Author and sportswriter Putt Riddle has just published his newest book, The 1960 Miller Buccaneers: Pioneering a New Era in Texas Football.
The book details the story of the first integrated high school football team in Texas to win a University Interscholastic League state championship. The 1960 Corpus Christi Miller Buccaneers team had 18 Anglos, 17 Hispanics and six African-Americans on its roster. They were coached by Pete Ragus and three assistant coaches. Ragus was a head coach for only six years, all at Miller before going to Lubbock to become the athletics director of the Lubbock ISD for the rest of his career. He got Miller to the state semi-finals once and to the state finals twice in his six-year coaching career. He may be the only person in Texas with athletic facilities named for him in two different cities. He and the 1960 Miller Bucs are probably the only coach and team in the United States to receive presidential recognition from the President of the United States for their accomplishment, as detailed in the book.
Riddle tells the story of the ’60 Miller season primarily through interviews with the players from that team and Ragus, who he was able to reach out to. As he interviewed them, he discovered the players never felt that racial tension and discrimination ever existed between the team members. But they faced it on the road at some of their out-of-town games. This was an era during which racial troubles dominated throughout the United States, particularly the south and Texas as the resistance to integration was at a peak.
In his interviews, Riddle concluded that most of the players went on to lead very successful lives. He highlights their careers and their families. A good many of the players went on to play football in college as the recruiters came to seek them out after their historical championship. Some went on to play in the NFL. Others had very successful business careers that made them leaders in their fields possessed of an extraordinary entrepreneurial talent. One excelled in NASA’s Space Shuttle program with his high school education matching and sometimes surpassing the skills of trained engineers. Three of them went to jail for crimes that made them notorious. One of those died from being shot in the county jail as he staged a fight with a deputy sheriff on the day he was arrested, sparking investigations for civil rights violations and possible murder charges against the deputy. Still others including one of those arrested multiple times turned to a role of prison ministry later in their lives.
To add to a local flavor about his book, Riddle put at the front of it, a prayer by a football player’s mother posted by Althea Chapman, the mother of East Bernard High School’s Devin Chapman. The prayer from Chapman inspired him to write a poem about a football player’s mom lamenting the end of her son’s football career as his team just lost a playoff game during his senior year of high school. The poem is also at the front of the book along with the prayer.
The book was published by Kindle Direct Publishing, a division of Amazon. Copies signed by Riddle can be ordered from him for $30 a copy, including sales tax and shipping at Putt Riddle, P.O. Box 225, Groesbeck, TX 76642. It is also available through Amazon and as an e-book on Kindle for $5.95.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Putt Riddle writes sports stories as a freelance writer for the Wharton Journal-Spectator and the East Bernard Express.