Dr. Palafox: A Winner and All-Star in Many Ways
A state champion. A national champion. An AAU champion. An Army champion. An all-star selection in Texas. A national all star selection in two different countries. A doctor of medicine.
And a heck of a nice person.
Now that’s what one can call a truly amazing resume.
And yes, El Paso’s Dr. Jose “Pepe” Palafox was all that, and more. For example:
-- He led El Paso High School to the state basketball championship in 1947 and was named to the All-State team.
-- He led Tyler Junior College to the national junior college basketball championship with an undefeated record of 32-0 in 1949 and was named to the junior college All-American team.
-- He received a scholarship to University of Houston. While there, Bud Adams, later owner of the Houston Oilers and then president of Ada Oil Co. which did a lot of business in Mexico, recommended him to the Posa Rica team in Mexico. Palafox led Posa Rica to the national championship with an undefeated record and was named to the All-Mexican team.
-- Adams had him play for his AAU team and Palafox helped Ada go undefeated in 1954.
-- While in the service, he led Brooke Army Medical Center to the 4th Army championship and was named to the All-4th Army and the All-Army teams.
THROUGH ALL that, Palafox kept up his studies and earned his doctor of medicine degree. He specialized in pharmacy and practiced in El Paso and surrounding areas for decades.
Needless to say, he was inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame.
Personally, he remained a sports loving, friendly, unassuming fellow throughout his life. He loved having friends over to his house to watch major sporting events on his giant television set. My wife Helen and I were lucky to be among them. His wife, Dolores, would cook up some delicious food and others would bring pies, pastries or other goodies. We would sit and eat while watching and discussing whatever event was on. It was among the best of times.
HIS CAREER at University of Houston was impressive but those were the days of Bill Russell at University of San Francisco. Russell, who later led the Boston Celtics to 10 NBA championships, became known as perhaps the greatest basketball player of all-time. He was certainly the winningest NBA player of all-time.
University of San Francisco was unbeatable while Russell was there. Palafox got to play against him while at Houston. He recalled the game with awe. He was assigned to guard K. C. Jones, another future NBA star, but was asked to drop off and help guard Russell, too. “The thing I remember most about Russell is a backward dunk he made on us,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like that before.” Backward dunking is common now, but not then.
DR. PALAFOX had many happy moments in sports, of course. Among them was a victory over Greenville High in 1947. When Palafox was a sophomore at El Paso High his varsity coach, Ray Dorsett, told him “You stink” and demoted him to the B team.
The next year, Dorsett left El Paso High to coach – you guessed it, Greenville. Oh, how sweet it was when Palafox and the Tigers, coached by C. D. Jarvis, walloped Greenville on the way to the state championship.
DR. PALAFOX loved sports, his hometown and his country. He could have played in the Olympics. Mexico invited him to play for that country but when he learned he would have to give up his U. S. citizenship, a rule at the time, he declined.
He fought cancer with gallantry the last months of his life. It was one battle he could not win. Dr. Jose “Pepe” Palafox passed away at the age of 80 on September 24.
No doubt, this wonderful man will make the All-Heaven team, too.
Veteran sports journalist and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by e-mail at email@example.com or online at www.raysanchezbooks.com