Family ties: Valley clans take in Tribe

Hirschbecks, Rohans

among Indians fans

who saw Game 1 win

By Tom Williams


Two Mahoning Valley clans with ties to Major League Baseball made Tuesday’s Game 1 of the World Series a family affair.

Umpire John Hirschbeck’s wife, Denise, and daughters Erin and Megan were at Progressive Field on Tuesday to watch his final Game 1 of the World Series. Hirschbeck, the umpiring crew chief, is retiring after 32 MLB seasons.

“This is the most special and will be the most memorable,” Denise Hirschbeck said of her husband’s fifth World Series.

North Lima brothers George Rohan and Greg Rohan were there to watch the game with their uncle, Steve Rohan, and cousins. For six seasons, Greg Rohan was a first baseman in the Chicago Cubs minor league system, rising as high as Triple A before a back injury ended his career.

“It’s something I’ve struggled with,” Rohan said of the conflict between his professional team playing the team he grew up rooting for. “It’s hard, definitely, because I spent six years of my life with the Cubs.”

Denise Hirschbeck said she’s ready for her husband to retire. On April 8, 2014, their son Michael, 27, died from adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), a rare neurogenetic brain disease for which there is no cure. In 1993, the Hirschbecks’ oldest son John died at the age of 8 from the sme disease.

Michael was a huge Indians fan, sometimes serving as bat boy or sitting on the Indians bench when his father was umpiring.

The Hirschbecks knew of John’s World Series assignment before the Indians clinched the American League pennant last Wednesday. “We were ecstatic because of our son Michael,” Denise said, “Michael had the biggest heart for the Indians.

“We just feel that this was meant to be,” she said. “We say there are angels in the outfield and we think Michael had something to do with this.”

Hirschbeck’s other World Series were in 1995 (Braves-Indians), 2006 (Cardinals-Tigers), 2010 (Rangers-Giants) and 2013 (Red Sox Cardinals).

Erin said this will the sisters’ second time going to both cities. The first time was the Boston-St. Louis series three years ago.

Denise said she’s more than OK with John’s retirement.

“I’m ready for it,” she said of John being off the road. “I had my girls at home before they went off to school and I always had Michael, who was basically always my priority. We were inseparable.

“I don’t want to say I’m lost without him. but I’m lonely, I’m ready for John to be done, to be home so we can enjoy some special times together.”

Do umpires’ families cheer? Sometimes.

“I’m watching John at second base, I’m hoping he doesn’t have too many close calls,” Denise said. “We’re not really supposed to [cheer] but as you can see ...”

She was referring to the Indians’ World Series hoodies that Erin and Megan were sporting.

Megan, an Ohio State graduate, agreed the atmosphere was similar to an Ohio State Michigan game.

“There is so much on the line here,” she said. “We’re all really excited the Cleveland pulled it off this year.”

About 75 minutes before the first pitch, the Hirschbecks met with Indians manager Terry Francona.

“He was special to Michael,” Denise said.

Greg Rohan also enjoyed a reunion, saying hello before the game to several Cubs players and coaches.

But there’s no question where his heart lies.

“We’ll be friends for a lifetime,” Rohan said. “But then I think about my grandfather who is 87 years old and can’t leave the house. He’s wearing his Indians jersey and watches Indians games.

“For his sake and my family’s sake, everyone that’s here, I definitely want the Tribe to pull off the win.”

The families — and other Cleveland fans — got what they wanted in Game 1. The Indians took the opener, 6-0.