Kirby Higbe

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Kirby Higbe
Pitcher
Born: (1915-04-08)April 8, 1915
Columbia, South Carolina
Died: May 6, 1985(1985-05-06) (aged 70)
Columbia, South Carolina
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
October 3, 1937 for the Chicago Cubs
Last MLB appearance
July 7, 1950 for the New York Giants
Career statistics
Win–loss record 118-101
Earned run average 3.69
Strikeouts 971
Teams
Career highlights and awards
  • All-Star in 1940 and 1946
  • Led NL in wins in 1941 with 22
  • Led NL in strikeouts in 1940 with 137

Walter Kirby Higbe (April 8, 1915 – May 6, 1985) was an American right-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball from 1937 to 1950. He was a two-time All-Star. He was born in and died in Columbia, South Carolina.

Career[edit]

Higbe began his MLB career in 1937 with the Chicago Cubs before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in the middle of the 1939 season. A hard thrower, he was selected to the All-Star team in 1940. Following the season, he was traded again, this time to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He enjoyed his most successful season in 1941 when he went 22–9, tying teammate Whit Wyatt for the league lead in wins and finishing seventh in the MVP voting.

After the 1943 season, Higbe joined the United States Army. Initially assigned to the military police, he soon received training as a rifleman and saw combat in Germany. In 1945, Higbe and his fellow soldiers went to the Philippines; however, when they arrived there, they learned that Japan had surrendered. Nonetheless, he stayed in Manila until March 1946, at which point he finally returned to the United States. That year, he posted a 17–8 record and made his second All-Star appearance (where he gave up a home run to Ted Williams), but the Dodgers lost the National League pennant to the eventual world champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Higbe stayed in Brooklyn until just after the start of the 1947 campaign, when he was traded with four other players (one of whom was future Major League manager Gene Mauch) to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Al Gionfriddo. The reason for this trade was his refusal to play alongside Jackie Robinson. Before the season, Higbe joined Bobby Bragan, Dixie Walker, and Carl Furillo in boycotting Robinson; all except Furillo were Southerners. Higbe, who claimed that he had developed his arm throwing rocks at blacks while growing up in South Carolina, told Brooklyn general manager Branch Rickey that he would rather not play with a "negruh". When Rickey threatened to trade anyone who refused to play with Robinson, Bragan and Walker relented. Higbe, however, refused to budge on the issue, resulting in his trade to the Pirates.

While Higbe began the 1947 season with a 2–0 record for the eventual NL champion Dodgers; after his trade to Pirates he collapsed to 11–17. He was traded during the 1949 season, to the New York Giants, with whom he finished his MLB career. He played in the minor leagues until 1953.

He died in 1985 and was buried in Columbia's Elmwood Cemetery.

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