The Titanic hit that fatal iceberg on the night he was born, but when Bill Hogan Jr. turns 100 years old April 14, the Lexington resident will be helping celebrate a more joyous centennial anniversary.
Born only six days before the Boston Red Sox played their first game at Fenway Park in 1912, Hogan has been asked to throw out the first pitch for the game on his birthday.
“I’d like to think I’m going to throw it farther than I am,’’ said Hogan, who’s been practicing for the first toss. “I’ll do the best that I can.’’
Hogan’s first pitch is one in a series of events the Red Sox have planned this season to celebrate Fenway’s 100th anniversary; it opened on April 20, 1912, when the Red Sox faced the New York Highlanders.
Hogan’s grandson, Bill Hogan IV, works for Fenway Sports Management, a sister company of the Red Sox doing marketing for the team, and he said his grandfather attended the announcement by the team promoting the centennial celebrations for the ballpark.
Attending that news media event helped his grandfather secure the opportunity to throw out the first pitch, said Hogan IV, who is 39 and calls his grandfather “Jr.’’
Family from the area and several states will be at Fenway Park to see Hogan’s toss, his grandson said.
“He’s been working on it,’’ Hogan IV said. “I think he’ll do great. He’s a big Red Sox fan, so this means the world to him, I know.’’
The elder Hogan got his start in baseball by playing the game as a child while growing up in Cambridge, where he was a member of the baseball team at Cambridge Latin High School, and went on to play second base at Boston College. He was also captain of the Boston College hockey team before graduating in 1933.
Hogan said he graduated from Harvard Law School and pursued what became a long career as a lawyer, and remains an honorary trustee of Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge.
Hogan’s career didn’t keep him from following the national pastime, however, and over the years he’s been present for some of Boston’s most memorable baseball moments.
In 1948, said Hogan, he was at Fenway Park when Hall of Fame shortstop Lou Boudreau led the Cleveland Indians over the Red Sox in a one-game playoff to decide the American League pennant. Hogan said he was also at Fenway on what was a dreary, overcast day when Ted Williams hit his last home run in his last at-bat before retiring from the Red Sox in 1960.
“I don’t think that [the fans] realized, at least I didn’t, that he was never going to show up again,’’ Hogan said.
Over the years, Hogan said, he watched the Red Sox get close to winning everything, but he was happy to see the team finally end its 86-year drought and win the World Series in 2004.
“It was something you had become a part of,’’ he said. “It was good to see them win.’’
To prepare for his big birthday pitch, Hogan said, he’s been working for the past month with medical staff at Brookhaven of Lexington, the retirement home where he now lives, and making practice throws.
While he credits much of his long life to keeping active and exercising, Hogan said preparing to make the first pitch has posed a challenge because one of the first things to go for an athlete is his legs. Still spry at 99, Hogan can get around without a cane or a walker, though he said the staff members at Brookhaven have been urging him to use a walker to prevent him from falling and breaking a hip.
Despite his practicing, Hogan said, he doesn’t think he’ll be able to throw the baseball the full 60 feet 6 inches from the pitching mound to home plate.
But he said he’s looking forward to the experience, and being at the ballpark with about 40 family members, including his 18 great-grandchildren.
“I don’t think about how old I am,’’ he said. “Every day is another good day for me and I look forward to whatever it is, because I always have something coming up ahead. I don’t plan on just sitting back and doing nothing.’’