EL PASO, Texas - Andy Morales, the second baseman from Bowie's 1949 state baseball championship team, died Monday at the age of 85 after a battle with cancer.
Morales was more than just a member of the groundbreaking Bowie title team nearly seven decades ago.
He was also a longtime Borderland high school coach, who despite racism and fighting in a war, earned a college education and inspired many during his long life.
Tom "Joe Fan" Ciaburri sot, the media director for the El Paso Baseball Hall of Fame told ABC-7 Morales "was a character, a great person, a great human being. He was an enthusiastic baseball fan besides being a great baseball player."
Ciaburri has fond memories of Morales. "68 years ago, Morales and his teammates did the impossible, becoming the first El Paso team to win a state baseball title," he said.
In June of 2011, Morales and his bowie teammates were the subject of a Sports Illustrated article titled "The Barrio Boys."
The piece talked about how the team couldn't eat at Lubbock restaurants and had to sleep on cots at the ballpark in Austin.
Morales often talked about the discrimination he endured as a youngster, Ciaburri said. "His stories were to send a message to us about making sure we treated everybody equally and positively."
When Socorro High School won a state tile in 2009, 60 years later, Morales was in the stands in Austin. "He was 77 years old and it was a hundred degrees both games," Ciaburri said.
Morales' son Robert said his father was proud to serve in the Navy in the Korean War, leaving the University of New Mexico, but returning to get his degree four years later.
"Education was important to him so he went back as soon as got discharged," Robert Morales said.
Morales was also proud to throw out the first pitch at El Paso's new ballpark in 2014. "I saw him afterwards and he told me he threw a perfect strike, of course, it was a little bit outside," Ciaburri said.
Morales' passing means only two members of the 1949 state championship team are still living, but they will all live on forever in a Gaspar Enriquez mural at Southwest University Park.
"It will be in honor of him and his teammates for forever," Robert Morales said.
During his coaching years, Morales spent much of his time working with those with special needs. "He enjoyed teaching them and he was a big person in the Special Olympics, he was able to coach his athletes and he enjoyed that part quite a lot," Robert Morales said.
Thursday night's rosary for Morales is scheduled to start at 7 at St. Raphael Catholic Church in East El Paso. A funeral mass is scheduled for 9:15 am Friday morning, also at St. Raphael.
Burial will follow at Fort Bliss National Cemetery with military honors.
Memorial contributions in his name can be made to the American Cancer Society or the Texas Special Olympics.