Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Great Names in Baseball: Wish Egan
The great halls of baseball's history are filled with people who made little impact as players but who found a niche in the baseball world elsewhere. This includes big names like Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson, front-office types like Moneyballer GM Bily Beane, or tell-all author Jim Bouton. Many retired players find jobs as managers or coaches of minor-league or independent-league teams. And more than a few become scouts for big-league clubs. Aloysius Jerome "Wish" Egan was one such player.
Google doesn't seem to have an answer to the origins of Egan's nicknames, but Egan may have simply wished he'd been better on the mound. Egan, a native of Evart, Michigan, began his big-league career with the nearby Detroit Tigers in 1902. Though he only pitched in three starts and lost two of them, he posted an above-average 2.86 ERA in those starts. However, the Tigers didn't feel confident in Wish's ability, and he found himself pitching for the Louisville Colonels of the American Association for the next two years, racking up 44 wins.
The St. Louis Cardinals took a chance on him after that, and Egan put up below-average numbers for the Cards in 1905, though the rest of St. Louis team wasn't much to write home about. Wish made 16 appearances for the Cardinals in 1906, but his poor performance spelled the end of his major-league baseball career.
Like so many players before and since, Wish toiled in lower leagues for a few more years. He yielded so-so results for the Kansas City Blues in 1907 and 1908. In 1909, Egan found himself in the California League as a member of the San Jose Prune Pickers, for whom he won 18 games in 33 starts. Egan made his final professional baseball appearances in 1910 with the Newark Indians of the Eastern League.
But in 1910, Egan got his big break. The Detroit Tigers hired him as a scout. He would hold the position until his death in 1951. In the 41 years in between, the list of great Tigers ballplayers Wish found is impressive.
Egan's best find was a 15-year-old southpaw from Detroit who was found playing sandlot baseball in 1936. Wish taught the kid how to throw a curve ball and, three years later, Hal Newhouser would make his debut with the Tigers. Newhouser became an unstoppable force for the Tigers from 1944-1948, earning back-to-back MVP awards in 1944 and 1945. He would also make three starts against the Chicago Cubs in the 1945 World Series. He lost the series opener before redeeming himself with a victory in Game 5 and another win in the final game of the series. Dizzy Trout, another of Wish's great finds, picked up the Tigers' win in fourth game of the series.
Like many other Great Names in Baseball players, Wish Egan wasn't the best of his generation. Nor was he even in the top 75%. But as many mediocre players have done since, he found his calling in the game after falling short on the field.
Read one obit here. And another here.