Pitcher Jim Hannan appeared in 276 major-league games as a starter and reliever from 1962 through 1971, winning 41 of his 89 decisions. During both his playing days and post-playing days, he participated in and had an impact on several historic baseball moments. On the field, he was a senior member of the Washington Senators expansion team during its first decade. He helped first-year manager Ted Williams achieve the franchise’s first winning season in 1969.
Off the diamond, with his research on Major League Baseball’s pension plan, Hannan advised the Major League Baseball Players Association as it negotiated a better pension plan. In his roles as president and chairman of the board of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association after his retirement, he promotes the game worldwide and helps former players in need. With the MLBPAA, he helped launch both the Cracker Jack Old Timers Classic and the Hall of Fame Classic games.
James John Hannan Jr., was born on January 7, 1939,1 to James and Irene Hannan. His father (1908-1965) attended Georgetown University and became a dental surgeon; his mother (1912-1974) was a homemaker. They raised Jim and his younger sister Mary Sue in Jersey City, New Jersey.
As a young boy, Hannan became a Brooklyn Dodger fan by listening to Red Barber and Marty Glickman on the radio. However, when his father took him to see live baseball at Jersey City’s Roosevelt Stadium, he switched his allegiance from the Dodgers to the Jersey City Giants, a Class AAA affiliate of the New York Giants. On April 18, 1946, he saw Jackie Robinson’s professional debut at Roosevelt Stadium in person. Dr. Hannan told his son, “Do you see the player there wearing number 9? Remember this day. It’s going to be historic.” Decades later Hannan was addressing an audience at a seminar discussing diversity sponsored by the MLBPAA and he told the story of attending that game. Someone asked, “What did you think of Robinson?” to which Hannan replied, “I hated him.” He immediately realized how terrible that sounded even as he completed his answer: “He killed my Giants. He got four hits, a home run, four RBIs, two stolen bases, and they beat us 14 to 1. I hated him.” His audience roared with laughter.2
In youth ball, Hannan was a right-handed hurler with St. Paul of the Cross CYO, the Jersey City Giants in the Build Better Boys League, and St. Peter’s Prep High School (Class of ’56).3 A birth defect — a congenital fusion failure of his collar bone — gave him freer arm movement and enabled him to be the hard thrower that he was. When Hannan strung together three shutouts for Prep, local scout Mel Logan connected him with Notre Dame University. Logan promised a full scholarship if he proved himself, which he did.
After playing ball in the Halifax & District Baseball League in Nova Scotia in the summer of ’58, Hannan compiled a 6-3 record for the Irish as a junior in 1959, including the win that propelled them into the NCAA playoffs. In the summer of ’59 he pitched for the Meadowbrook Phillies in the Hudson County (NJ) Semipro League. He pitched the season-opener for Notre Dame in his senior year, losing to Austin Peay. He saw only limited action after that. A decade later he philosophized that “teams from Notre Dame are not supposed to lose to schools named Austin Peay, and I guess I was the scapegoat.”4
Following his graduation from Notre Dame in 1960, Hannan played briefly for the Otto Mack Anchors in the Jersey City Department of Recreation League. Later that summer, with the West Orange team in the Essex County League, he posted a 10-3 record and led the league in ERA and strikeouts. That inspired Boston Red Sox scout Bill McCarren to sign him on August 25, 1960 — $10,000 upon signing, $10,000 if he advanced to Class AAA, and $10,000 if he made it to the major leagues. He had to fulfill his ROTC requirements first, so second lieutenant Hannan served in the Army military police in Fort Gordon, Georgia, for six months before reporting to the Red Sox minor-league spring training camp in Ocala, Florida, in March 1961.
He was assigned to the Olean (NY) Red Sox in the New York-Penn League (Class D). He was the team’s best pitcher and the league’s Rookie of the Year (17-7 record, 254 strikeouts in 196 innings, five shutouts, and 3.17 ERA). But because Boston had a full 40-man roster with several big bonus picks they elected to protect, Hannan was left exposed for the November 1961 First-Year Player Draft of minor-league players.5 The Washington Senators had the first pick and snatched him for the $12,500 mandatory signing fee. At camp in Florida in 1962, the fireballer made an impression on Senators manager Mickey Vernon: “I haven’t seen anyone throw that hard since Bobby Feller.”6
With his outstanding showing in 1961, the 23-year-old Hannan made the jump in 1962 from Class D to the Senators (who had lost 100 games the previous year, their inaugural season) . For his debut appearance on April 17, 1962, he took the mound against the Detroit Tigers in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Senators trailing 6-1. Suddenly, but for an eternal moment, he could not move his legs; he was frozen with stage fright. Then he looked up to see Rocky Colavito step into the batter’s box, and Hannan laughed. He looked down at his glove — it was a Rocky Colavito model that he had bought at a general store in Olean.7 He retired the side in order on three ground balls — Colavito to short, Steve Boros to third, and Chico Fernández to second.
The road was rocky after that. Pitching coach Sid Hudson told him he was tipping his pitches. On May 9, after posting a 7.24 ERA in seven appearances, he was sent to the Syracuse Chiefs (Class AAA), where he won three games and earned a return to Washington in June. In a stretch of 25 relief appearances for the Senators from June 13 through August 22, he was touched for only three runs (two other runs came in a start on August 13), including one string of 13 games from July 4 through August 10 where he was not scored on at all (19 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings). He picked up his first two major-league wins and a team-high four saves, and by the end of the season had brought his ERA down to 3.31.
Hannan’s pitching repertoire featured a heavy, sinking fastball and a hard, late-breaking slider; however, lack of control was often his downfall. He walked 4.4 batters per nine innings in his 10-year career. In 1963 the Senators did not have a Class AAA farm team, so they shared with other clubs. From May to July Hannan pitched for the Richmond Virginians, a New York Yankees affiliate, and in July and August he pitched for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Milwaukee Braves organization. He had a combined 10-6 record, including six straight wins for Toronto — one of them a complete game one-hitter over a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate, the Atlanta Crackers. He earned his ticket back to DC in September and made two starts and two relief appearances.
Hannan pitched the entire 1964 season for the Senators but with mixed results. On May 30, 1964, in a game against the Cleveland Indians, he hung a slider and fellow Hudson County (NJ) product Johnny Romano belted a home run. The next day Gil Hodges, who had become the Senators’ manager in 1963 and who was a catcher when he first came up with the Brooklyn Dodgers, had Hannan pitch on the sidelines for him. “Stop!” he called. “Your thumb is in the wrong place for a slider.”8 With that adjustment, Hannan did not allow a run in his next three outings.
Hannan shed eight pounds from his 6-foot-3 frame before he came to camp in 1965, also shedding his unflattering “Huey” nickname, from the Baby Huey cartoon character. Hannan yearned to be a starter and he hoped 1965 would be his breakout season. However, the Senators had acquired right-handed pitcher and former Hodges teammate Phil Ortega from the Dodgers in December 1964 along with Frank Howard, Ken McMullen, and southpaw starter Pete Richert. Over the 1965 and 1966 seasons Ortega, Richert, and Senators draft picks Barry Moore and Joe Coleman kept Hannan from cracking the starting rotation with any regularity (only one start in 1965 and 18 in 1966). Hodges still had him pegged as a reliever.
After two rough relief outings in April 1965, he was sent down to the Triple-A Hawaii Islanders. He pitched well that summer (30 starts, 12-7 record, 3.26 ERA) and in September he was called up to the parent club. In a spot start on September 29, he pitched his first major-league shutout, a five-hit complete game 9-0 victory over the Kansas City Athletics. His father, who lay sick with colon cancer in Jersey City, listened to the game on the radio. It was the last of his son’s games that Dr. Hannan would hear or see; he died on October 11 at age 56. (Hannan would lose his mother at a young age as well; she succumbed to breast cancer in 1974 at 62.)
He stuck with the Senators for the entire 1966 season, bouncing back and forth between starting and relieving. He came north with the club the following year; however, when his ERA ballooned from 3.44 to 5.40 in May, he was demoted to Hawaii once again, this time with less success than he had shown with Hawaii in 1965. Hannan’s future was so uncertain that Topps did not even issue a 1968 baseball card for him.
That’s when things turned around for Hannan. He started the 1968 season with the Buffalo Bisons in the International League, the Senators’ new Class AAA club, where he compiled a 5-2 record before getting promoted in late May. Given the chance to start regularly under new manager Jim Lemon,9 a more confident Hannan had his finest season in the majors. Punctuated by an impressive stretch from late June to early September, during which he went 8-2 and did not yield a single home run (102 consecutive innings), Hannan achieved several single-season personal bests in 1968, the year often referred to as The Year of the Pitcher. They included 10 wins (good for third place on the staff while his .625 winning percentage was tops), 3.02 ERA (second best on the team), and 75 strikeouts.
Hannan pitched nine complete games in his career; four of them came in 1968.10 Two were particularly noteworthy. On June 2 against Cleveland, Indians left fielder Lee Maye hit a two-run homer in the top of the first inning and he tripled with two down in the bottom of the ninth inning. In between those two at-bats, Hannan retired 26 Indians in order. After Max Alvis singled home Maye in the ninth to make the score Washington 11, Cleveland 3, Hannan had to plead with Lemon to allow him to remain in the game to get the final out. Later that season, on September 2, he threw a 1-0 shutout over the Chicago White Sox. The Senators scored an unearned run as Del Unser, who reached on a rare Luis Aparicio error, scored on Brant Alyea’s single in the home fifth.
Along with his pitching prowess that year came more batting opportunities; however, that was not a good thing for Hannan. From 1962 through 1967 he had six hits and three walks in 82 plate appearances, and he struck out 32 times. Trying to be helpful, Hodges had once ordered him “go up there and look like you’re a batter, but don’t swing.”11 In five games from July 24 to August 13 in 1968, over 16 plate appearances, he set an American League record by striking out in 13 consecutive official at-bats with three walks mixed in (perhaps because he looked ready to hit).12
Before the 1968 season began, trucking and hotel baron Bob Short had purchased the Senators for $9.4 million, almost entirely with debt instruments. In 1969, in an effort to stimulate attendance and to reverse the team’s losing record, Short hired Ted Williams as manager. Bringing in the marquee name paid dividends that year as home attendance increased by about 68 percent, and the team finished above .500 for the first time in its nine-year history.
The Senators played their final warmup games that spring in Dallas on the two days immediately before Opening Day. Short’s message was unmistakable. He would move the Senators to Dallas — one of the cities that lost its bid for a 1969 expansion team — if he could not get rid of his debt in DC. In one of those two exhibition games, the Pittsburgh Pirates hit Senators starter Frank Bertaina pretty hard. As a result, Bertaina lost his place in the starting rotation and Hannan started the third game of the season.13 He bested the Yankees, allowing four hits and four runs with six strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings for his first win. The victory occurred during the year when Major League Baseball lowered the mound and shrank the strike zone to encourage more hitting.
In Hannan’s third start on April 20, with his team holding a 1-0 lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the ninth inning, Williams removed Hannan after he walked the first two batters and replaced him with Joe Coleman, who up to that point in his career had appeared in 61 games as a starter but never as a reliever. Williams had five primary starters in 1969 and used them all as relievers between starts; Hannan had a career-high 28 starts with seven relief appearances. Following a sacrifice bunt, Mark Belanger looped a single just over the head of the drawn-in shortstop and the Senators lost, 2-1. Wildness and bad luck had haunted him again. Hannan suffered 10 such “tough losses” in his career — i.e., games he lost when he pitched at least six innings and allowed three earned runs or less.
Three days later, the Senators were in Boston to play the Red Sox. On the ride from the hotel to Fenway Park, Hannan was sitting in the back of the team bus when Williams and Short boarded. The only seats remaining were the two atop the rear wheel diagonal from Hannan. “Ahh, Hannan,” said Williams as he settled into his seat. “Y’know, I know a little bit about pitching, and if you want, I could teach you sometime.” Hannan, a lifetime .091 hitter, replied, “Sure, Ted. And in exchange, I’ll teach you how to hit.”14
At the All-Star break, Hannan’s record was just 3-5; however, he won four of his next five decisions, including his third career complete-game shutout, a three-hitter over the Angels. His turnaround stemmed largely from corrections he made in his mechanics. He spotted the flaws by watching videotape of his delivery on the equipment bought by Short at Williams’ suggestion — an innovation to baseball at the time and a purchase Short did not want to make at first because it cost $10,000.15
In 1970 it took Hannan a while to get fully on track after spending April on the disabled list with a urinary tract infection.16 His first appearance was in relief on May 1 and his first win was not until June 13, also in relief. He got stronger as the season progressed, with two high points.
On July 20, he gave up no runs and allowed only three hits and two walks through eight innings against the Milwaukee Brewers. With one out in the ninth inning, he let up two singles and gave way to Darold Knowles, who saved the 2-0 victory. President Richard Nixon attended the game and stood and applauded Hannan as he came out.17 Afterward, Nixon went to the Senators’ locker room and sought out Hannan to congratulate him in person. Hannan requested and received an autographed baseball from the President.18
On August 17, 1970, Frank Howard — a four-time All-Star slugger with the Senators but a below league-average fielder — hit a 410-foot two-run homer in the first inning for all the scoring Hannan would need in a 7-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals. He gave up only one hit, Paul Schaal’s line drive to left field that Howard tried to shoestring but misplayed into a triple. “I had a good jump on the ball, I even anticipated it coming to me,” said Howard, “but I just couldn’t get to it.”19 He also muffed a fly ball for an error in the top of the first. Two walks by Hannan and Howard’s two miscues prevented Hannan from pitching a perfect game, but he picked up his fourth career complete-game shutout.
That victory put Hannan’s record at 9-5. Had the season ended there, his .642 winning percentage would have been his personal career best. However, he lost his next six decisions to finish the year at 9-11. The team, too, ran out of steam in the final 42 games of the season, slipping from 58-62 on August 17 to 70-92 at season end. That meant a last-place finish in the AL East in Ted Williams’ second year as manager — and Hannan’s last as a Senator.
Teammate Joe Coleman had introduced Hannan to Carol Ann Beturney, a United Airlines stewardess at the time, in August 1968 (Coleman was dating a colleague of Carol’s). Hannan proposed to the former Miss Amherst (Massachusetts) in August 1969. He and Carol married on November 8, 1969. They settled down in the DC area — but shortly before their first wedding anniversary, Hannan was traded.
On October 9, 1970, the Senators dealt Aurelio Rodriguez, Ed Brinkman, Coleman, and Hannan to the Tigers for Denny McLain, Don Wert, Norm McRae, and Elliott Maddox. Williams made no secret of the fact that he did not like the deal.20 He did not like giving up Brinkman and Rodriguez. He added, “There has never been a nicer guy who played baseball than Jim Hannan.”21
Hannan, on the other hand, was not unhappy. The Tigers packed a lot of punch and would score more runs in 1971 than any American League club other than Baltimore. However, Hannan was not there to see it. He pitched in only seven games for Detroit, all in relief, before he was traded again.
On May 11, Frank “Trader” Lane, the new Milwaukee Brewers general manager, traded pitcher John Gelnar and utilityman Jose Herrera to get Hannan. The Brewers needed a proven middle-innings reliever, a job that Hannan fulfilled admirably as he appeared in about 25 percent (18) of the team’s 66 games through July. With the Brewers in last place, however, manager Dave Bristol began auditioning his late-season call-ups for the 1972 season. Hannan’s final appearance was on September 10. He was reassigned to the Evansville Triplets (Class AAA) on December 3 and was released by the Brewers on December 31.
At age 33, Hannan was not ready to retire, yet he was not willing to accept a minor-league contract either. He called his old friend and former Senators coach Rube Walker, who suggested he call the Atlanta Braves. He was invited for a trial and pitched well in preseason competition, but he was released and decided to call it quits rather than report to the Richmond Braves (Class AAA). He returned home to his wife and two infant girls, knowing that the day had come for him to work full-time at his investment firm, Reynolds Securities.22
At Notre Dame, Hannan had earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics. Following the 1962 season he enrolled in New York University’s graduate school, where he earned his Master’s degree in finance and investments in 1965. Hannan’s mentor at NYU was Lawrence Ritter, the chair of the school’s finance department — the same Lawrence Ritter who wrote the classic oral history of baseball, The Glory of Their Times.
Hannan’s Master’s thesis scrutinized MLB’s pension plan — its history, administration, and vesting requirement — and spelled out how nearly 70 percent of the retired baseball players at the time did not have the minimum five years of major-league service needed to qualify for a pension under the existing plan.23 During the February 1969 contract negotiations, he served as a member of the Players Association pension negotiation committee. This committee advised Marvin Miller and helped him reduce the players’ minimum service requirement for pension eligibility from five years to four — thereby making more than 50 percent of the retired baseball players at the time eligible for a pension.24
About 10 years after he retired, Hannan was approached by former teammate Chuck Hinton with an idea. Inspired by a golf outing he attended sponsored by the National Football League Players Alumni Association, Hinton asked, “Why can’t we bring former baseball players together for events like that?” Before long, Hinton recruited many of his former Senators and Orioles teammates, including Jim Lemon, Dick Bosman, Frank Kreutzer, Ron Hansen, Brooks Robinson, Rex Barney, Fred Valentine, and Hannan, among others. They became the founding fathers of what became the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA).25 The MLBPAA was formally founded in 1982.
The MLBPAA concept blended well with that of the Association of Professional Ball Players of America (APBPA), the organization founded in 1924 dedicated to assisting former players in financial need. In collaboration with the APBPA, former Atlanta Braves vice president Dick Cecil organized the first Cracker Jack Old Timers Classic — an event sponsored by Borden, Inc., then owner of that ballpark staple, Cracker Jack snack food.26 Hannan played a big role in the Classic’s launch. His nascent MLBPAA contacted players to participate and promoted the game with a luncheon and press conferences. Hannan was in uniform for all six Cracker Jack games that were played at RFK Stadium in DC from 1982 to 1987. He was among the first players to congratulate 75-year-old Luke Appling after he smacked his fabled home run off Warren Spahn leading off the 1982 game. “If I had known I’d have to run the bases,” Appling told Hannan, “I would not have hit it so hard.”27
The MLBPAA operates in coordination with the players association and MLB. Its primary mission is to promote baseball to young people and raise money for charity. Hannan was the first president of the organization from 1982 to 1986. He was highly aware of how many baseball players were inadequately prepared for retirement. Under his leadership, the MLBPAA was structured as a web of programs and benefits to assist former players, not only to reunite them. The non-profit parent organization receives charitable contributions from current players and the for-profit marketing arm, Major League Alumni Marketing, Inc., pays former players to attend free youth clinics and other promotional events. Baseball fans all over the world pay to meet and mingle with the MLB alums and that money goes to the youth-based charities selected by MLB. The second for-profit subsidiary of MLBPAA is Major League Alumni Services. MLAS advocates for baseball’s alumni seeking pension and insurance benefits.
Hannan is, and has been since 1996, the chairman of the MLBPAA board. In 2008, the popular Hall of Fame Game — a benefit game at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown between two active MLB teams — was discontinued because of the travel and time burdens it imposed on the selected teams. Hannan suggested it be replaced with a game between retired players. The Cracker Jack Classic had faded away in 1990. The last year for the Equitable Life Assurance Society/Heroes of Baseball (Upper Deck Company) Old Timers Series — which had been introduced by Commissioner Peter Ueberroth in 1986 — was 1995. Even though many teams had old-timers’ games of their own, Hannan sensed it was time again for a nationwide alumni game. The Hall of Fame Classic legends game, now sponsored by MLB and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, began in 2009 and is played in Cooperstown annually.28 Hannan has pitched in it on five occasions.
Hannan was elected to the Hudson County (New Jersey) Hall of Fame in 1992 and to the St. Peter’s Prep Athletic Hall of Fame as one of the inaugural inductees in 2005.
Hannan and his wife live in Annandale, Virginia. Carol is a retired bookkeeper; as of this writing, Jim is still working as First Vice-President/Financial Adviser at Morgan Stanley, the surviving entity after several mergers involving the Reynolds Securities firm and its successor, Dean Witter Reynolds. They have four children — Coleen, Heather, Jimmy, and Erin — and two grandchildren.
Special thanks to Jim Hannan (telephone interviews with Len Pasculli on January 31, February 1, February 8, April 15, and April 26, 2021, with several follow up e-communications (hereafter referred to as “Pasculli-Hannan Interviews”).
This biography was reviewed by Rory Costello and Bruce Harris and fact-checked by Evan Katz.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted www.baseball-reference.com, www.retrosheet.org, www.sabr.org, www.genealogybank.com, www.newspapers.com, www.newspaperarchives.com, www.sabr.org/paperofrecord, www.deanscards.com/Jim-Hannan-Baseball-Cards, and St. Peter’s Preparatory High School yearbooks (Petrean) retrieved from www.classmates.com.
1 According to Hannan, his government-issued identification records and his pension and other official MLB documents reflect his correct birthday as January 7, 1939, although on-line databases give his birth date as January 7, 1940. Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
2 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
4 Michael Whittlesey, “Hannan Means Hard Luck in Nat Lexicon,” The Sporting News, June 22, 1968: 18.
5 For more information about the First Year Player Draft (1959 to 1964) instituted by MLB to moderate bonuses, see Clifford Blau, “The Real First-Year Player Draft,” SABR Baseball Research Journal, Summer 2010, https://sabr.org/journal/article/the-real-first-year-player-draft.
6 Bob Addie, “Hannan’s Fireballs Swiftest Since Feller Was in Prime, Says Vernon,” The Sporting News, April 25, 1962: 11.
7 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
8 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
9 Manager Jim Lemon is no relation to James H. Lemon who sold the Senators to Bob Short in 1968.
10 One of his complete games was a hard-luck loss in 1966 to the Minnesota Twins at home when he allowed the go-ahead run to score on a wild pitch with two outs in the top of the ninth and lost 1-0.
11 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
12 The National League record is held by Mike Thurman with 15 (two walks mixed in). The record for most strikeouts in consecutive plate appearances (with nothing mixed in) is Dean Chance with 11 (AL) and Sandy Koufax with 12 (NL).
13 Ted Leavengood, Ted Williams and the 1969 Washington Senators (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2009), 51.
14 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
15 Ted Leavengood, 80.
16 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
17 Merrell Whittlesey, “Hook Doesn’t Always Hurt, Hannan Tells Nixon,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), July 21, 1970: A-15.
18 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
19 United Press International, “Hannan Fires One-Hitter,” Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner, August 17, 1970: 3-B.
20 Investigations revealed that the trade was probably made for reasons other than improving Washington’s performance on the field. See, e.g., Bob Whelan & Steve West, “Bob Short,” https://sabr.org/bioproj/person/bob-short, and Shelby Whitfield, Kiss It Goodbye (New York: Abelard-Schuman, 1973).
21 Dick Heller, “Senators Climb Out of Last Place,” Evening Star (Washington, DC), July 22, 1981: E-2.
22 Hannan had worked at the Goodbody & Co. brokerage firm part-time since he graduated from NYU in 1965, first in New York City and then in the firm’s new Washington, DC, office in 1969. However, when the firm went under and merged into Merrill Lynch, Hannan was no longer offered part-time employment, so he moved over to Reynolds Securities, where he could continue to work only in the off-season. Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
23 Tom Hopkins, “Islander Hurler Hannan Knows Baseball Pensions,” Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii), July 1, 1967: 15.
24 Leonard Koppett, “Players, Owners Okay a Record Pension Package,” The Sporting News, March 8, 1969: 26. Note: Since 1980, a player now needs only 43 days of major-league service to qualify for pension benefits. In addition to his role as a member of the Major League pension committee, Hannan also served as the team’s player representative and American League player representative while he was with the Senators.
25 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.
27 Pasculli-Hannan Interviews.