Thursday, April 7, 2011

Arizona's Two: Jumping Over Hurdles, Pitching Through The Times

My grandson Tyler is one of the many youngsters who run track and play sports. Not long ago I sat for two days watching over 1200 young people from not only Arizona but other states like California. They range from 5 years old to around 16 years. 

 I am amazed at the stamina they have when they run the long races like the 1200 and how good their form is when they run sprints, hurdles and other events.

And as any parent or grandparent would do, I started to tell my grands how good I was in sports. I am still wondering why they got up and went to the food stand.  Heck, I ran track in school and even played softball both slow and fast pitch. 

Now you have track clubs,  football  and softball clinics. and other avenues to compete in even before you get into high school.

Such opportunities they have now as compared to way back when and it got me to thinking about Arizona and down the road from Phoenix to Tucson.

Jumping Over Hurdles:  Joe Batiste

Originally from Lake Charles La, Ernest and Loretta  Batiste moved to Arizona  in 1926 for a better life. Their sons Ernest, Joe, Frank and Fred were all athletes who took Arizona by storm.  I am not sure if daughters Halle and Florine were athletes but I bet they  would have been  good ones.
Joe Batiste was not allowed to participate in football  at the high school at first because of his race. It wasn’t until Mesa High School  tried to get Batiste away that Tucson High allowed him to play.

Joe really wanted to play football so his refusal to run track unless he was allowed to play football was another factor in finally getting a shot  to play.  Way to Go Joe!!!

Just to show you how good he was in track,  Batiste set a world record in the 120 yd high hurdles in 14.0 seconds in 1939.

The American team  that went to Europe had their games cut short when the Germans invaded Poland.  When Joe and the American team came home, Joe was honored with a parade in Tucson.

Batiste qualified for the 1940 and 1944 United States Olympic teams as a hurdler and a decathlete, but the war forced the cancellation of those games also.

Joe was considered one of the best athletes that came out of Tucson.  Even as good as Joe  was, he was held back on getting a scholarship because of the color of his skin and the prejudices of the then coach of the University of Arizona. 
He was inducted in the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame  in 1990.
Batiste Enlisted in the Army in 1942, served his country and came back to all the trials that he had endured before he left.
Joe Passed away at the age of 38.
Pitching Through The Times:  Billie Harris

Billie Harris originally from Tucson was the first African American woman to play in a professional all women's softball league in Arizona.  She was an out standing left handed pitcher who had a batting average of 260,  pitched 4 perfect games and 70 no hitters in her career.

Harris played for a team called the Sunshine Girls in 1948. When they played a game in Phoenix against the Ramblers. In 1950 she came on board with the Ramblers.
I got a chance to see Billie Harris pitch at Rambler Field in Phoenix.  She pitched so fast that I could hardly see the ball .
The softball team I played for "The Mesa Cactus Wrens" had  games at Rambler field also.  We were one of the teams that played before the big games.

Billie's softball fast pitch career lasted for over 28 yrs and an amazing 6 decade player with all her other accolades such as coaching at Mesa Community College.

Ms Harris was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame in 1982 and in the Arizona Sports Hall in 2010.