Jack Corrigan

This article was written by Joseph Wancho


At an early age Jack Corrigan had his sights set on being a sports broadcaster. As a youngster, he played wiffle ball in his neighborhood with his friends, imitating their favorite players. Whoever was at bat provided the call when the ball left the cul-de-sac where Corrigan lived and the games were played. It was here where Corrigan uttered his signature home-run call for the first time. “It’s touch ’em all time for Woodie Held,” Corrigan exclaimed.

Corrigan, along with his neighbor and friend, Joe Coreno, attended Indians games with tape recorder in hand, trying to find the right pitch and style that one day would serve him well as a broadcaster. It may not have been the perfect way to learn his trade, but Corrigan nonetheless was determined to one day call major-league action.

John Joseph Corrigan was born on September 12, 1952, in Cleveland. He was the second oldest of seven children of the Honorable John V. and Eileen Corrigan. Judge Corrigan served on the bench for over 40 years, primarily as a jurist for the Common Pleas and Appellate Courts in Cuyahoga County. While Judge Corrigan was handing down jurisprudence in his courtroom, Eileen was a homemaker, providing guidance for her seven children at their home in the West Park area on the west side of Cleveland.

Corrigan enrolled at St. Ignatius High School on Cleveland’s near west side. He was a three-sport star (football, basketball, and track) at the college preparatory school. After he graduated from St. Ignatius in 1970, he continued his education at Cornell University. Corrigan, who was a history major, played wide receiver on the football team and lettered three years for the Big Red. 

Corrigan was signed as a free agent by the Dallas Cowboys but he was released after a short tryout. He enrolled at Kent State University and obtained his master’s degree in communications.

The long climb up the sports broadcasting ladder began in Youngstown, Ohio, at WFMJ-TV/AM. He did the sports on the 6 and 11 o’clock news for television, and covered high-school and Youngstown State football, basketball, and baseball games on the radio. On one of his first radio play-by-play assignments, the star of the game was a Cardinal Mooney player, Bob Stoops, who went on to a tremendous coaching career in college football. In, 1980, a move to WTVR-TV in saw him continue similar duties there, with special attention toward the University of Richmond, the University of Virginia – during the Ralph Sampson era – and the Richmond Braves, the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A affiliate at the time. During his time covering the R-Braves, future Indians players Brett Butler and Brook Jacoby were on the Richmond roster. Corrigan returned to Cleveland in 1983. He joined WUAB-TV as the voice of the Cleveland Force of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) and the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was paired with the late Nev Chandler on both assignments. Chandler, like Corrigan, was locally born and raised and his voice was a familiar one to sports fans. Chandler served as a sports anchor on WEWS TV but he was also the radio voice of the Indians (1980-1984) and the Cleveland Browns (1985-1993). 

In 1985 Corrigan teamed with Joe Tait to call Indians games on the radio. It was the beginning of a long relationship for Corrigan with major-league baseball. For three years he was partnered with Tait, a legendary announcer for his radio work with the Cavaliers. Tait also did radio for the Indians in the 1970s.

For Corrigan, the education he received from working with both Chandler and Tait was immeasurable. He was a good student, soaking up the process the veteran announcers used for their preparation and the use of fundamentals for each broadcast.

In his first season, when Corrigan tried out his home run call of “touch ’em all time,” Tait said it sounded pretty good and that he might want to hang on to the call. Who was Corrigan to ignore the advice of a legend? Like most of the notable baseball announcers, the home-run call has become a part of him.

The 1985, 1987, and 1991 Indians teams lost more than 100 games. The Indians had only one winning season in Corrigan’s first nine with the club, finishing the 1986 season with a record of 84-78. No matter how talented a broadcaster may be, if the team is losing year after year, the motivation may start to wane. Corrigan asked longtime Indians radio man Herb Score about keeping the motivation alive in the grind that is a major-league baseball schedule. Score, the former left-handed hurler for the Indians, may have seen the most nonwinning baseball in major-league history, according to Corrigan.

Score outlined three points to Corrigan:

  1. Something will happen during the course of the game that you have never seen before.
  2. There will be a play made, on either side, that will make you exclaim, “Wow.”
  3. The team will win at least 60 games a season (in most cases). Treat each game individually. If the club loses, well, it still will probably win at least 60, and now the odds have improved.

Of course, the ultimate judge is the fan. They are tuning in to listen to the ballgame. They want their announcers to describe the action in passionate and knowledgeable tones. For many fans, baseball is a release from the work day. Just as easily as they tuned in to listen/watch, they can turn to a different station just as quickly. 

These are basics that Corrigan has kept in mind through his long career. And he shows up at the park for each game mindful of the insight that Score shared with him many decades earlier.

Corrigan believes that being a broadcaster of a perennially losing franchise made him much better at his trade. For he was not only the voice of the team on TV, but he was a fan as well. It takes a special kind of mettle to follow a losing team, year after year. The same can be said of a broadcaster who cannot get up and leave but must entertain for a full nine innings.  

In 1989 Corrigan was paired with another former major-league player, Mike Hegan. The son of Indians catcher Jim Hegan (1942-1957), Mike Hegan played parts of 12 seasons in the major leagues with the New York Yankees, Seattle Pilots, the Oakland A’s, and the Milwaukee Braves. A terrific defensive player, Hegan had a front seat to the glory years of Indians baseball and what many consider their glory years in the late 1940s to the mid-1950s. Hegan also served as a television broadcaster for the Brewers from 1978 to 1980 and again from 1982 through 1988.

Like many who are fans of the game, Corrigan thought he knew all there was to know. But he was mistaken. For the next 13 seasons, Hegan (also a graduate of St. Ignatius) pointed out so many nuances of the game that many fans miss. It was not uncommon, said Corrigan, for the two broadcasters to play a round of golf and talk baseball through all 18 holes.

Corrigan volunteered his time at his alma mater, working as a receivers coach for the varsity football team at St. Ignatius. Corrigan was part of a true dynasty in high-school sports. (The Wildcats won nine state championships during his tenure, a state record in Ohio.) That relationship was especially gratifying, working with future NFL players like Anthony Gonzalez, Brian Hoyer, and Drew Haddad, because he got spend it with his close friend Chuck Kyle, the Wildcats’ longtime head coach, as well as his brother, Dan, a 30-plus-years teacher and coach at the school.

Corrigan kept busy in the offseason. In part because of the contacts he made while he was working in Richmond. Corrigan worked Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) football games in the fall. He worked both color with Brad Nessler and play-by-play with former Washington Redskins tight end Doc Walker. It was not uncommon for Corrigan to finish his broadcasting duties for the ACC on a Saturday afternoon, hop a plane, and arrive at the ballpark back in Cleveland to coach the Wildcats’ wide receivers.

Corrigan also kept busy calling college basketball for ESPN and other broadcast groups, teaming with some of the true giants of the college hardwood. Corrigan worked games with Billy Packer, Al McGuire, Dan Bonner, and Sean McDonough.

The tide was turning in Cleveland, as the Indians moved into their new ballpark, Jacobs Field, for the 1994 season. Finally there was a young, winning team in Cleveland and for many folks, Corrigan included, it was a feeling that was brand-new. Of course, the rug was pulled out from them when the players struck on August 12, 1994, eventually forcing the cancellation of the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. Cleveland finished the season with a record of 66-47, just one game behind first-place Chicago in the newly formed AL Central Division.

The strike carried over to the beginning of the 1995 season, which did not get underway until April 27. Corrigan knew the 1995 Indians were special. They were a powerful team, and as Corrigan remembers, it was not if they were going to win, but how they were going to win. Who would be the hero tonight? The camaraderie and friendships in the clubhouse were the catalysts for this talented team.

One of Corrigan’s greatest memories of the season came on July 18. The California Angels were leading the Tribe, 5-3, in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Angels closer, Lee Smith, was facing Albert Belle with the bases loaded. It was a fierce battle between the two, but Belle won out, smashing a grand slam to center field and giving the Indians a 7-5 walk-off win.

The Indians were in the postseason for the first time in 41 years. And Corrigan went along for the ride, providing commentary for home and away games on WUAB’s coverage of the playoffs and World Series.

The Indians provided excitement in northeast Ohio the next few years, winning their division from 1995 to 1999 and again in 2001. Unfortunately for Corrigan, the 2001 season was his last calling Indians baseball. The Indians formed their own station, Sportstime Ohio (STO). This essentially gave them a free path to broadcast their own games. WUAB and FOX (the Indians’ cable home) were left out. Mike Hegan and the FOX announcers, Rick Manning and John Sanders, were still under contract, but Corrigan was not. He was the odd man out as the Indians went to rotational broadcasting teams.

In 2002 Corrigan took the year off and turned to writing. He began work on a novel about baseball, Warning Track (Peakview Press, 2005). The book details a player’s rise to fame while under the suspicion that he was using illegal substances. It gave readers an honest insight into the problem that plagues major-league baseball.

During the 2002 season, legendary broadcaster Jack Buck passed away. The voice of the St. Louis Cardinals had been at the mic for decades and he was considered one of the top broadcasters in baseball. Corrigan applied for the opening, and the decision came down to him and Wayne Hagin. Hagin, a Denver native, was a veteran play-by-play-man. After years working for various clubs, Hagin returned home to Denver and called Colorado Rockies games from 1993 to 2002.

The Cardinals, who had the final decision, chose Hagin over Corrigan. But that left a job opening in Denver. Corrigan then set his sights on the Rocky Mountains. KMOX, the Cardinals flagship station, spoke well of Corrigan’s audition to KOA, the station that carried the Rockies games. Dan O’Dowd, who was once the assistant general manager in Cleveland, was now the top man in Denver. Although Corrigan and O’Dowd had a strong relationship, ultimately it was his work with the Indians, and the prodding of KMOX, that landed Corrigan in Denver beginning with the 2003 season.

Corrigan, whose whole career had been in the American League, was now in new territory, dealing with new venues and the absence of the designated hitter. On his first visit to Dodger Stadium, Vin Scully greeted Corrigan: “Welcome to the league where we play real baseball.” Corrigan now is a convert of sorts, admiring the strategies and unforeseen occurrences that are common in the style the NL plays.

Another change for Corrigan was moving from the television booth to the radio broadcast team. Professional and Collegiate sports, especially those on TV, embraced the information age. Baseball was right there with them, as now when a player steps into the batter’s box, you not only get the ball and strike count and the score of the game, but the viewer can also see the batter’s statistics in any given situation, the speed of the pitch, the pitch count, and in many cases, a ball/strike chart depicting the hitter’s strengths and weaknesses. In some instances, a scrolling scoreboard will be displayed at the bottom of the TV screen. All of these visuals were added to enhance the viewing experience.

But it has been said that baseball is a game made for radio, and Corrigan is partial to this belief. He enjoys painting the picture and describing the many nuances that are a big part of major league baseball games. TV cameras cannot pick up everything that is going on during a game, and Corrigan relishes being able to bring the action on the diamond to the fans, and he has the innate ability to put them in the middle of the action.        

In 2007 the Rockies won 13 of 14 games to close the season and finished with a 90-72 record. They finished in second place in the NL West, behind Arizona. But their hot finish carried over to the playoffs, and the Rockies swept Philadelphia in three games in the NLDS and then swept Arizona in the NLCS in four games.

But the sweep in the NLCS did them no favors in the end. Their sweep against the Diamondbacks was completed on October 15. They had to wait around for nine days for Boston and Cleveland to slug it out in the ALCS. Boston won out in seven games, and then swept the Rockies in the World Series. Although Boston had a strong team, Corrigan felt that the long layoff played a part in the Rockies getting swept.

Corrigan has continued as the Rockies play-by-play man on KOA as of the 2018 season, his 16th. He resides in the Denver area with his wife, Lisa (nee Pawlak). They have been married for 41 years. Their two children, Megan and Michael, have gone on to carve out their own lives, leaving Jack and Lisa as empty-nesters. But Corrigan stays busy after the Rockies season, serving as an assistant football coach for the varsity team at Regis Jesuit High School. Jack and Lisa also keep busy supporting several charities in the Denver area.

Corrigan took on another writing project in 2014. The title, Night of Destiny, December 24, 1944 (Jack Corrigan/FaithHappenings Publishers, 2014), is based on events surrounding his father’s service in World War II. Jack’s father served in the European Theater and provided Jack with many of the details used in the book. Included was a 12-page letter he wrote to his mother while he was in the service, but due to wartime censorship was never mailed.

In 2016 Corrigan was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His prognosis is excellent because he caught the disease early on. Prostate cancer occurred in his family, so Corrigan was vigilant about getting tested regularly. His message is one of encouragement, warning men to get tested, keep ahead of the cancer, because it can be cured. It’s a message that he delivers after each broadcast, and one that he feels is vital to share.  

In 2018 he completed a sequel to his first book, tentatively titled Hit and Run.            

Jack Corrigan shows no signs of slowing down, as he looks forward to every game with the same passion he had when he began. Many of those who have come into contact with Corrigan would agree that he has hit a home run in life, not just as a baseball broadcaster.

Indeed, it is “touch ’em all time” for Jack Corrigan.  

Last revised: January 24, 2018

 

This biography was published in “1995 Cleveland Indians: The Sleeping Giant Awakes” (SABR, 2019), edited by Joseph Wancho.

 

Sources

Author interview with Jack Corrigan, July 11, 2018.

mlb.com/rockies.

mlb.com/indians.

retrosheet.org/boxesetc/index.html.

Full Name

John Joseph Corrigan

Born

September 12, 1952 at Cleveland, OH (US)

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