1933: The Year ex-UNM Hoops Coach Bill Stockton Won a Title
It's not every day that a small school beats a big school in hoops, and when it happens in Indiana, they never let you forget it. Remember the movie, "Hoosiers?" Winning a title wasn't big news for small schools in New Mexico during the 1930s. Four small schools won five state titles in the thirties when all the teams played in one division. Forrest won two. Virden, an LDS community in SW New Mexico won one (and another in the 1944), Floyd claimed one title and House another.
The 1933 Forrest team included Bill Stockton, the UNM head hoops coach from 1955-56 through 1957-58. His UNM won- lost record was 14-58, but in what was one of his first trips to Carlisle Gym he won the state title as a player for the Forrest Pirates, 28-13, over the Raton Tigers, and made the all-state team.
Forrest, from Quay County, also won in 1931, defeating St. Michaels of Santa Fe, 24-13. And Stockton won two state titles as a coach at Clovis High (1951 and 1953) before moving up to UNM.
The state of basketball was not what it is today. Listen to one of Stockton's teammates, Oran Caton, describe the trip to Albuquerque from Forrest, located between Clovis and Tucumcari: "Highway 66 didn't go straight through from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque then. It ran up to Romeroville, Santa Fe and back to Albuquerque. We decided to go straight west from Santa Rosa, like I-40 goes now. At that time, it was just two tracks, no graded road, a few wagons on it. The players and townsfolk came in four or five cars, mostly Model A's." (FN)*
And what was Caton's early life in Forrest like? "I was born in a dugout. It was about four feet deep with dirt walls and a dirt floor. But we always had plenty to eat, a pen full of pigs and we butchered a calf ever so often. We'd store turnips and potatoes in a dirt pile for the winter. We were dry-land farmers -- wheat, cane, corn. It was marginal. Maybe they should never have put a plow to it." (FN)*
(FN)* -- Excerpts from "Oran Caton: "Sports Eased Hardscrabble Life for Albuquerque Educator." New Mexico Magazine, Nov. 2007, page 71, by Ben Moffett.
1948: The Year Mo Udall Beat Up on Lobos
One of the players who helped push the Lobos into a post war basketball tailspin was Morris K. Udall, who grew up in St. John's, Arizona, about 20 miles as the crow flies from the New Mexico border. Udall represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1961 to 1991, but in 1948, he was known only as a one-eyed, six-foot-five University of Arizona basketball player and was sometimes tagged with the nickname “Cyclops.”.
Udall lost an eye at age six when it was punctured by a playmate's rusty pocket knife, but it apparently didn't destroy his depth perception. He was one of the best, if not the best player in the Border Conference. And on his last trip into Carlisle Gym on February 12, 1948, he led the Wildcats to a 62-58 win over UNM, and summarized that game in a 1988 book about his life.
“Everything I tossed up went in. With two minutes to play and 24 points to my credit, the coach took me out to a standing ovation. Our bench was right under the press table and an Albuquerque sports writer leaned over and said, “Udall, you are a liar. No one shoots like that with a glass eye.” I plucked the slippery orb out of its socket and handed it to him, saying, “Mister, I haven't been able to see much out of this one, you try it.” (Morris K. Udall, “too funny to be President), 1988, University of Arizona, 89)
(One of a series).