Larry Miggins: Honesty is the Only Policy!

In 1950, Larry’s honesty may have cost his Columbus Redbirds team a playoff win.

84-year-old Larry Miggins and his dear wife Kathleen are two of my dearest friends. I count my lucky stars daily to have these good people of love, cheer, and integrity in my life as close companions on this ride through life. As a kid, I never would have dreamed it possible.

Larry Miggins was a Buffs baseball star back in the day. I was just a kid fan from the East End of Houston. I simply didn’t understand at the time that if you love baseball long enough it will bring you together with some of the people you once loved as players. Life is truly amazing.

Yep, Larry was one of my heroes as the left fielder  for the Houston Buffs of the Texas League over several scattered seasons in the late 1940s and early 1950s. 1951 was the big year. That was the season that Jerry WItte (38 HR) and Larry Miggins (28 HR) led the Buffs offense as Vinegar Bend Mizell and Al Papai pitched the club to the straight-away and playoff championship of the Texas League.

Larry had a reputation even back then as a pure of heart guy who wouldn’t tell a lie for anything. He once declined an opportunity to walk future movie star and wife of Bing Crosby Kathryn (Grandstaff) Grant to home plate in a beauty contest at Buff Stadium because “she barely had any clothes on.” As I recall, Miss Grandstaff was wearing one of those one-piece cover all bathing suits that were the very modest style for women in the early 1950s. It simply wasn’t enough flesh-covering material for the modest Mr. Miggins.

The ultimate Miggins honesty story occurred a year earlier, when Larry was playing left field for the AAA Columbus Redbirds of the American Association. How it all came about in a critical playoff game speaks volumes for the Miggins reputation for honesty that preceded the incident itself. The opposing manager in that game actually instigated the event in the hope that Larry’s honesty would allow his club to prevail in a critical game situation.

In a best-of-seven league playoff games semifinal contest, Columbus had won two of three against the St. Paul Saints in Minnesota before going home for what would turn out to be a memorable fourth game on Sept. 17, 1950.

Columbus held a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning when a grand slam homer by St. Paul catcher Jake Early suddenly gave the Saints a three-run lead. The next Saints batter, pitcher Bill Ayers, drove a ball to the deep left field wall in Columbus. Larry Miggins was the Columbus gardener in that area of the pasture.

Former Cardinal Larry Miggins’s two big league home runs came off Warren Spahn & Preacher Roe.

“I went over there and leaned up and missed the ball by about a foot,” Miggins exclaims. “The ball hit a seat in the stands and bounced back and I grabbed it and fired it back to second base.”

Umpire Bill Jackowski called it a ground-rule double. The call yanked St. Paul manager Tommy Heath out of the dugout on a fast track to protest. As Heath predictably started losing the argument he decided upon one final plea to Jackowski.

“Ask Miggins out in left field if it was a home run,” Heath pled.

Also aware of Miggins’s reputation for honesty, Jackowski started walking toward left field, taking a step he would have risked with few others. Jackowski was going to ask Miggins to report on what he had seen of the ball’s landing spot.

The teammates of Larry Miggins went into panic. Behind the walking umpire, Columbus shortstop Solly Hemus could be seen waving his arms in a desperate signal of “NO HOMER” to Larry Miggins in left. Center fielder Harry Walker actually tried to lead Miggns away from the advancing umpire.

Nothing worked. Umpire Jackowski caught up with a grim-faced, hands-on-hips Miggins in deep left.

“I lost the ball in the sun and couldn’t tell if it bounced in or went in (to the stands) on the fly, Larry,” the umpire explained. “I gotta ask you man to man: Was it a home run?’ ”

Miggins thought a moment and then spoke. “Bill,” Larry commented to the umpire, “anybody who hit a ball that far on the fly in this ballpark deserves a home run. Yes, it was a home run — but, for heaven’s sake, from now on, you do the umpiring. I have enough trouble trying to play left field.”

When Jackowski then gave the whilrybird sign for a home run in deep left, the grinning St. Paul runner went into his job-finishing jog from second base as the Columbus crowd rained loud boos upon the ump, the Saints, and their own left fielder, Larry Miggins. At inning’s completion, another chorus of boos for Larry Miggins accompanied him on his jog to the dugout.

Columbus lost that game but won the series in six. The Red Birds then followed that victory by defeating Indianapolis in the championship series when Mo Mozzali hit a home run in the top of the 13th inning in Game 7. The homer  earned the Red Birds a place in the Junior World Series. The Red Birds then defeated International League champion Baltimore four games to one in what proved to be the last Junior World Series title for Columbus — and the last year that Hemsley managed the team.

End of story. Start of integrity test.

If you had been in Larry’s Miggins’s shoes that day In Columbus back in 1950, how would you have answered the umpire’s question? Feel free to post your answer below as a comment if you so choose to own your position publicly.

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7 Responses to “Larry Miggins: Honesty is the Only Policy!”

  1. Phil Holland Says:

    I would have done the same thing that Larry did. Cudos to Larry.

  2. Muriel Everitt Kessler Says:

    As nice and honest as he was as a young man.

  3. Bob Jaynes Says:

    Memorial Day 2011 I met one of Larry Miggins sons (Larry) at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery. We talked of old times about the Houston Buffs. I began attending Buff games when I was in my first year of little league in 1950. Larry told me of his Dad’s stint with the Buffs and St. Louis Cardinals. I surely do wish I had known the story of the umpire inquiring about a long fly ball actually being a home run or not. What a marvelous story that is. Can’t you just imagine that happening in MLB this day in time? Bob Jaynes.

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  5. Andy Gosselin Says:

    I know Mr. Miggins. His son taught me at a school called Western Academy.

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