Jim Heise was signed by the Washington Senators as an amateur free agent in 1956, the son of Clarence Heise, also a Major League Baseball pitcher. This second-generation Major League Baseball player deserves a look "beyond the stats" and we hope you enjoy the following article as much as we did:
Heise followed father's footsteps into major leagues
Jim Heise followed in his father’s footsteps and made it to the major leagues. Combined totals show that father and son played in a total of nine big league games. Jim played in eight games for the old Washington Senators and the elder Heise, Clarence, appeared in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Heise honed his baseball skills playing for his father in the Fay-West baseball league. He joined the Air Force after graduating from Scottdale High School in 1948. After his stint in the Air Force he enrolled at West Virginia University in 1953, and soon became a mainstay for coach Steve Harrick’s Mountaineer pitching staff.
Heise set 10 WVU pitching records during his Mountaineer career. Those records include career wins (24), season wins (10), career earned run average (2.22), career strikeouts (277), season strikeouts (111), career winning percentage (.706), career innings pitched (283.1), season innings pitched (106.2), career appearances (58), and season appearances (18). His 58 career appearances still stands as a school record, and his career innings pitched currently ranks second. He is third in career strikeouts.
Heise led the Mountaineers in wins three times, strikeouts four times and ERA once during his career, leading the team in all three categories during the 1955 season. He was named to the all-Southern Conference first team in 1953, 1955 and 1956. Heise led WVU to one of its most successful seasons in 1955. The team finished with a 20-6 record and nearly advanced to the College World Series. The Mountaineers compiled a 55-29 record during his career, with Heise being responsible for 24 of those victories.
George Washington University head baseball coach Bill Reinhart recommended Heise to the Washington Senators. The 23-year old Heise signed with the Nats on May 31, 1956, and was assigned to the farm club at Hobbs, N.M. At the time the Senators’ front office in Washington said Heise had been given a substantial income, although not above the $4,000 which would have put him in the bonus player class.
Heise spent the 1956 season pitching for Hobbs Sports (New Mexico) of the Class B Southwestern League. He helped the team to the league title, appearing in 21 games with an 8-5 record. He was invited to the Senators’ training camp in the spring of 1957. Heise had, however, taken a teaching position in Hobbs for the winter months and was unable to join the club in Florida. In fact, he didn’t commence play until the 26th of May with the Midland, Texas, club.
After posting a 2-2 record for Midland, the 6-foot, 180 pound right-hander was called up to the Senators on June 26, 1957. Heise pitched 60 innings for Midland, allowing 62 hits. He struck out 63 and gave up three walks. He completed three of the six games he started.
Heise had considered quitting baseball in the spring while teaching school in Hobbs, N.M., before receiving a summons to join the Senators a month after joining Midland. Heise gave a glimpse of what it was like to toil in the minors back in the day, when he said he was looking forward to the $8-a-day meal money (compared to $3 in the Southwest League) and the $7,000 minimum salary when he signed a Washington contract.
Heise was touted by Pat Stacey, the Midland business manager, and the Nats decided to send George Pastors, one of their scouts, to look at him. He apparently impressed and was brought up to the crippled Washington staff.
On June 29, 1957, Heise made his major league debut against the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox ruined Heise’s first outing, socking him for six runs on nine hits before he was relieved in the seventh inning.
Bob Addie, Washington Post columnist, wrote this after Heise, who went direct from Midland to the Senators, pitched his first big league game: “If the ex-West Virginia University right hander at times suspected he was back in Class B ball at Midland, no one would have blamed him. His support wasn’t of the best and a couple of singles were played into triples.”
Heise was pitching for the lowly Senators — “first in war, first in peace and last in the American League.”
It wasn’t the first time that Heise had pitched at Griffith Stadium in Washington. In his only previous appearance in Griffith Stadium, Heise, pitching for West Virginia University, lost to George Washington, 8-7, after pitching a one-hitter in his first start.
“I was pretty cocky, but they took that out of me in a hurry.”
Heise spent the month of July with the Senators, going 0-3 with a 8.05 ERA in eight appearances and his time in the “show” was over. Heise spent the rest of the year with the Chattanooga Lookouts of the Southern Association, going 4-1 with a 1.31 ERA.
He spent 1958 in a combined season, going 5-5 with a 3.84 ERA for the Charlotte Hornets of the South Atlantic League and also won 5 and lost 5 with a 4.97 ERA for the Chattanooga Lookouts, giving him an overall 10-10 record for the season. He stayed with the Chattanooga club for the 1959 year and went 9-8 with a 2.93 ERA. 1960 was not a good year for Heise. The 27-year-old was with both the Charleston Senators and the Chattanooga team again, and won only two games against nine losses while pitching 110 innings.
Heise notched his first win with Charleston in 1960 on April 20, when he was the winning pitcher for the Senators in an 8-3 victory over Denver.
“I was so anxious to win.” Heise said at the time, “that I wasn’t getting the ball over. Well, most of ‘em were over, but a little slow … yes, mostly sliders. But it feels good to get that first one.”
Heise went to the mound one time in 1961 with the Wilson Tobs of the Class B Carolina League. He pitched two innings, was bothered with arm trouble and decided to call it a career. He wound up his 6-year minor league career with a 35-35 record and a 3.88 ERA in 145 games.
After Heise retired from professional baseball, he moved to Orlando, Fla., where he became a teacher, coach and administrator for 32 years before he retired in 2002.
Heise died at the age of 80 on April 21, 2011. He and his wife, Peggy, were married for 51 years. They had two daughters, Cheryl Vigue and Jamie Olson.
He was inducted into the West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame on October 8, 2011.
Copyright © 2012, Baseball Almanac, Updated for Baseball Almanac and reprinted with the express written permission of George Von Benko and The Herald Standard.
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