In 1949, the youngest Batiste brother, Fred, became the first African-American to letter in football at UA.


In celebration of Arizona's centennial, the Star will feature our picks for the 100 best athletes, moments and teams.

Throughout the summer, we will showcase our list - with the first 90 in no particular order. In August, columnist Greg Hansen will choose his top 10, with a column on each.

The Batiste brothers


For Joe Batiste and his three Tucson-based brothers, hurdles were more than just something to fly over. They were also a metaphorical barrier to deal with every day while they starred in track, football and basketball in the 1930s and 1940s.

Together, Ernest, Joe, Frank and Fred Batiste were immensely talented athletes who were raised in Tucson after their parents moved from Louisiana in 1926. Former Star sports editor Abe Chanin wrote in 1979 that the Batiste brothers made up "the greatest athletic family Arizona has produced."

But Ernest, the oldest son, never did play football at UA as he had wished because of what Chanin said were restrictions against black athletes, and Joe Batiste chose to run track at Arizona State College (now ASU) over UA for similar reasons.

Joe also never had a chance to display his track talents at the Olympics - he was named to teams in 1940 and 1944, but those games were not held because of the war.

Third brother Frank came up as a track athlete and played football for Tucson High School, and the youngest, Fred, became the first African-American to letter in football at UA.

Joe Batiste did not live a long life, passing away at age 38 in 1958, but the legacy he and his brothers established was substantial. Joe was named to the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.



By the numbers


Joe Batiste's time in the 120-yard hurdles in 1939, a national interscholastic record that stood for 18 years

Bruce Pascoe

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