Champion of the Barrio Excerpt and Giveaway



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.



“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

* Amazon * Texas A&M University Press *


Chapter 1: “No Mexicans Allowed”

September 1954

Bowie High School’s coaches had looked forward to this game. At the same time, they had dreaded going back to Snyder; the trip there two years ago had been a nightmare. But this year, Coach Buryl Baty had prepared his players for some trademark small-town bigotry.

At seven thirty on Thursday morning, the players climbed up into the bus. They were carrying sack lunches and many also carried a second paper sack holding a change of clothes. They were full of energy as the bus accelerated eastward from the barrio and into the sunrise, but their banter and animation waned as the long drive grew hot and tiresome. When the Greyhound stopped to fill up four hours later in Roswell, the boys found a shady spot to eat their sandwiches. The late afternoon sun was dropping in the sky behind them by the time the bus finally slowed into Snyder’s central square. Curious boys now sat up to take in the sights of the town they had heard so much about.

As they drove through the square, Big Ernie Perea, the freshman defensive tackle, spotted a sign in a drugstore window.

Welcome to Snyder. No dogs or Mexicans allowed.

“Hey, guys!” he cried. “There’s one of those signs!”

An older teammate laughed. “One? You ain’t seen nothing, man.” Several upperclassmen had been to Snyder before, and the whole team, of course, had heard about the town. But the younger varsity players flew from window to window to gawk at the reappearance of the same sign in different storefronts.

The bus eventually eased into the mostly empty parking lot of the motel that had been reserved for the night.

Coach Baty strode into the lobby to check in. The manager, seeing two, then three boys trailing behind him, swiveled his head around to look out the lobby window at the parking lot, where the rest of the team was already milling.

“There’s been a mistake. All my rooms are rented,” he said coolly. Then, perhaps taken aback by the scowl on the coach’s face, he added, “There’s a place outside the city limits. It may have vacancies.”

“Then dial them,” Baty said, jabbing his finger at the phone. Having confirmed that the rooms could be had, he turned on his heel and left, the uncomfortable boys still in tow.

En route to the second motel outside of town, the coaches stopped to buy sandwiches and snacks for the boys, and the next morning, saving the team’s energies for the game, they brought breakfast in from a nearby grocery store. Reservations for lunch, however, had been confirmed at a café, where the players should be able to eat a healthy pregame meal. Until then they waited in their rooms. Some listened to the radio, over which they heard a local disc jockey say, “Don’t miss tonight’s game between your Snyder Tigers and the Mexicans from El Paso Bowie High School!”

Early that afternoon, the team’s bus rolled past the stately red-bricked courthouse toward a café on the square, and, brakes squealing, pulled to a stop. Players were allowed to get out and stretch their legs, but were told to stay near the bus. Coach Baty walked into the café, then stepped back out and waited by the front door. A huge man wearing a white, food-splattered apron soon followed him and after a short, hushed conversation, burst out with, “Coach, them Meskins are not going inside my place of bui’ness!”

The coach had anticipated just such a reaction. He leaned toward the massive, sweaty café proprietor and glared. “Yes, they are. I made reservations here, and we are gonna eat here. If you don’t feed my boys, we are gonna get back in that bus and head back to El Paso. And if we do, there’ll be no football game tonight.”

The declaration, and the intensity behind it, took the restaurant owner by surprise. Could this coach be serious? The owner winced as he considered the possible repercussions of a canceled ballgame. If he were held responsible, he could well be boycotted by Snyder football fans. While most of his fellow citizens shared his social views, nothing else was as important to them as Friday night football.

Little did he suspect, however, that the only person in town who stood to suffer more than he did over a cancelled football game was standing in front of him.


about the author


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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