Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 1,276
This is the grave of Pinky Higgins.
Born in Red Oak, Texas in 1909, Michael Higgins, better known as Pinky although he evidently hated the nickname, was a very good baseball player. He dominated on one of the best high school teams in Dallas when he played there and then went on to star at the University of Texas. The Philadelphia A’s signed him and he debuted for the As in 1930. That was just a cup of coffee and he played in the minors in 1931 and 1932. By 1933, he was a solid third baseman ready to start for the As. He was pretty good from the outset, having a solid .314/383/485 season as a 24 year old rookie. Twelve triples and thirteen homers didn’t hurt either. This was a 3.5 WAR season based on the Baseball Reference version of the statistic.
Higgins’ best year according to WAR would actually be his second, when he accounted for 4.4 WAR. He hit .330/392/508 with sixteen homers. He made the All-Star team and was 17th in the MVP voting. While this might have been his best season, he was a good solid third baseman for a long time. After the 1936 season, the As moved him to the Red Sox and he played in Boston for the next two seasons, before moving on to the Tigers. Basically, he was a .300 hitter with a little power for a long time. He really didn’t have any speed and he was at best average on defense. So he was limited, but he’s the kind of guy you could throw out there and not worry about it. In 1938, Higgins set the major league record with hits in twelve consecutive at-bats. He went to three All Star games and received MVP votes five times. He was pretty functional through the 1944 season. He spent 1945 in the military, came back in 1946 and didn’t do much, the Tigers released him, and then he signed with the Red Sox to finish the season before retiring.
Higgins immediately went into managing, working for the Roanoke Red Sox in the Class B Piedmont League. He rose in the organization and became the Red Sox’s manager in 1955. These were OK teams but Higgins was fired in the middle of the 1959 season after a bad start. But he stuck around with the organization due to being a personal friend of Tom Yawkey. They loved to drink and hunt together. He took back the managerial position in the 1960 season for three years, but those were not good teams. Then he became GM after the 1962 season and remained in that role until late in the 1965 season.
As a member of the Red Sox leadership, Higgins was critical in keeping that team super white. The Red Sox are well known for being the most racist team in professional baseball at this time and the last to integrate. While Yawkey and others such as Eddie Collins and Joe Cronin rightly get most of the blame, Higgins was right there with them. Higgins was the kind of guy who would drop the n-word everywhere and use such terms to discuss whites who were pro-civil rights as well. We are talking a white man from Texas being the most white man from Texas possible. Or, you know, South Boston. In fact, the Sox did not add Pumpsie Green to the roster until after firing Higgins during the 59 season. Now, sure, the Red Sox in the 60s did have Black players. By that point, it was impossible not to have them. I doubt Higgins created an especially welcoming environment for them in the clubhouse. He looked to have as few possible and often would include Black players in trades just to get rid of them.
In February 1968, Higgins was drinking in Louisiana. He got behind the wheel. He hit a construction crew and killed a guy. The stress over his legal case ruined his health, which maybe was going anyway. He plead guilty and was sentenced to four years, but was paroled after a whopping two months in the can. The day after his parole, he had a massive heart attack and died. He was 59 years old.
Pinky Higgins is buried in Sparkman-Hillcrest Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.
If you would like this series to visit other third basemen, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. According to Baseball Reference’s JAWS stat, Higgins is the 102nd best third baseman in history. For contemporary context, Mike Lowell is 99th, Todd Frazier is 100th, and Howard Johnson is 103rd. So he was that kind of guy. Of course all those guys are still alive. For dead third basemen, Ossie Bluege, the long-time Senators hot corner holder and who is 97th all time, is in Minneapolis. Eddie Foster, who preceded Bluege in Washington, is 102nd all time and is in Arlington, Virginia, but not on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee. Previous posts in this series are archived here.