CHAMPION OF THE BARRIO
The Legacy of Coach Buryl Baty
R. Gaines Baty
Genre: Biography / Sports / Civil Rights
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Date of Publication: February 9, 2015
Number of Pages: 288
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In 1947, after serving in WWII and quarterbacking the Texas Aggies during the glory days of the old Southwest Conference, Texas football legend Buryl Baty was drafted by the Detroit Lions. But, the NFL wouldn’t be where he’d create his legacy. He instead became the head football coach at Bowie High School in El Paso, where he’d inspire a team of Mexican Americans from the Segundo Barrio with his winning ways and stand against the era’s extreme, deep-seated bigotry.
Tragically, however, just as the team was in a position to win a third championship in 1954, they were jolted by news that would turn their worlds upside down.
Later, as mature adults, these players reflected on Coach Baty’s lasting inspiration and influence, and 44 years after his death, dedicated their high school stadium in his name. The El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame followed up that honor in 2013 by inducting Baty posthumously.
In this poignant memoir, Baty’s son, R. Gaines Baty, describes his own journey to know his father, portraying the man’s life and accomplishments through the perspectives of nearly 100 individuals who knew him, including many of the young men he coached and whose lives he changed. In addition to many documented facts and news reports. NFL Hall of Famer Raymond Berry provides a heartfelt and relevant foreword.
A university professor labeled this an important and historic piece of work. It is also a moving story of leadership and triumph over hardship, over discrimination, over tragedy, over one’s self.
PRAISE FOR CHAMPION OF THE BARRIO:
“The best love story I have ever read.” –William “Bill” Reed, author and retired news reporter/assistant editor at the Dallas Times Herald and Dallas Morning News.
“Champion of the Barrio is an important contribution to our understanding of the power of sports to reach, teach, and transform and a vivid portrait of an inspirational figure who was cut down too soon.” –Alexander Wolff, award-winning sports journalist, Sports Illustrated
“You could not grow up in Paris, Texas without knowing about Buryl Baty. He took on the world, and he won. This is an inspiring account and a great read.” –Gene Stallings, former head coach at Texas A&M, of the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and of the national champion Alabama Crimson Tide; Member, College Football Hall of Fame
“I knew Buryl Baty well. He created a glorious era and legacy for his team and school, and it was unbelievable how he captured El Paso’s heart. This is a gripping story — that brought tears to my eyes. Buryl Baty’s name lives on.” –Ray Sanchez, former writer and editor of the El Paso Herald-Post, author of seven books, member of five Halls of Fame and consultant for the movie Glory Road
“Perhaps one of Buryl Baty’s most important legacies is the hard lessons he taught a generation of Mexican Americans, who overcame so many strikes against them. El Paso owes Gaines Baty a ton of gratitude for reconnecting us with a man whose story continues to inspire.” —El Paso Times
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What a wonderfully inspiring book—especially for young men coming of age. Do you do any outreach with schools regarding the book and the stories found within it?
Great question. It was written with young men and women in mind. And we want to get the story out to kids who might benefit from it. To date, the following has happened or is happening in this direction:
- Several high schools and one college that we know of are considering the book for a reading option and/or curriculum inclusion
- One man is using the book as a guideline in helping troubled kids in Albuquerque, NM. He says that these boys have ankle bracelets in lieu of incarceration due to drug and/or gang activity, and that some of the ‘Champion’ principles and leadership approaches are very helpful in his efforts. He wants to help these boys earn the right to remove their ankle bracelets.
- The book is required reading for consideration for two scholarship awards. The best essays on the book win partial college scholarships.
- 276 books were handed out to Christian Coaches Retreat participants this summer to serve as inspiration on how to reach and influence kids in a positive and constructive manner.
- 75 books were given to a group of high school student athletes from across Texas, and a $1000 scholarship was awarded to a very deserving boy from Wichita Falls.
- We hope to place the book in as many high school and college libraries as possible. This will require funding to provide the books.
- A university professor/dean suggested that this was a “very important piece of work”, and that he intended to structure discussions for his Hispanic Studies classes
- I have been asked to speak to groups of high school athletes about how the lessons in the book relate to them.
We want to do more. Any requests or suggestions from your readership will be appreciated.
A portion of the proceeds of the book goes to the Buryl Baty Scholarship Fund. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, a significant portion of the proceeds will go toward a scholarship for one or more deserving senior students at Bowie High School in El Paso. It will be awarded based upon a number of selection criteria, including an essay on what they learned and their experience of reading Champion of the Barrio.
In fact, it is noted in the book that contributions can be made in any amount to: Bowie Alumni Association, Scholarship Fund, (Buryl Baty Memorial Scholarship), PO Box 1804, El Paso, TX 79949. A couple of really good kids would appreciate your help.
As an executive recruiter, it has struck me that you and your father may have had a lot in common. That is, finding the right players with the right character for the right position. You’ve probably heard that before. What other ways have you felt or heard that you were similar to your father even though you lost him when you were a child.
Any comparison to my dad is considered a compliment by me. I have been told that I look like him, I sound like him, that our demeanors are similar. His kids (former players – now 80+ years old) call me “Coach.” And some call me “Hermano,” claiming that I am one of their family. Our jersey numbers (#84) were the same – purely by coincidence? And I love to coach…I coach daily in my business. One other connection comes to mind… as I wrote the book, I felt that I was almost channeling his spirit on its pages. It seemed that, as Harriet Beecher Stowe said, “I just held the pencil.”
Like your father, you played college football. He played at Texas A&M, and you played at Texas Tech. How did playing college football shape your coming of age?
Football was in my blood, and I always “hoped/knew” that I’d play college ball. I’m sure this was inspired by my father’s legacy, and made possible by a few of his genes. The actual realization of this dream constituted, for me, closure of a lifelong goal and the most exciting thing I’d ever done. Subconsciously, it probably was my way of measuring up to my dad’s standards. The experience, and a few great coaches along the way, undoubtedly ingrained in me the principles that have contributed to any successes I have attained: confidence, work ethic, preparation, tenacity, rising to challenges, teamwork, pursuit of excellence, etc. It was very moving and personal for me when the accounts of so many of my dad’s speeches and comments echoed these same tenets.
Are you a father, and if so, how has your father’s story inspired you to become a better father?
I have three great adult children (and each with their own great spouses). As I researched and learned of my dad’s teachings, I frequently thought to myself that “I wish someone had told me that when I was young,” and “I wish I’d told my kids that when they were young,” and “I hope they tell their kids that.” Partially because of these realizations, the book was written with young people in mind. I insisted that my kids read it. They loved it, and thanked me for writing it.
To answer your question, yes it has helped me and hopefully many others to be better fathers/parents, teachers and mentors. I feel that this process has in many ways made me a better person. Hopefully, the book serves the purpose of carrying on his work.
R. GAINES BATY, Coach Buryl Baty’s son, was a “Featured Author” and panelist at the 2015 Texas Book Festival in recognition of Champion of the Barrio, He has been published or quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News, Healthcare IT News, etc. Professionally, he founded and leads a nationally-recognized executive search firm, and is a career counsellor, trainer and author. Previously, he was an accomplished college athlete, receiving All-Southwest Conference and All-Era honors. In 2011, he was inducted into the Garland (TX) Sports Hall of Fame.
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