Archive for the ‘Ray Sanchez’ Category

Why UTEP Not a Consistent Winner In Football

Ray Sanchez© 10.16.16

I sort of feel sorry for UTEP athletic director Bob Stull. Just about every coaching selection he’s made for football or basketball since he took his present job in 1998 has been hailed as brilliant.
Charlie Bailey was the football coach when Stull took over. Stull’s first hire in football was Gary Nord, who was an instant success. In 2000, he won eight games, tied for the Western Athletic Conference championship, took the team to a bowl game and was hailed throughout the city.
Nord followed his first-year success with three straight two-win seasons.

ENTER MIKE PRICE. He, too, was an instant hit and hiring him was considered a great feather in UTEP’s hat. After all, he had been a national College Coach of the Year at Washington State and had been hired by Alabama. In his first two years, he won eight games each season and was the toast of the town.
He followed that up with six straight losing seasons.

THEN CAME Sean Kugler in 2013 with a resume that would make any college athletic director’s mouth water. Not only had he been a star player with the Miners but he had wide experience in the National Football League. He had been an assistant coach with the Detroit Lions, the Buffalo Bills and even the Pittsburgh Steelers. A sure-to-be winner with the Miners, right? Wrong.
He had a 7-6 season in 2014 but losing seasons in 2013 and 2015 and is off to a 1-4 start this year.

NO, IT’S NOT the fault of football coaches Stull has hired that has made the Miners losers on the gridiron. It’s the situation UTEP finds itself in and that is, isolation.
We are so far removed from major cities, major markets and major news centers that few of the better athletes want to come here. Which means that our football teams are going against bigger, stronger and faster players in game after game.
Oh, we’ve had some good players, like running back Aaron Jones this year, but not enough of them. And we’ve had some good teams, but not enough to sustain a winning program.

THE SOLUTION? Some say we should have stayed at our same level of competition and never left the Western Athletic Conference.
But I can’t blame Stull for wanting to improve the school’s status and competition and moving the Miners into Conference USA. It means more and better exposure for our players and our teams – and more money for UTEP.

THE OTHER major sport at UTEP, basketball, has been competitive but that’s a different story. It takes much fewer players to fill a team and means more good players are available.
And Stull has had much success in finding good coaches for that sport, too. That they haven’t stuck around long is not his fault. He’s lost most of them to those bigger and better paying schools.
Stull’s first hire in basketball was Jason Rabedeaux. Then came Billy Gillespie, Doc Sadler and Tony Barbee. The latter three produced outstanding teams and each took the Miners to the NCAA Tournament.
And finally, there’s the present coach, Tim Floyd. You couldn’t have asked for a better resume. He had been late UTEP coach Don Haskins’ assistant and had even coached the Chicago Bulls, for goodness sake.
He hasn’t made it to the NCAA Tournament yet but has produced winning teams.

ALL IN ALL, Bob Stull has been quite an asset to the University of Texas at El Paso. Before he took over as athletic director he coached the football team to its winningest football season ever, 10-3. And as athletic director he has not only hired highly qualified football and basketball coaches but has hired some good coaches for all the other sports.
In addition to all that, he’s greatly improved the athletic facilities to heights not even imagined before.
I highly admire the man.

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 History of El Paso Sports Continues to Spread

© by Ray Sanchez  10.09.16

And El Paso’s sports fame continues to spread. A display of the 1966 Texas Western twjersy College championship team is now part of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture which opened on Sept. 24. The Miners started and played only African American players in the NCAA championship game that year for the first time and beat University of Kentucky. The display incudes photos of the team, a Texas Western College jersey and a bio of the team. Participants in the opening ceremony included President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton, Rep. John Lewis and Lonnie G. Bunch III, the museum’s founding director.
ON ANOTHER front, the book about the Bowie High School football team which overcame adversity and discrimination but finished first in the district in 1950 and 1953, has been included in the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, culture and contributions of Americans whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The book, titled batybook“Champion of the Barrio” and written by R. Gaines Baty, the son of then football coach Buryl Baty, wrote how his father was an early pioneer in the fight against bigotry. He added, “In 1950, Baty became head football coach at Bowie High School in El Paso and quickly inspired his athletes, all Mexican Americans from the Segundo Barrio, with his winning ways and his personal stand against the era’s deep-seated bigotry to which they were subjected.”
TRIVIA QUESTION: Jim Brown led the National Football League in rushing from 1957 to 1965 except for one year. Who broke the streak? Answer at end of column.
THIS FROM Vincent C. Kemendo of New Braunfels, Texas: “I grew up in Kern Place in the 1940s and 1950s and at that time Harry Phillips had a Texaco service station at the southwest corner of North Mesa Street and Baltimore Street near where the Don Haskins Center is now. Many residents of Kern Place. including my parents, were customers of Phillips at his service station. My father told me that Phillips had been a football star at University of Texas. Phillips was Jewish and the sports reporters referred to him as ‘The Galloping Jew from Texas U’. Have you heard of Harry Phillips and know anything concerning his football playing days?”
YES, INDEED, I’ve heard of Harry Phillips. He was such a big backer of UTEP athletics he became somewhat of a legend around El Paso. And he, indeed, played football for University of Texas as a running back. He lettered and was a starter on the team in 1927 and 1928. He was so admired in El Paso he was inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame in 1969.
TIM HAGERTY made the El Paso Chihuahuas’ march to the Pacific Coast League championship this year even more enjoyable with his broadcasts – and his news reports. I looked forward every day to his latest written posts on the internet. He not only gave concise reports on the games with his stories but kept us up with transactions. He seemed to enjoy the season as much as anyone else. He writes: “It was a great thrill to call a championship. I have friends who have been broadcasting games for more than 25 years without ever announcing a championship-winning game. Also, for it to happen in an 11-inning suspenseful game added to the moment. Game 4 of the championship was an intense contest.” Thanks, Tim. Your fine work did not go unnoticed.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Jim Taylor of Green Bay in 1962.

El Paso’s Chihuahuas Deserved to Get a Parade

Ray Sanchez 09.25.16©

Nothing but kudos for the El Paso Chihuahuas who won the Pacific Coast League championship.To think they rose to the top of the 114-year-old Triple A league in only their third year of existence is all astonishing.
It has to go down as one of the greatest sports accomplishments in the history of El Paso.
And what a testament to the owners (Mountain Star Sports headed by Paul Foster), president Alan Ledford, general manager Brad Taylor, field manager Rod Barajas, the players and all the staff who have made going to Southwest University Park such a delight.
El Pasoans got to honor them at a game against the International League champions, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, last Tuesday, but I wish we could have paraded them all through town and thrown flowers at them. Maybe we still can. They’re certainly the toast of the town.

TRIVIA QUESTION: There was a heavyweight fighter who won the gold medal three times at the Olympics. Who was it? Answer at end of column.

HELP! EL PASO High School’s attempt to set a world record for high school reunions is in jeopardy. With only two weeks to go the list of those who have signed up is still a few hundred short of the 3300 needed for the homecoming game on Oct. 8.
GECU, a sponsor of the event, sent out this urgent message:
“El Paso is celebrating 100 years of providing education to our community. For more information on the event and other Centennial Celebration activities visit the El Paso High School Centennial Celebration site.
“Register today and help celebrate a 100 year old tradition of education in our community!”
But Michael Montes, president of the El Paso High School Alumni Association, is confident the Tigers will reach their goal. He says, “I strongly feel we will get to the magic number because I believe in the Tiger Spirit; that’s why I pushed for us to go after this record. I wanted to show the world how much the ‘Lady on the Hill’ means to her Alumni and community.”

WHAT’S WITH our UTEP golf teams? All of a sudden they look like winners. The men’s team went out and tied for first in the Gene Miranda Invitational in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the women, who were in first going into the final round, finished second in the Payne Stewart Memorial meet in Springfield, Mo. Is this a mirage or for real? We’ll know more when the men compete this weekend in the William Tucker tournament in Albuquerque and the women play in the Bob Hurley Shootout beginning Sept. 26 in Tulsa, Okla.

MORE AND MORE readers are calling for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to retire. He’s 37 years old and, as one reader put it, “He should get out before he gets even more serious injuries.” Good observation. Too many former players wind up so broken up they suffer horrific pain the rest of their lives. Local example: Jesse Whittenton, former Ysleta High, UTEP and Green Bay Packers star.

I MARVEL at the dedication of Kristi Albers’ efforts to help kids with the game of golf. Her First Tee of Greater El Paso program is currently in its fall sessions at Ascarate Golf Course. The next session will be held Oct. 11 through Nov. 15. There are even classes for “wee ones” (ages 3 through 6). If you have a kid starting out and need some golf clubs Kristi can get you a discount from U.S. Kids Golf. You can contact her at Ascarate Golf Course or at tftgreaterelpaso@clubmailer.memfirst.net.

AND HOW COULD Army have crushed UTEP at the Sun Bowl so easily (66-14) last Saturday? One former coach whom I admire highly says the Miners were over-coached. He says, “Army’s option offense was three-dimensional. The Miners should have stacked up the middle and it would have been only two-dimensional.” Hey, second guessing is fun.

ANSWER to trivia question: Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba in 1972, 1976 and 1980.

Recollections of the old El Paso Herald-Post

© by Ray Sanchez  07.10.16

When I retired as sports editor of the El Paso Herald-Post in 1990 (goodness, that’s 26 years ago), I turned one of the rooms in our home into an office. After all, our four children had flown the coop.
You can imagine how quickly the room got filled up. Even the closets. I’ve got pictures, books, magazines, newspapers, clippings, memorabilia, old columns, record books, trophies, computers, printers, files, even an old typewriter and every kind of paraphernalia in every nook and corner.
It’s so bad, my wife, Helen, bless her heart, seems afraid to enter the room.

BUT THROUGH all the mess, I accidentally stumbled upon a photo I just have to share with you.
Ed Pooley, editor of the El Paso Herald-Post from 1937 through 1963, was a curmudgeon in every sense of the word. He was always for the Average Joe and often referred to him as “Juan Smith” because of El Paso’s large Hispanic population. He loved to tweak the noses of the municipal powers, some of whom were anything but tolerant in those days, and was constantly on their backs.
Mr. Pooley also liked to party –especially with his staff. He would throw lavish parties for us. One night, he took over the entire nightclub called The Lobby in Juarez and invited all staff members. We drank and ate and danced until the wee hours.
Oh, how we loved him.
pooleyparty
THE PHOTO shown here is of one of the staff parties. It was taken in 1951 at Mr. Pooley’s home. That’s me on the extreme right and my wife on the extreme left. The fellow sitting on the floor next to me is Walt Finley, our police reporter at the time. But for the life of me, I can’t remember the names of the other folks. Nearly all of them were reporters or copy editors.
The photo is just a moment in time. But oh, what wonderful memories.
Can you help identify some of the staff?

TRIVIA QUESTION: Speaking of 1951, remember Bobby Thomson’s homer “heard round the world” that beat Brooklyn? Larry Jansen was the winning pitcher for the New York Giants but who was their starting pitcher? Answer at end of column

READERS WRITE: This from Laura Ramirez: “I just read your column about the Baseball Hall of Fame inductees and was surprised to see that after all these years of covering El Paso sports you still do not know that it is Irvin High School, not Irving High School.”
I wrote back: “You’re absolutely right. It was a stupid mistake. I’m so sorry and I’ll be more careful in the future.”
This isn’t an excuse, but sometimes when a word ends in “in” the finger (and the brain) slips and automatically adds the “g,” especially if you’re in a hurry. I’ve written millions of words during my career and it’s happened a few times. Mostly, I’ve caught it.

ON A POSITIVE note, Bufe Morrison, who started the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame, wrote: “Good article on the baseball hall. I knew Pete Leyva when I was very young. Thanks again for being good to the hall.” He signed the message, “Bufe Morrison (the world’s second greatest athlete.”
That piqued my interest. I asked him who he thought was the greatest athlete. He replied, “All the athletes but me tied for first and I got second! Hope you can make the banquet and say hi to Helen.”

EL PASO HIGH School has added a caveat to its attempt to break the world record for high school reunions: You have to register ahead of time. The latest news release states: “Check out more information on Guinness World Record Attempt. Be counted! Register online for the Guinness World Record Attempt or download, print and mail your application.”

ANSWER to trivia question: Sal Maglie.

‘Lady on the Hill’ is El Paso High’s 2016 Ex

© by Ray Sanchez 04.24.16

El Paso High School’s celebration, like the 1966 Texas Western College celebration, goes on.
Someone at El Paso High came up with a bright idea. Folks were wondering who the school was going to name its Outstanding Ex this very important 100th anniversary of the present building’s existence. Someone popped up and said, “Why not make it ‘The Lady on the Hill?’”
That’s how the building was known since shortly after its opening in 1916. The suggestion was a stroke of genius and yes, the building itself was overwhelmingly chosen as this year’s Outstanding Ex.

BY THE WAY, the El Paso Chihuahuas will be honoring El Paso High School with a “Centennial Night” Monday, May 2. I’ll let El Paso High School Alumni president Michael Montes tell you about it.
“The whole evening will be themed to EPHS and her 100 year history. The Tiger Pride Band will be playing pregame at 5: 30 p.m. at the Santa Fe Street entrance.
“The original Central School Bell that hung when El Paso High opened will be on display, also at the Santa Fe Street entrance. The El Paso High JROTC, the first cadet corps in the great state of Texas, will present the colors and a select EPHS Choir will sing the national anthem. We will have the president of the student body throw out a first pitch, along with a faculty member and a special alumni guest.

“THROUGHOUT the game, EPHS history will be featured on the jumbotron. This is definitely an event Tigers do not want to miss. It really is a special honor that the local Triple A team, the hottest ticket in town, will honor our Lady on the Hill in such a grand way.
“We are asking that all Tigers who attend wear Orange and Black and show their Tiger Pride! No other school in our area comes close to matching our history and it will be on full display in El Paso’s newest gem, Southwest University Park.”

TRIVIA QUESTION: Who hit the first grand slam homer in a World Series game? Answer at end of column.

THE EL PASO Baseball Hall of Fame also has some big doings scheduled this year. Following are some of the events announced by Hall President Tom Carrillo:
• Tuesday, July 26, will be Proclamation Day. The city will proclaim July 30 to August 6 El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame Week. The class of 2016 will be presented to the city then.
• Saturday, July 30, will be the second annual Meet and Greet Dinner at the Wyndham Hotel. It’s a dinner sponsored by Larry and Gabby Hernandez to host inductees and honorees.
• Thursday, Aug. 4, will be Chihuahuas Night. The inductees will be introduced before the game and throw out the first pitch at Southwest University Park. The El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame has reserved the Santa Fe Pavilion. Tickets are $30 and includes all you can eat food.
• Friday, Aug. 5, will be the 3rd annual golf tourney at Painted dunes Golf Course at 1 pm. Cost is $100.
• The induction banquet will be held Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Radisson Hotel at 5 p.m. Cost is $30. For tickets contact Leo Caraveo at 915-328-7821.

JESSE FONSECA, one of El Paso’s greatest boxers following World War II, quietly passed away March 26 at the age of 88.
Jesse was born in Lorraine, Ohio, but his family moved to El Paso when he was just a tyke. He never grew much and weighed under 120 pounds when he took up boxing, but he had a powerful punch. In his first 22 fights, he knocked out 21 opponents in the first round.
He eventually earned a world flyweight title fight with Harold Dade. The two went toe to toe and many to this day believe that Fonseca really won. However, it was declared a draw.
Jesse Fonseca left us with many special memories.

ANSWER to trivia question: Elmer Smith of Cleveland in 192

Revered Sunland Park Jockey Retired In Style

© by Ray Sanchez 05.01.16

Think football players have it tough? Think jockeys.https://i1.wp.com/raysanchezbooks.com/clambert.jpg
It’s been said that pound for pound, racehorse jockeys are the toughest, and bravest, athletes in the world.
Think of it. Jockeys take their lives in their own hands every time they get on a thousand pound animal going 40 miles an hour on four spindly legs.
The result can be catastrophic, and it is more often than one would think. Just about every jockey who has been riding for any amount of time has been involved in a spill when a horse’s leg breaks during a race. The result is broken bones – and even death – when a jockey hits the turf. Other horses in the race can, and often do, run over, or fall on, the fallen jockey.

I MENTION this because of Casey Lambert, one of the most revered jockeys in the history of Sunland Park Racetrack and Casino. He has been involved in five serious spills and several other minor ones. The last serious spill occurred in 2013 when he broke his neck for the second time.
His most serious one occurred in 2005 at Lone Star Park outside of Dallas. Following is an excerpt from BloodHorse Magazine:
“His horse was on the lead when it fell heading into the stretch. ‘He (the horse) broke down and I had two (other horses) go over me,’ says Casey. ‘It was pretty ugly.’
“The wreck left Casey with punctured lungs and six broken ribs. His jaw was broken in two places and a piece of his skull was ripped out. Casey was hospitalized for almost two weeks.
“Two years later, Casey was involved in another spill at Sunland Park. This time he broke his jaw again and suffered a compound fracture that required artificial bone to be inserted in his left arm. His left wrist was so badly hurt that he needed two plates and 10 screws to repair the damage.”

BUT TO THE relief of racing fans and his family, Casey, who will be 50 on Aug. 24 and has made Santa Teresa his home, has hung up his jersey.
He retired from riding after the 2015-2016 Ruidoso Downs season and just before the live racing season began at Sunland. His retirement was somewhat overshadowed by Sunland Park’s problems this season. A virus hit the track, horses had to be quarantined and many races were cancelled.
But Casey went out in style after 35 years of riding. He won the thoroughbred jockey championship at Ruidoso Downs during the 2015 summer.
And he was so revered by the national racing community that after his retirement he was named winner of one of the most prestigious honors in the sport: The Laffit Pincay Award. It is named for retired U.S. Racing Hall of Fame jockey Laffit Pincay, Jr. and is given “to someone who has served the horse racing industry with integrity, dedication, determination and distinction.”

NEEDLESS to say, Casey’s retirement was received with the most relief by his parents, Cliff and Glenna Lambert, and Casey’s wife, Brandi, and their two children.
“Physically and mentally, he could probably go another 10 years,” Casey’s mother, Glenna, told BloodHorse Magazine, “but I don’t want him to have any more injuries. This was a wise decision.”
And his father, Cliff, a former jockey and trainer himself, simply added, “Casey is an amazing person.”

CASEY LAMBERT won’t be riding anymore but he’s not leaving the sport. He’s taken up training. And it didn’t take long for him to become a winner in that department. Out of his first 25 starters he had two wins, seven seconds and five thirds. That’s more than 50 percent in the money. Not bad for a rookie.
The live horse racing season at Sunland will end Tuesday. I’m sure all racing fans are wishing Casey Lambert success in his new endeavor. He certainly deserves it.

‘Lady on the Hill’ is El Paso High’s 2016 Ex

© by Ray Sanchez 04.24.16

El Paso High School’s celebration, like the 1966 Texas Western College celebration, goes on.https://i2.wp.com/raysanchezbooks.com/EPHSonhill.jpg
Someone at El Paso High came up with a bright idea. Folks were wondering who the school was going to name its Outstanding Ex this very important 100th anniversary of the present building’s existence. Someone popped up and said, “Why not make it ‘The Lady on the Hill?’”
That’s how the building was known since shortly after its opening in 1916. The suggestion was a stroke of genius and yes, the building itself was overwhelmingly chosen as this year’s Outstanding Ex.

BY THE WAY, the El Paso Chihuahuas will be honoring El Paso High School with a “Centennial Night” Monday, May 2. I’ll let El Paso High School Alumni president Michael Montes tell you about it.
“The whole evening will be themed to EPHS and her 100 year history. The Tiger Pride Band will be playing pregame at 5: 30 p.m. at the Santa Fe Street entrance.
“The original Central School Bell that hung when El Paso High opened will be on display, also at the Santa Fe Street entrance. The El Paso High JROTC, the first cadet corps in the great state of Texas, will present the colors and a select EPHS Choir will sing the national anthem. We will have the president of the student body throw out a first pitch, along with a faculty member and a special alumni guest.

“THROUGHOUT the game, EPHS history will be featured on the jumbotron. This is definitely an event Tigers do not want to miss. It really is a special honor that the local Triple A team, the hottest ticket in town, will honor our Lady on the Hill in such a grand way.
“We are asking that all Tigers who attend wear Orange and Black and show their Tiger Pride! No other school in our area comes close to matching our history and it will be on full display in El Paso’s newest gem, Southwest University Park.”

TRIVIA QUESTION: Who hit the first grand slam homer in a World Series game? Answer at end of column.

THE EL PASO Baseball Hall of Fame also has some big doings scheduled this year. Following are some of the events announced by Hall President Tom Carrillo:
• Tuesday, July 26, will be Proclamation Day. The city will proclaim July 30 to August 6 El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame Week. The class of 2016 will be presented to the city then.
• Saturday, July 30, will be the second annual Meet and Greet Dinner at the Wyndham Hotel. It’s a dinner sponsored by Larry and Gabby Hernandez to host inductees and honorees.
• Thursday, Aug. 4, will be Chihuahuas Night. The inductees will be introduced before the game and throw out the first pitch at Southwest University Park. The El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame has reserved the Santa Fe Pavilion. Tickets are $30 and includes all you can eat food.
• Friday, Aug. 5, will be the 3rd annual golf tourney at Painted dunes Golf Course at 1 pm. Cost is $100.
• The induction banquet will be held Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Radisson Hotel at 5 p.m. Cost is $30. For tickets contact Leo Caraveo at 915-328-7821.

JESSE FONSECA, one of El Paso’s greatest boxers following World War II, quietly passed away March 26 at the age of 88.
Jesse was born in Lorraine, Ohio, but his family moved to El Paso when he was just a tyke. He never grew much and weighed under 120 pounds when he took up boxing, but he had a powerful punch. In his first 22 fights, he knocked out 21 opponents in the first round.
He eventually earned a world flyweight title fight with Harold Dade. The two went toe to toe and many to this day believe that Fonseca really won. However, it was declared a draw.
Jesse Fonseca left us with many special memories.

ANSWER to trivia question: Elmer Smith of Cleveland in 1920.

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