Gaines Baty says he was stunned to come across mention of his late father, Buryl Baty, while reading Jim Dent’s football best-seller, Twelve Mighty Orphans. Buryl died tragically when Gaines was 4, after becoming a legendary quarterback at Texas A&M and respected coach at Luling High School and Bowie in El Paso.
“My dad’s story is as inspirational as the one I’m reading,” Gaines decided, and he set about writing his father’s inspiring tale.
Gaines was right.
Gaines used more than 300 news articles and found personal diaries, scrapbooks, yearbooks, recordings and images. He interviewed 100 individuals, including friends, relatives, teammates, players, students, reporters and fans. His book, published by Texas A&M University Press and titled Champion of the Barrio: The Legacy of Coach Buryl Baty, can be ordered from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and will be available on Kindle March 15.
“My encounters with those who knew him, and the stories they told, served to make my dad more real to me,” says Gaines. “I feel like I know him now.”
Buryl Baty was a man worth knowing.
From his humble beginnings in Paris, Texas, to his rise as a winning quarterback, to his surge as an Aggie athlete, to his call as a soldier in WWII, to his life as a Texas football coach, Buryl was a heroic leader. But when he opted to coach boys from the Segundo Barrio in El Paso in the 1950s, he faced racism that stung unlike any injury he had ever faced. Sometimes, his team was turned away at the local diner before games. Other times, stadium restroom facilities were off limits. The lessons he taught his players lifted them beyond the gridiron, and in rededicating their stadium in his honor, the town proved they had not forgotten their beloved coach.
“It was only as I dug into the story that I realized the courage required for and the long term impact of his actions,” explains Gaines. “He stood up against his contemporaries, and perhaps against his own upbringing, to fight for his boys. He objected to discriminatory treatment and demanded equal accommodations for his team, before these rights were legally granted. Before it became popular to do so. Many former players describe specific instances when he became their hero, and even his bigoted opponents had great respect for him.”
I asked Gaines if Buryl would have considered himself a hero.
“Absolutely not. ‘Winning’ was what he was there to do, and what he was geared to do. He was a competitive person and sought nothing less than success in his chosen profession.
“My dad took a bunch of downtrodden kids and molded them into champions on the field and strong students in the classroom,” says Gaines. “But the ultimate outcomes were greater than just immediate ‘performance.’ Going forward, these boys considered themselves winners, capable of achieving high goals. They believed in themselves. They carried with them the acquired tools to be successful in life – to be honorable and responsible men. And they passed on Coach Baty’s teachings to their own children and grandchildren.”
Gaines Baty became an All-Southwest Conference football player for Texas Tech and was inducted into the Garland Sports Hall of Fame. He founded and directs a successful executive search firm in Dallas, and raised three children in Lake Highlands where he lives with wife, Keri.
I was never an athlete, but I could not put this book down. This is the gift for every sports lover in your life, but also every educator, every do-gooder and every unlucky soul who needs inspiration.