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Bill Hogan, threw out first pitch at Fenway on his 100th birthday

Barry Chin/Globe STaff

Red Sox fans suddenly fell quiet on April 14 when the Fenway Park announcer said the man about to throw out the first pitch, William M. Hogan Jr., was born 100 years ago in 1912.

Wearing a Red Sox jersey with the No. 100 on it, Mr. Hogan put his walker aside and took the mound. The crowd erupted in cheers. His first pitch fell short of home plate.

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“Get back there. Let me throw you another one,” Mr. Hogan told the catcher, who quickly obliged since it was Mr. Hogan’s 100th birthday and he had trained almost a year for this day.

His second pitch was a strike.

Mr. Hogan, a longtime Belmont resident who was captain of Boston College’s baseball and hockey teams in the early 1930s, died of congestive heart failure Nov. 12 in Brookhaven at Lexington, a retirement community where he lived the past 15 years.

“I don’t think about how old I am,” the lifelong Red Sox fan told the Globe in April. “Every day is another good day for me and I look forward to whatever it is, because I always have something coming up ahead.”

Mr. Hogan’s optimism, kindness, and zest for living inspired those around him. Other residents at Brookhaven were inspired to hit the gym after watching Mr. Hogan build his strength. He threw tennis balls from a chair for six months to become steady and strong enough to fire a baseball.

‘He didn’t just see the glass as half-full. He saw it full to overflowing.’

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“I thought he was immortal,” said Jason Williams, 25, a fitness instructor at Brookhaven who trained Mr. Hogan three times a week after he asked for assistance. “He always showed up with a good attitude. It was him setting a goal and saying, ‘This is what I want to do a year from now.’ ”

Part of events celebrating Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary, Mr. Hogan’s pitch took place with the encouragement of his grandson William Hogan IV, who then worked for Fenway Sports Management, a sister company of the Red Sox.

Born six days before Fenway opened, Mr. Hogan had been in the park for some of its milestones. In a Globe interview, he said that among the key moments he witnessed was the day in 1960 when Ted Williams hit a home run during his last at-bat before retiring from the Red Sox.

Mr. Hogan’s physician, Dr. John R. Anderson, who heads the Quimby Center for Geriatric Care in Cambridge, said some elderly patients come to his office thinking 80 years is enough, or 90 is enough. Mr. Hogan, he said, was going for 110.

“He was still looking forward to bridge and poker and whiskey and cigars,” Anderson said. “He just didn’t quit.”

Three days before the 100th birthday pitch, Mr. Hogan was diagnosed with a blood clot and needed surgery. Anderson recalled telling him that no one would fault him for backing out now, but “he was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ ”

Mr. Hogan gave a news conference after the pitch and rode off the field in a golf cart with Sox legend Johnny Pesky, who died in August at 92.

Having lived through the Great Depression, Mr. Hogan did not need much to be happy, according to his family.

A southwest summer breeze, the chance to teach a newcomer how to eat a lobster, or a family sing-along brought him great joy. Family members recalled a trip to Ireland when Mr. Hogan jumped up on a stone wall at the majestic Cliffs of Moher in County Clare and began dancing.

“He didn’t just see the glass as half-full,” said his daughter Linda Hogan O’Connor of Alexandria, Va. “He saw it full to overflowing.”

At a funeral Mass in St. Ignatius of Loyola Church in Chestnut Hill Friday, the Rev. E. Corbett Walsh said he was a teenager when he first met Mr. Hogan during summer vacations on the beach in Hull. Walsh recalled that he lost his lunch money to “card sharks” like ­Hogan on the ferry ride up to Boston one summer and quietly learned about life from his elder. “The way he lived was the way we teenagers wanted to live,” Walsh told those in the church.

In addition to his daughter Linda, Mr. Hogan leaves two sons, William III of Pepper Pike, Ohio, and Leigh of Marblehead; another daughter, Kathryn R. Mullaney of Wayland; 13 grandchildren; and 18 great-grandchildren.

Burial was in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

Mr. Hogan made friends easily throughout his life. He grew up in East Cambridge, was president of his high school class at Cambridge Latin, and was president of the class of 1933 at Boston College. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1936.

He went to work as an assistant US attorney and was a Cambridge city councilor for two terms. He joined New England Telephone in the 1940s and became general counsel and vice president of public affairs in 1964. He was in charge of legislative issues on the company’s behalf in five states.

Mr. Hogan retired from the phone company in 1977 and served as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association, while also teaching himself how to become a silversmith. In his Belmont home workshop, he made jewelry and other gifts for his family and friends.

In the 1930s, Mr. Hogan met his future wife on the beach in Hull, according to his family. In 1940, he proposed to Agnes McHugh, a concert harpist, during a Bruins game at the old Boston Garden. She died in 1997 at 85.

After her death, Mr. Hogan embarked on the next chapter of his life. At Brookhaven, he helped host Kentucky Derby parties and enjoyed playing poker and bridge.

He played golf into his 90s and attended Boston meetings of the Clover Club, a men’s group started in 1883 by Irish Americans. He was named club president in 1986.

The Clover Club honored his 100th birthday this year by serenading him at the annual dinner with “Bill Is Everyone’s Hero,” sung to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

“Having Bill Hogan in your corner,” his son Leigh said, “was like having pieces of gold in your pocket.”

J.M. Lawrence can be reached
at jmlawrence@mac.com.

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