One of the comments on last week’s post about Hispanics at Rice came from Tomas Molina ’68 who talked about being one of the very few Hispanic athletes on campus. This brought back to mind an earlier Mexican-American athlete, Placido Gomez ’42. I first found about about him when I came across this arresting photograph on eBay, which I immediately purchased:
The only words on the back are “Placido Gomez.” Well, now you really have my attention. I started poking around in the best source for this kind of thing, the gigantic alumni scrapbooks, and found what I was looking for right away:
Jeff Davis High School! Remember I just told you last week that the vast majority of Hispanic students at Rice in this era came from very high socio-economic backgrounds? That doesn’t really square with what I was seeing here. So when I get really interested in someone like this my next step is usually to see if I can find their Rice application, which often yields a small tidbit or two worth pursuing. This one did. Can you see what caught my eye here?
It was his address. For complicated reasons of my own I immediately recognized the area–north of Buffalo Bayou, east of 45. Placido Gomez, I can tell you with assurance, was not the son of a Spanish diplomat. The house is still standing, by the way, as are almost all the houses in that neighborhood:
Gomez was a phenomenal athlete. As near as I can tell he was actually recruited to Rice to play football but also became a key player in Rice’s strong basketball program in the late 1930s and early 1940s. When Rice went to the NCAA tournament in 1940 Gomez became the first non-white player to participate in that event. He enlisted in the Marines after graduation and fought in the Pacific during World War II. Afterwards he continued his education, first earning a Master’s at Columbia, then a doctorate from NYU. He spent the next 35 years at Brooklyn College as a professor of physical education and variously as head basketball coach, golf coach, and assistant football coach and passed away in 2000.
Bonus: Is there such a thing?