Steve Hargan

Owing to their 87 wins in 1965 and their first winning season since 1959, the Cleveland Indians braced for an even more successful 1966. They started the season red hot and won their first ten games. Getting ready for the rubber match of a three-game series against the California Angels in the Angels’ newly christened Anaheim Stadium on May 31, 1966, the Indians were in sole possession of first place in the American League with a 27-14 record. With the scored tied 4-4, spot reliever Steve Hargan, a 6-foot-3 right-hander in his first full season, entered the game having pitched 19 2/3 innings in ten appearances over the first quarter of the season. Hargan proceeded to pitch nine shutout innings.[1] In the top half of the 17th inning, the Indians scored three runs off the Angels’ ace, Dean Chance, who was pitching in relief. Hargan returned to pitch his tenth inning and got the win. In an interview with the author, Hargan described the game as the “most memorable pitching performance of my major league career.”[2]

Born on September 8, 1942, to Lowell and Florence Hargan in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Steven Lowell Hargan was raised with sports – baseball, football, and basketball – in the hoops-crazed state. His parents were avid golfers; as a city employee, his father was a weekend player, while his mother played on a team sponsored by her employer, General Electric. Steve’s first contact with organized baseball occurred when he tried out for and made a Little League team as a 9-year old in the summer of 1952. He played first base and third base and caught. Hargan recalled that he did not start to pitch until he “grew up,” but by the time he was in high school it was clear that he would be a pitcher. He progressed through the city league system, from Little League and Pony League to the Junior Federation and Connie Mack League.[3] A stellar all-around athlete, he excelled at football and basketball at South Side High School, where he graduated in 1961, but his school, like many in Fort Wayne, did not have an organized baseball team.[4]

Hargan said that pitching as a youngster was simply “trial and error,” and “The older I got, the better I got.” He remembered one Little League coach, Nick Coburn, as an inspiration. But his father was his primary coach and supporter. Hargan recalled: “We put up a tarp with a strike zone that I could throw to. I had an old Little League mound rubber that measured the distance and a whole bunch of balls that I’d throw and throw.” As a 15-year old he began to draw the attention of major-league scouts, but they felt he didn’t throw hard enough. As he matured, his arm strength improved dramatically, and Hargan developed into a fastball pitcher. By the spring of 1961 the Phillies, Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, and Indians were all actively scouting him. Hargan said, “Nap Ross of the Indians came to our house to talk, so did Tony Lucadello of the Phillies. I talked to [other] scouts after my ballgames with my parents. The scouts said that if you have a fastball, then we can teach you a breaking ball, and that’s what happened in my career. I learned how to throw a slider and that’s what boosted me up to the major leagues.”

Hargan almost signed with the Phillies, but was most impressed with the Indians because of their invitation for him to come to Cleveland and pitch with other prospects at Municipal Stadium in the summer 1961 in front of  Walter “Hoot” Evers, the Indians’ minor-league farm director, and other management. “My trip to Cleveland was a look-see,” he said. “After reports from the scouts, the upper brass wanted to see if I had the arm to be a major leaguer.” The Indians were indeed impressed and they offered him a contract. Hargan, who had traveled to Cleveland with his mother, was equally enamored with the Indians: “There was no draft. You could sign with whoever wanted you or with whomever you wanted to play for. It was quite a thrill. We watched a couple of days of ballgames. When you’re young and in a big-league stadium and around the big leaguers, it is quite a thrill.”

Hargan’s progress through the minors to the Indians was methodical, with stops at five different teams and leagues. Several weeks after signing his contract, Hargan reported to the Selma Cloverleafs in the Class D Alabama-Florida League. As an 18-year-old in the Deep South for the first time, it was “culture shock because of segregation,” he said. Hargan pitched in nine games in the second half of the 1961 season, including four starts, and earned four wins in 43 innings, but he was still primarily a one-pitch (fastball) pitcher.[5] “I needed to come up with a breaking ball,” Hargan said. “. . . (In 1962) I was sent to Dubuque, Iowa (Class D Midwest League), and that’s where Hal Newhouser, the pitching coach there, showed me how to hold a slider. That’s what really got me going up the ladder through the minor leagues and into the major leagues.” Learning the slider, Hargan won eight games and lost seven with a 3.43 ERA, and in midseason was promoted to the Burlington Indians in the Class B Carolina League. With stiffer competition, he struggled, notching just one win and losing four games and his ERA shot up to 6.69.

For the 20-year-old Hargan, the 1963 season with the Charleston Indians in the Double-A Eastern League turned out to be a pivotal year in his career. Not only did his performance attract more attention from the parent club (he was 8-4 with a 1.21 ERA), his manager, Johnny Lipon, a former major-league infielder, wound up as a pitching mentor to Hargan for most of his career with the Indians organization. After he got to the big leagues he told a reporter that Lipon “was the best thing that happened to me in baseball.”[6] After Charleston he acceded to the Indians’ request that he play winter ball, and signed with the Estrellas Elephants in the Dominican League.[7] Later that winter he signed with the Ponce Lions of the Puerto Rican League, where he encountered better competition and teams with productive major leaguers.[8] Hargan said of his experiences in winter league ball, “They were good leagues and probably over Triple-A teams.”

For 1964 Hargan was assigned to the Indians’ Triple-A team, the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League, joining Johnny Lipon, had been promoted to manage the Beavers. The squad boasted a deep pitching staff, including future major-league stars Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, and Tommy John, all of whom were promoted to the parent club during the 1964 season. Hargan wasn’t quite yet ready for the major leagues. He logged an 11-9 record and a 3.46 ERA. In midseason he was sent down to Charleston for three starts, but was quickly brought back. After the season he pitched in Puerto Rico for the Ponce Lions, joining Portland teammates Tommie Agee, Sonny Siebert, and Tiant.[9] After the season ended in Puerto Rico, he signed with Caracas in the Venezuelan professional league.[10] In winter league ball Hargan worked on his pitches, mechanics, and delivery. He threw a fastball and hard slider, which he called “a cut fastball” and lamented, “I tried to pick up a good curveball, but I never did develop one. . . . Thinking back, I should have come up with a good straight change.”

In 1965 Hargan was invited to the Indians’ spring training in Tucson. The Indians’ rotation was set with McDowell, Tiant, Siebert, and Ralph Terry, with Jack Kralick as a spot starter. The Sporting News referred to Hargan as an “unknown” and “sleeper,” and indeed he was on the bubble.[11] Disappointed at not making the club, Hargan returned to Portland and manager Lipon, determined to make it to the majors. On July 29 he won in convincing fashion: a three-hit shutout over the Seattle Angels[12] that improved his record to 13-5 with a 2.91 ERA and earned him a call-up to the major leagues. His parents had just arrived in Portland on vacation. “I had left tickets for them and I was going to pitch. [Later] I left word at the ticket office for them to call me. I had to go back to the apartment to pack my clothes and be at the airport for a 1:00 A.M. flight to Cleveland. My mom called and thought maybe I was sick. I told her I was going to the big leagues.”

On August 3, 1965, Hargan made his first major-league start, at home against the Detroit Tigers. He said his debut “was quite exciting. I remember I started against Mickey Lolich and he was already an established pitcher. I was trying too hard and throwing as hard as I could.” He cruised through the first three innings and led 4-0, but then he gave up two runs in the fourth inning, and was lifted after giving up a run in the fifth (two baserunners he left also scored) without retiring a batter. He got a no-decision as the Indians lost 12-7. In front of friends and family, he got his first major-league win, against the California Angels on August 25 at Dodger Stadium, in the Angels last season there. After six starts he had a 2-2 record and sub-4.00 ERA, and Indians manager Birdie Tebbetts said that he had not yet pitched a bad game;[13] however, Hargan was rocked in his seventh start, lasting just two-thirds of an inning, and then was relegated to the bullpen for the remainder of the season, except for one start. Nonetheless, Hargan impressed Tebbetts with his fastball, slider, and occasional curveball, and finished with a 4-3 record and 3.43 ERA. For the third consecutive winter he played winter ball, with Valencia in the Venezuelan League, where he had a 9-5 record and 1.91 ERA in 150 innings[14] while leading his team to the playoffs, which they lost to La Guaira.[15]

Hargan arrived at the Indians’ spring-training facility in 1966 with the confidence that he’d play a major role in the team’s pitching fortunes. Pitching coach Early Wynn commented: “Hargan has all the tools of a good relief pitcher – a good slider, good curve, and good control,”[16] yet Hargan wanted to start. After Hargan’s strong spring, manager Tebbetts remarked, “Hargan has shown me a much better curve this spring and he stills has an outstanding slider and a good fastball. I frankly don’t have any idea where this kid will be used.”[17] He pitched out of the bullpen for the first two months of the season, including his 10-inning win against the Angels; however, it was clear that the Indians needed him in their starting rotation. He made his first start on June 22, defeating Boston, and two starts later received national attention after he pitched his first career shutout, a seven-hitter against the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis, on June 30. It was discovered that two days before pitching the shutout he had gone with a friend to a hypnotist in Minneapolis in order to quit smoking.[18] After the shutout he missed his next two starts because of infected tonsils.[19]

For the rest of the season Hargan remained in the rotation, finishing the season with a 13-10 record and 2.48 ERA though the Indians, despite high expectations, finished the season at .500 and Tebbetts was fired in August. But Hargan praised Tebbetts, describing him as a “psychologist,” and adding, “He was always trying to make you better and make you think you were better,” and helped him to relax while pitching. He called Early Wynn “approachable and tough.” Wynn helped Hargan radically change his pitching motion: “I used to kick real high when I came up,” Hargan said. “I’d pretty much throw over the top. Then [Wynn] said it made me work too hard kicking like that. They taught me to bring my leg back and to throw in a more conventional way. I threw between straight over and three-quarters. And I became more of a sinker-baller.” He said he believed Wynn’s advice helped prolong his career.: “He thought I could pitch longer and more relaxed if I would bring my leg down.”

Hargan arrived at spring training in 1967 rested, after not playing winter-league ball for the first time in four years. He, McDowell, and Tiant were being touted as possible 20-game winners. He started the season strong and pitched shutouts in his first two starts in April. By midseason his 9-7 record with a 2.68 ERA and 10 complete games in 17 starts earned him a berth on his first and only All-Star team. He pulled a hamstring in his last start before the All-Star Game and did not pitch.[20] He missed two starts; in his second start back he pitched one of his best games of his career, an eight-hit 12-inning shutout against the reigning World Series champion Orioles. A month later he pitched an 11-inning complete game loss. It was the fourth time he had pitched at least ten innings in the last two years. First-year manager Joe Adcock called Hargan “a complete professional,”[21] and Orioles third baseman Brooks Robinson rated Hargan and Jim Lonborg of the Boston Red Sox as the two best pitchers in the American League.[22] Sportswriter George Vass said, “He’s a great thinker . . . about pitching. . . . He pitches quick (about eight seconds between launchings) and throws strikes and makes everyone more alert.”[23] Though Hargan was shut down two weeks before the end of the season because of tendinitis in his pitching arm, he still led the American League with six shutouts and ranked second in complete games with 15 and seventh in ERA (2.62) while winning 14 games on a team that finished 12 games under .500.

Hargan began the 1968 season where he left off the year before. In his third start he pitched a one-hit shutout over the Tigers in Cleveland. Two starts later, he tossed a three-hit shutout against the Twins. His success led pitching coach Jack Sanford to remark, “Hargan reminds me of Robin Roberts”;[24] however, Hargan’s arm was in pain and he needed regular cortisone shots to stay in the rotation and calm the inflammation in his right elbow.[25] By the end of June he was no longer effective as a starter and had trouble pitching more than three innings. He was relegated to the bullpen and pitched only once after September 1. He finished the season with an 8-15 record and a 4.15 ERA. “I had tendinitis real bad in my right elbow and that is what was giving me so much pain,” Hargan told the author. “I was getting cortisone shots every week so I could pitch. And then I developed a bone chip which was resting on my ulnar nerve. I started developing sleepy feelings in my [last] two fingers. I kept regripping the ball; I couldn’t feel the ball.” Eventually Hargan underwent surgery to fix the ulnar nerve.[26]

Hargan began 1969 optimistically as the operation was considered a success. New Indians manager Alvin Dark thought there was no reason to rush him back, though Hargan said at the time, “My arm feels good and all the numbness in my hand is all gone.”[27] The big news of the 1969 season was the lowering of the pitching mound from 15 inches to 10 inches and the restoration of the pre-1963 strike zone, in order to generate more offense. Although he thought the new configuration would affect pitchers, Hargan told the author, “By that time I had become more of a sinkerballer. I don’t think it affected my pitches too much. It made you work harder because you didn’t have the angle coming off the mound. It’s easier with a higher mound to stay on top of the ball.” Hargan’s optimism soon eroded after several rough outings in spring training and a shellacking in his first start of the season, and he found himself back in the bullpen. Finally on June 9 he won his first game on his way to a dismal 5-14 record with a 5.70 ERA as the Indians faltered to their worst season in 55 years at 62-99. “The operation took a lot of steam out of my fastball,” Hargan said. “I was able to continue on with my career, but I wasn’t the same after that.” Concerned about his career, he came back too soon: “One mistake I made was trying to show everybody that I still had a fastball. I wasn’t concentrating on the pitching aspect of the game. I was up in the strike zone too much. I was not making good pitches; just not in the right location.”

In 1970, hoping that his arm problems were behind him and that he could overcome his pitching woes of the previous two seasons (a combined 13-29 record), Hargan had an encouraging spring with no arm pain, but he nonetheless began the season as a reliever.[28] However, he had only four appearances and 7 2/3 innings pitched in the first three weeks of the season, then was pummeled in his first two starts, not making it past the fifth inning. Arm trouble had come back and he was put on the disabled list. The Indians wanted to option Hargan to the Triple-A Wichita Aeros and placed him on waivers. No team had any interest in acquiring him, and he remarked, “I am certainly not happy about it.”[29] Aeros manager Ken Aspromonte put Hargan to work pitching regularly, and “things started coming together.” Dark and general manager Paul went to see him pitch. “I didn’t have a stellar game, but I pitched well enough. They brought me back up and everything fell into place,” Hargan said. He was recalled on July 16 and on July 18 pitched a two-hit complete-game victory over Kansas City, winning 4-1. Over the next 2½ months Hargan pitched the best he had in his career, and was one of the most successful pitchers in all of baseball: he was 10-1 with eight complete games. Indians catcher Duke Sims said, “I think Steve is throwing better now than he ever did. I’ve seen him throw harder, but not better.”[30] Even Hargan noticed a difference from the previous 2½ years: “My control is better . . . and my slider is back, too. It has become my best pitch again.”[31] After the season he said, “I guess I learned to pitch. I tried to make good pitches with all four of my pitches [fastball, slider, curve, and change-up].[32]

Hargan’s success in second half of 1970 earned him the chance to be the Tribe’s Opening Day starter in 1971. He lost to Detroit, 8-2, going only two innings. Hargan, though, was just relieved to be pitching well again: “I’m just happy to be a starter, considering all of the trouble I have been in the past.”[33] However, he was ineffective in his first seven starts. He was 0-5 when he suffered a hairline fracture of his right ankle in a play at first base on May 4 and was out for six weeks. He won his first start after a stint on the disabled list, but soon lost his effectiveness and was relegated to mop-up duty in the bullpen by manager Johnny Lipon. Explaining his pitching woes, Hargan said his arm felt fine, but his ankle limited him: “I could not drive off the mound. I couldn’t get my pitches in the right location. Then it becomes a mental thing and you’re afraid to make bad pitches.” He ended the season with a 1-13 record and a 6.19 ERA.

In 1972 and 1973 Hargan was at a crossroads in his career. Ever optimistic and desiring to contribute (“I want to remember and learn from what happened to me last year”[34]), Hargan began the 1972 lost in the Indians’ bullpen. After just eight appearances in the first three months of the season, Hargan was optioned to the Portland Beavers in the PCL and cleared waivers again. He was frustrated, disappointed and angry. “To tell the truth, I don’t want to come back to this organization,” he said. “I would rather go to another organization and start all over.”[35] In Portland he started 11 games, winning four and losing seven. He was called up in September, made four relief appearances, and his major-league record was 0-3 with a 5.85 ERA. On November 20, 1972, the Indians assigned him outright to their Triple-A team in the American Association, the Oklahoma 89ers. He struggled for most of the season and was used primarily as a reliever. With a 7-8 record and 5.13 ERA in 114 innings at Oklahoma, the 30-year-old Hargan thought his career might be over. Despite his lackluster performance and pitching in the minors for the entire 1973 season, Hargan had a stroke of luck by playing for manager Frank Lucchesi: “You’ve got to have somebody who likes you. Frank Lucchesi went with Billy Martin that winter to the Texas Rangers. He put in a good word for me. They called me up and wanted to know if I wanted to go to the Rangers for a look-see.” The Rangers liked what they saw, and in December got him in a trade.

Hargan spent three years with the Rangers (1974-1976), was a dependable starter, and surprised many by making it back to the majors considering his nightmare of the last three years. Hargan noted: “It gave me a new lease on life and career. I loved playing down there [in Texas]. It was a nice organization.” He was an early camp sensation and Martin anticipated using him in relief,[36] but after two effective outings he was put in the starting rotation and pitched well the entire season for the surprise team in the American League in 1974.[37] His 12-9 record and 3.95 ERA had him in the running for the American League Comeback Player of the Year award. He said he respected Billy Martin and had confidence in him: “He’d make you try to pitch out of trouble at times. You start a game and he’d give you an opportunity to win the ballgame. As a pitcher you appreciate that.” To start the 1975 season, Martin toyed with the idea of a six-man pitching rotation to help Hargan, (“Hargan . . . seems to work better with extra rest.”[38]), but later scrapped the idea. In fact, Hargan may have been more effective in 1975 than in 1974 despite his 9-10 record; he had a 3.80 ERA. On June 23 in Anaheim he pitched one of the majors’ best games of the season: 11 1/3 innings of shutout ball against the Angels in a 13-inning, 1-0 victory for the Rangers. In 1976 the 33-year-old Hargan was used primarily out of the bullpen with occasional spot starts, including a 12-inning complete-game 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees in which he struck out 10. Hargan finished with an 8-8 record and lowered his ERA to 3.62.

The 1977 season was Hargan’s last in the major leagues, and no doubt it was his strangest. It all started on November 5, 1976, when the Toronto Blue Jays took him from the Rangers in the expansion draft. Hargan recalled that he was shocked: “I did not know that I was available until I got a call from a sportswriter in Toronto [who told me] that I was chosen. I was shocked that I was drafted because I wasn’t expecting it. I enjoyed pitching for the Rangers so much; I was disappointed. And then I thought, at least I am still in the big leagues.” At 34 he was the oldest pitcher on the Blue Jays’ roster. He got his first victory in relief in the fourth game of the season and then entered the starting rotation. Then, after his best performance of the season (a complete-game loss), on May 9 he was traded back to the Rangers, for whom he pitched six times in relief. Then on June 15 he was traded to the Atlanta Braves. He pitched with three teams in just under six weeks. But he had lost his control and thus his effectiveness. He limped to a 2-6 record and 6.55 ERA. Hargan said he had carpal tunnel problems in his right wrist that were diagnosed incorrectly. “They thought it was just tendinitis so they’d give me cortisone but that was not the problem. I started regripping the ball and I didn’t have the right pressure points. I started struggling again, but my arm felt good.” Atlanta released him on December 13, 1977.

Hargan attempted to land another home in 1978, but was still bothered by the carpal tunnel problem. “By the time I had it operated on, I was going to spring training.” In March the Minnesota Twins invited him as a nonroster player to their Toledo farm team with the understanding that he could become the tenth pitcher on the parent club if they needed one.[39] But after five appearances with the Mud Hens he was released. He found new life by signing with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm team at Triple-A Columbus, managed by Hargan’s longtime mentor, Johnny Lipon.[40] Lipon helped him develop a forkball and he had some success.[41] He pitched 170 innings as a starter and had a 9-12 record. The Pirates wanted him to pitch at Mexico City in the winter league to work on his forkball, but the 35-year-old Hargan had different plans. “. . . I thought, ‘It’s time. I’ve had my career.’ ” After pitching for 14 teams from 1961 to 1978, Hargan retired. His major-league record was 87-107 with a 3.92 ERA; he won 70 games in the minor leagues.      

Like many athletes, Hargan thought he could still play; consequently, adjustment to civilian life was difficult for him. He said, “It took a while, especially come spring training because my arm felt good and I felt that I still had something to offer. But in reality I didn’t. There was a will to play because I enjoyed pitching so much and being part of baseball. For about five springs felt I needed to be someplace else and it drove me crazy.” A lifelong bachelor, Hargan moved to Palm Springs, California, after retiring and lived in a condo that he had bought as a player in 1968. In 2011 still resided there. Other than watching baseball on TV, he has seen occasional games in Anaheim and San Diego.” He did not pursue coaching and was in touch with former teammates only at Indians reunions. After retiring from baseball, he held jobs in business, and enjoyed a life made possible from his playing days. Asked to reflect on his career, Hargan said, “I always thought I was lucky that I did what I did and had the career I did. You always wish you could have done better, but when it’s all said and done, it’s done. You have to accept you weren’t a Hall-of-Fame pitcher.”

Last updated: December 1, 2021 (ghw)  

Photo Credit

The Topps Company

[1] All statistics from individual games are from Retrosheet,

[2] The author would like to express his gratitude to Steve Hargan, who was interviewed for this biography on September 13, 2011. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations from Hargan are from the author’s recorded interview.

[3] In 1966 Hargan received the first award given by the American Amateur Baseball Congress recognizing a successful major leaguer who advanced through their leagues. See Lincoln Hackim, “American Amateur Baseball,” Baseball Digest 28.6 (1969), 60.

[4] Hargan has been recognized as one of Northeast Indiana’s best athletes: The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette listed him as the 18th best athlete in the area’s history. ( and the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel listed him as the 23rd best athlete of the 20th century in Northeast Indiana (

[5] All season statistics from the minor leagues are from,

[6] The Sporting News, May 13, 1967, 3

[7] The Sporting News, November 16, 1963, 25

[8] The Sporting News, December 28, 1963, 25

[9] The Sporting News, October 17, 1964, 36. For an insightful history of winter-league ball in Puerto Rico, see Thomas E.Van Hyning’s Puerto Rico’s Winter League: A History of Major League Baseball’s Launching Pad. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1995).

[10] The Sporting News, January 30, 1965, 24

[11] The Sporting News, March 27, 1965, 9

[12] The Sporting News, August 14, 1965, 36

[13] The Sporting News, September 11, 1965, 4

[14] The Sporting News, February 12, 1966, 25

[15] The Sporting News, February 26, 1966, 37

[16] The Sporting News, February 19, 1966, 12

[17] The Sporting News, April 9, 1966, 26

[18] The Sporting News, July 16, 1966, 24

[19] The Sporting News, July 23, 1966, 19

[20] The Sporting News, July 29, 1967, 19

[21] The Sporting News, July 15, 1967, 30

[22] The Sporting News, August 19, 1967, 13

[23] George Vass. “Horlen, Hargan, Sparma, Veale, LeMaster. Heads Win for Star Tossers.” Baseball Digest 26.7 (August 1967), 9.

[24] The Sporting News, May 25, 1968, 13

[25] The Sporting News, June 1, 1968, 5

[26] The Sporting News, December 7, 1968, 39

[27] The Sporting News, March 8, 1969, 33

[28] The Sporting News, March 28, 1970, 17

[29] The Sporting News, June 27, 1970, 35

[30] The Sporting News, August 15, 1970, 10

[31] Ibid.

[32] The Sporting News, October 17, 1970, 32

[33] The Sporting News, April 3, 1971, 31

[34] The Sporting News, January 15, 1972, 51

[35] The Sporting News, July 22, 1972, 20

[36] The Sporting News, March 23, 1974, 50

[37] For an excellent history of the Rangers at this time, see Mike Shropshire’s Seasons in Hell with Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog and the “Worst Baseball Team in History”: The Texas Rangers. (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1996).

[38] The Sporting News, February 22, 1975, 41

[39] The Sporting News, March 11, 1978, 61; April 22, 1978, 9

[40] The Sporting News, June 3, 1978, 50

[41] The Sporting News, July 8, 1978, 34

Full Name

Steven Lowell Hargan


September 8, 1942 at Fort Wayne, IN (USA)

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