Eriksmoen: Higgins had his own baseball career before becoming a sports announcer
In 1955, after he had been a successful starting pitcher in the minor leagues for eight seasons, Roger Higgins was persuaded to join the Bismarck Barons in the ManDak League. The ManDak League was founded in 1950 as an independent baseball league with teams in Manitoba and North Dakota. It was a home for many African-American and Latino players, and Bismarck joined the league in 1955.
Al Cihocki, a former infielder with the Cleveland Indians, became the manager and a player for the Barons. He began assembling players for the team. Higgins and Ray Dandridge, an all-star third baseman in the Negro League, became key players.
In their first season, the Barons won the league championship with a record of 47-31, and Higgins was one of the main pitchers on the team, posting an 8-3 record. The star of the team was Dandridge, who led the league in batting with a .360 average. He was later enshrined in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1955, Higgins led the league in pitching with a 12-1 record. Again, the Barons posted a record of 47-31, but unfortunately, they finished in second place since the Williston Oilers ended the season with a 49-29 record.
Red Marion, who had been Higgins' manager on three different occasions, had been named manager of the Las Vegas Wranglers in 1956 and he needed a good starting pitcher, pitching coach and assistant manager. He knew that the best person to fill all of those roles was Higgins, but he was reluctant to leave Bismarck because he had fallen in love with a Bismarck girl, Ramona Bosch.
Higgins accepted Marion's offer and became the ace of the staff going 16-12. He also became a sports broadcaster over station KBOM. On Sept. 28, he married Ramona, and after completing his contract at KBOM, the couple moved back to Bismarck. The ManDak League had folded after the 1956 season, so Higgins could no longer play professional baseball. In the fall of 1957, Higgins became sports director at KXMB in Bismarck where he remained until March of 1959. In the summer of 1959, he was named manager of the Bismarck Governors, the city's American Legion Baseball team. In 1961, his team was 39-17 and won the North Dakota State Championship by defeating Grand Forks 8-2.
In the fall of 1959, Higgins had accepted a sales position with Meyer Broadcasting Company, and in 1961, he began doing play-by-play at sporting events over Meyer's flagship at KFYR. In 1963, he was named president of the Bismarck-Mandan Pards and took an active role in assisting the manager, Vern Morgan, in player development.
In 1964, Higgins was named sports director for both radio and television at KFYR,, and he soon built a solid reputation in the media. In 1971 and again in 1975, he was honored as the state's "Sportscaster of the Year." In 1989, Higgins retired from television broadcasting and joined radio station KLXX as the voice for the University of Mary Marauders. Roger A. Higgins died at his home in Bismarck on Nov. 10, 2003.