key member of the 1948 World Series Champion Cleveland Indians team.  He even received some MVP consideration that year, as he posted better offensive numbers, and the Cleveland pitching staff absolutely dominated.

Jim's tenure as the Indians' primary backstop lasted a full 11 seasons, from 1946 to 1956.  Prior to the '58 season he was dealt to the Tigers.  He'd go on to play with the Phillies, Giants and Cubs before retiring after the 1960 season.  He was signed by the Yankees at the tail end of that 1960 season, but never appeared in a game. 

As I mentioned above, Hegan was widely regarded as a top, maybe the top, defensive catcher of his day.  You don't have to look hard to find quotes from multiple HOF pitchers, and opponents even, saying just that.  Had he been able to swing the stick just a bit better, he'd probably be a HOFer or at the very least a household name.

After his playing career came to an end, Hegan accepted a position as bullpen coach with the Yankees, and is credited for helping to bring along guys like Thurman Munson, which is kind of cool.  Sadly, he passed away at the age of 63 back in 1984.

Set Progress:  75 of 274 (27%)

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