Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of profiles on the Class of 2007 inductees.

AUBURN – You know that annoying super jock who’s good at everything and turns all he touches to gold?

Sixty years ago, his name was Bill Higgins.

Higgins graced the fields and courts at Edward Little High School before the days of single-sport specialists and virtual reality games. He pitched two no-hitters in baseball, won a state free-throw shooting championship in basketball and quarterbacked the football team.

“There was nothing else to do when we were in high school,” Higgins said. “There was no TV. That’s why we played sports.”

Now 75, Higgins has learned that his legacy as a young man for all seasons didn’t get lost in the history books. He is one of this year’s five inductees into the Auburn-Lewiston Sports Hall of Fame. The ceremony is scheduled for Sunday at Lost Valley.

Higgins graduated from EL in 1951. Having watched more contemporary Auburn baseball stars Bert Roberge, Mike Coutts and Bill Reynolds enter the Twin Cities’ hall in recent years, he was surprised to receive the call that added him to the club.

“It’s been quite a few years,” said Higgins. “I never thought I’d see the day.”

His own backyard

Pitching was Higgins’ first love.

Location is a key to any hurler’s success, but that had a double meaning for the slender, crafty Higgins. He considered it a blessing that his family’s home overlooked the old Triple-A Field, a baseball diamond that once bustled near the location that is now Gipper’s Sports Grill on Center Street.

“We lived right there,” he said. “We could play baseball all day long. My brother Dave spent an awful lot of time working with me on my pitching.”

Time has clouded the memory of Higgins’ two masterpieces. He knows one of the no-hitters came against Brunswick High School.

“The other one might have been Brunswick, also, but I can’t remember for sure,” Higgins said. “The thing about a no-hitter is that until it’s over, you don’t realize it’s happening.”

After his dominance in high school and a successful, one-year prep stint at Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield (playing all three sports and winning Athlete of the Year recognition), Higgins took his shot at an open tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Brush with big time

Higgins unleashed his repertoire at the complex that is now Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Sea Dogs. Just as radar guns and stopwatches dominate those gatherings today, Higgins found that scouts in the early 1950s were equally obsessed with measurable data.

“Here I was, 140 pounds,” he said. “When I tried out, all they wanted to see was a fastball. They didn’t care about other things like location.”

EL dropped three of its four football games against Lewiston in Higgins’ junior and senior seasons. Those disappointments were outweighed, however, by the fact that the quarterback took snaps from his younger brother, Gene.

“I believe he was one of the best linemen ever to play at Edward Little,” Higgins said.

As a sophomore, Higgins qualified for the state foul shooting final and sank 47-of-50 to take home the trophy.

Higgins had the privilege of playing for some of Auburn-Lewiston’s legendary coaches: Steve Grenda in football; Clyde Hatch in basketball; and Artie Belliveau in baseball. Belliveau was inducted into the A-L Hall in 1988. Grenda followed in 1993.

“I had an awful lot of respect for those guys. I wouldn’t have been much without them,” Higgins said.

Closing the book

Not everything came easily to Higgins.

Though he was a versatile athlete, Higgins insists that he didn’t share the same fervor for the classroom.

“If it hadn’t been for sports, I don’t know what I would have done,” he said. “I was not a good student. I really couldn’t bring myself to study. I don’t know why. All we did was play ball.”

Higgins remained a jack-of-all-trades in his adult life.

He played baseball and basketball in local semipro leagues, coached in Auburn Suburban Little League and officiated high school and college hoop games. Higgins took to golf rather nicely, too. He carded three holes-in-one and served a term as president of Martindale Golf Club.

After closing Bill Higgins, Inc., an office furniture business, in the 1990s, Higgins remains active as a driver for Allied Medical Service. He and Joyce, his wife of 53 years, have three children and four grandchildren.

But it’s what he accomplished between the lines as a teenager that will be remembered this weekend.

“Sports,” he said, “were my whole life.”


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