Larry Miggins was one of my four major Houston Buff heroes during those kids days I traveled in the years following World War II. The others were my late great friends, Jerry Witte and frank Mancuso, plus the still going and thriving “Little Pepperpot,” Solly Hemus. Through today, the irrepressible Mr. Miggins remains on this Good Earth as one of my dearest friends in the world.
Miggins is also a member of SABR, the Society for American Baseball Research. In fact, this past Saturday, at the Larry Dierker Chapter meeting of SABR held prior to the game in the board room at Minute Maid Park, Mr. Miggins entertained by playing a CD he had written and performed in honor of the great home run year of Mark McGwire back in 1998. I know the song, but unfortunately had to miss this special performance due to the fact that Jimmy Wynn and I were tied into a book signing of “Toy Cannon” at the ballpark’s retail store that ran through the meeting time. I’m sure it went great.
What brings it to mind is the e-mail I received from fellow SABR member Tim Gregg late yesterday, reminding me of Larry’s special place in the history of Jackie Robinson. My God! Most of us around here know about it. Why haven’t we snapped to the fact earlier that we harbor a member within the sheltering coves of our very own SABR chapter who rides high as an historical participant in one of Jackie Robinson’s landmark moments of breaking the color line? We have to wonder too: Why haven’t the Astros thought of Larry Miggins each season when the special day for honoring the memory of Jackie Robinson comes about on the schedule? Maybe they do not realize that the connection exists.
Here’s the connection: When Jackie Robinson stepped across the ancient color line to play regular season integrated professional baseball for the first time since the late 19th century that a black man had been allowed on the field of competition with whites, Larry Miggins was there as a member of the other team. On April 18, 1946, when Jackie broke in as second baseman for the visiting Montreal Royals, Larry Miggins was there playing third base for the home club Jersey City Giants.
That historic game was played at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, New Jersey on a spring afternoon opening day and 51,000 jubilant fans showed up to celebrate the fall of a wall that never should have been there in the first place.
The Royals won, 14-1, and Robinson’s performance that day was pure Hollywood. After grounding out 6-3 in the first, Jackie came up in the third and bashed a long three-run homer to left, followed by three singles before the day was done. In addition to his four hits, Robinson also had four runs batted in and two stolen bases on the day.
Larry Miggins has a great photo of one stolen base. It shows Jackie Robinson sliding in safely at third underneath Larry Miggins’ swiping glove. What a day that must have been.
Next time “Jackie Robinson Day” comes around, I hope the Houston Astros will invite Larry Miggins to be a participating celebrant. Maybe our SABR chapter will find a way to pass on a reminder to the new ownership.
Congratulations, Mr. Larry Miggins! – We are all quite proud to have your company in SABR, and that would be true, even if you had never played a game anywhere near Jackie Robinson. Your humor elevates our spirits – and your sterling character raises our standing as a baseball community.