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El Paso football coach fought discrimination

Gaines Baty has written an interesting book about his father’s impressive and principled success as a high school football coach in El Paso in the early 1950s.

Champion of the Barrio (Texas A&M University Press, $24.95 hardcover) tells the story of Buryl Baty, a Texas A&M quarterback in the 1940s who went on to produce winning high school teams at Luling and then El Paso Bowie. The book focuses on his years at Bowie, when he not only coached but inspired, influenced and stood up for his all-Hispanic team from the Segundo Barrio.

The school, which had enjoyed little success in football before Baty came along, won two district championships and was on its way to a third when Baty’s life tragically ended. He was only 30 years old. The author, his son Gaines, was only 4.

The lessons Baty taught his players had a great impact on them for the rest of their lives, and many of them are quoted in the book.

Gaines Baty tells how his father was a pioneer, “a champion for equality,” in fighting blatant prejudice and discrimination that his players had to endure in the early 1950s, especially during road games outside of El Paso.

Two games in particular are highlighted, and both took place in Snyder —in 1952 and 1954, ten years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, etc.

Gaines Baty tells how the team had to suffer racial slurs at a restaurant before the 1954 game and then from school officials, players and referees during the game. Snyder beat Bowie 19–0, but after the game Coach Baty told his team: “There were two contests going on here tonight: one of character and the other of football. You won the more important one.”

Author Baty said of his father: “I did not know my father well, or for every long. Now, I’ve finally met him. I realize that he is alive inside me, and inside my children. And he has inspired me. This man lives in the hearts of many. I’m proud to pass on his inspiration to future generations.”

Former player David Canales concurred: “I try to live up to his example every day.”

The El Paso Bowie stadium was named for Buryl Baty in 1998, and Baty was elected to the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.

Gaines Baty founded and directs an executive search firm in Dallas and was himself a football star at Texas Tech and is a member of the Garland, Texas, Sports Hall of Fame.

Glenn Dromgoole is co-author of 101 Essential Texas Books. Contact him at g.dromgoole@suddenlink.net.

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columns in Lone Star Literary Life here.