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Enke, Batiste helped make Tucson history

Citizen Staff Writer



Fred W. Enke and Joe Batiste might have been the most versatile athletes in southern Arizona history.

Enke was named all-state in football, basketball and baseball at Tucson High in the 1940s – and starred in all three sports at the University of Arizona before playing in the NFL.

Batiste, also a Tucson High star, set a world record in 1939 in the 120-yard high hurdles at 14.0 seconds. He also was a standout running back.

Abe Chanin, a graduate of Tucson High and the former sports editor of the Arizona Daily Star, marveled in a 1999 Citizen article at the talent of Enke, whose father was the longtime basketball coach at the University of Arizona.

“He was a marvelous athlete all the way around,” Chanin said. “He was the greatest all-around athlete for the University of Arizona ever, as well. He was a great three-sports star, just superb in each of those sports.”

During his years as a Badger, Enke was voted all-state in each sport at least once: football (1941-42), basketball (1943) and baseball (1943). In his three years at the varsity level in three sports, he was on eight state title teams with the Badgers, missing a sweep in 1941 when the basketball team failed to win.

He was the quarterback in football, a guard in basketball and a fleet outfielder in baseball.

Enke was the first Arizonan to play quarterback in the National Football League. From 1948 to 1951 he played for the Detroit Lions. Then he spent a year with the Eagles and finished his career with the Baltimore Colts in 1953-54.

Batiste, an African-American, was not allowed to participate in football at first because of his race. It wasn’t until Mesa High tried to lure Batiste away that Tucson High allowed him to play. His refusal to run track unless he was allowed to play football was another factor in finally getting a shot at football.

Joe’s main talent was track. His 120-yard hurdles world record stood for 18 years.

“He could do almost anything there is in track. He was brilliant in sprints. Today, he would most likely be a decathlon athlete,” Chanin said.

Batiste qualified for the 1940 and 1944 United States Olympic teams as a hurdler and a decathlete, but the war forced the cancellation of those games. He died in 1958.

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