Last night, about 7:00 PM, I got one of those phone calls you never hope to receive. It came by voice mail in sad, but metered words, words left there by former Houston Buff and St. Louis Cardinal Larry Miggins. I had only seen Larry the previous night, when we recreated the celebratory song from his 87th birthday party of August 20th at the September meeting of SABR downtown.
Monday night had been such a joyous occasion, but even then, neither of us knew that something tragic already had happened and was just waiting until Tuesday to reveal itself to all who knew and loved the eldest surviving son of Larry and Kathleen Miggins, the one and only Larry Joe Miggins.
Word had come that Larry Joe Miggins, age 52, had been killed on a rain-slickened wet highway last Friday night, September 14, 2012, as he was attempting to drive home from the annual Texas Gatorfest held in Anahuac. It was just the sort of thing that drove the life of good friend and amazing character Larry Joe. Hunting gators for population control and human consumption was just the sort of thing that would lure the retired Rice University physical plant engineer in pursuit of another passion. And, if it was anything like his family's historic preservation of the Dick Dowling statue in Houston, his participation with the Texas Army in recreations of the Battle at San Jacinto for Texas Independence, or his fiery all-heart play for the Houston Babies of 1860-rules vintage base ball, I feel sure that the gators had no chance in the wake of his mighty Miggins presence.
Larry's truck apparently had hydroplaned off the road during a storm and sailed into the brushes out of sight until its discovery Tuesday by a search team, and nearly four days after the fact of his loss. From the reports we have, he most probably was killed instantly, taken by God's Will, but to the shocking loss of all the family and friends who knew and loved him.
Early death among the twelve children of Larry and Kathleen Miggins is not new. In 2007, the family lost oldest son Rory after a long valiant battle with melanoma. Now they surrender next oldest brother Larry Joe to the violence of sudden death by automobile. We know this to be true. Larry Joe was never quite the same after the loss of his brother – and his grief was never-ending. Those of us family and friends who now survive him can only hope and pray that Larry Joe has now moved on to a state of eternal peace, reunion, and joy.
Larry Joe Miggins was one of those timeless, ageless people who could have survived in any century he might have incarnated. He had a knowledge of history and the basic skills required of those who knew how to handle life in the 19th century and earlier – and he had the intelligence and technological ability that would have suited him just fine in the 25th century.
I will miss my friend – my fellow lover of baseball – and my endless correspondent on all discussions about the Civil War and the relative value of the Lincoln presidency, which Larry Joe abhorred. We very often disagreed along the same union vs. secessionist lines that separated a nation 150 years ago, but we never lost respect for each other's right to think for ourselves. I will miss his play of logic, backed by the passion of his Irish heart. The two forces were inseparable.
Then there was baseball. And its poetry. And beauty. And the song that hummed its way through the whole narrative of the game. Larry Joe understood those things because he too was built the same way. He talked, and walked, and lived an eloquent life that was uniquely his own – and he carried it with him until the day he died.
Our Houston Babies are going to miss Long Ball Miggins greatly, but he will be with us in spirit. And we shall do all we are able to make sure that his great driving soul is never forgotten.
Recently, on August 28th, Larry Joe concluded an e-mail to me with these remarks: "I continue to learn from you and your Knowlege of history, daily whether it is in blog or e-mail. I do (battle) re-enactments for my love of history, but to also make the common man and young kids get an idea of the horrors of war."
I learned from you too, Larry. You were, and still are, as the knowledge of your life shall reveal to others, a great teacher of how to lean heavily into life with caring, courage, character, and commitment. We, your family and friends, simply reserve the right to miss you with all our hearts, minds, and souls.
Our human time together on earth is limited, but love is forever. And you are loved, my friend, by so many. including me, your friend, teammate, and colleague.
Funeral arrangements are pending.
Larry Joe Miggins is survived by his wife Sherl; his two adult children, Thomas and Laura; his parents, Larry and Kathleen Miggins; his surviving ten siblings, Eileen, John, Maureen, Noreen, Matthew, Kathleen, Neil, Robert, Patrick, and Michael; numerous brothers and sisters in-law; numerous nieces and nephews; and numerous aunts and uncles.
"Numerous" – Miggins is thy name.
Five years ago, the obituary for older brother Rory Miggins wrapped on a limerick that may ring home again:
"Fare thee well, my child, forever.
In this world, we have lost our joy.
But in the next, we will never sever,
There we'll find our darlin' boy."
Good night, Larry Joe, and give it your best. You're playing in the Really Big League now.