Badgers made Tucson Titletown in '40s

2011-08-16T00:00:00Z Badgers made Tucson Titletown in '40s Arizona Daily Star
August 16, 2011 12:00 am

In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star is featuring our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams. Throughout the summer, we have been showcasing our list - with the first 90 in no particular order.

Later this month, Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

1940s-era Tucson High

In the 1940s, Tucson High School won 26 of a possible 40 Arizona state championships in football, basketball, baseball and track.

"We were so good across the board, in every sport, that just to make the varsity team was considered a big accomplishment,'' said Fred W. Enke, who became the state's player of the year in both baseball and football. "It was a period of excellence that will never be duplicated.''

The Badgers teams of the '40s had such an impact that three head coaches all have TUSD schools named in their honor. One per sport:

• In football: Rollin T. Gridley Middle School.

• In track: Doc Van Horne Elementary School.

• In basketball: Bud Doolen Middle School.

How's that for a legacy of success?

In baseball, Hank Slagle took over the Tucson High program from Andy Tolson and maintained what Tolson started by winning state baseball championships in 1930, 1932, 1935, 1937, 1939, 1940 and 1941.

Yes, Tolson Elementary School is named in honor of the Badgers' ex-baseball coach.

Typical of the decade, Slagle's Badgers matched Tolson's success. Slagle produced state championships in 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946 and 1948. The Badgers won a state-record 52 straight games from 1942-46.

It went far beyond baseball.

In track, Van Horne won state championships in nine of the 10 years of the decade; the Badgers of 1942 were second to Phoenix Union by a mere 5 1/2 points. Badgers Frank and Fred Batiste, brothers, were two-time Arizona track and field athletes of the year in the '40. Bill Gaston was the state track and field athlete of the year in 1949, a year after teammate Willie Brown won a similar award.

In basketball, coached by Doolen, the Badgers won state titles in 1942, 1943, 1945, 1948 and 1949. Joe Cherry, Linc Richmond, Roger Johnson and Bill Kemmeries were all state players of the year.

In football, Gridley coached the Badgers to a state-record 32 consecutive victories from 1942-45, winning state championships every year from 1942-45.

The baseball program produced six state players of the year in the '40s: Enke, Lee Carey, Emil Rey, Bill Hassey, Lowell Bailey and Benny Rincon.

"It was a golden era,'' said Enke.

Quotable

"I think more than half of those great UA baseball teams of Pop McKale were filled by Tucson High players,'' said Lee Carey, the state's baseball player of the year in 1946.

Greg Hansen

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