1947 ephs tigers.jpg

The 1947 El Paso High School state basketball champions.

I seem to have piqued the interest of El Paso High School students and ex-students  when I commented on Sandy Aaronson having posted a photo and story of the 1947 El Paso High School team that won the 1947 state basketball championship. The photo and story were hung in the El Paso High museum.

I have been asked to print the story. So here’s more on “The “Flying Tigers.”

El Paso High School has played in eight state championship games and won four of them, including the first two in 1921 and 1922 and two more in the 1940s.

But why were the 1947 Tigers special?  I told why in my book, “The Good, the Bad and the Funny of El Paso Sports History.” The excerpt follows:

“THE 1947 EL PASO High School championship team was unique in one special way: It was the first team to fly to the state tournament in Austin. Thus, the team was nicknamed “The Flying Tigers” in honor of the American squadron that became famous during World War II. Coached by C. D. Jarvis, the Tigers finished the year at an impressive 22-1.

“The 1947 El Paso players were Pete Gonzales, George Mengel, Stanley Blaugrand, Bobby Parra, Robert Mena, Ray Esquivel, Eddy Jabolie, Robert Avina, Jose “Pepe” Palafox, Morgan Broaddus, Richard “Chief” Montoya and Ramon Orona.

“JOSE ‘PEPE’ PALAFOX, like his brother six years earlier, was named to the All-State Tournament team. Jose Palafox later went on to lead undefeated Tyler Junior College to the national junior college championship then played for University of Houston.”

“Side note: Future football legend Kyle Rote of San Antonio Jefferson also made the All-State team.”

TRIVIA QUESTION: Which was the first African country to qualify for a World Cup? Answer at end of column.

IN THE EARLY days at what was to become the University of Texas at El Paso, coaches were told when they were hired that they had to beat New Mexico State in both football and basketball.

Some didn’t get the message. 

The Aggies have been a thorn in the side of the Miners. And this year they were going for their 10th basketball victory in a row. So it was delightful news that the Miners beat the Aggies at home this year, 65-50.

One coach who did heed the Miners’ plea was Don Haskins. 

When he took over the Miners’ in the 1961-62 season he matched the Aggies streak of nine in a row. Haskins won the first nine games after he took over the reins.

LARRY JESSEE, who posted some of his thoughts on my Facebook page, is regarded as one of UTEP’s greatest track and field athletes of all time. He opened eyes all over the world in 1975 when he cleared 18 feet in the pole vault. Only a few men had ever done that before.

He wrote on my Facebook page, “Ray...you wrote a book about the history of El Paso sports a while back. On the opening page, there is a picture of a pole vaulter from back in the bamboo pole, sawdust pit days.

“For years I always thought why didn’t Ray use a picture of me. Recently a friend who saves and studies track and field informed me that the photo may have been of Lee Barnes, 1924 

“Olympic Gold medalist who for a while was stationed at Fort  Bliss. If it was Lee Barnes, I gladly bow to an Olympic champion. P.S enjoy your weekly posts.”

Gosh, I don’t remember if it was Barnes or not, but it probably was Lee Barnes.

TRIVIA ANSWER: Egypt in 1934.

Veteran sports journalist, historian and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column.  Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by email at rayf358@yahoo.com or online at raysanchezbooks.com.