History: Golf Coach Billy Aldridge, “Mr. Irrelevant” a title given to the last player picked in the NFL draft was relevant!

The title of “Mr. Irrelevant” is given annually to the last player picked in the NFL draft. 1960 brought a change in leadership of the Alamogordo football and the track and field program. The new program leader was Coach Ralph Tate. Coach Tate had a connection to the Alamogordo school system, via his college friend, Alamogordo Golf Coach Billy Aldridge. 

Photo Coach Billy Aldridge New Mexico Golf (Photo Courtesy Coach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days Book Series 2nd Life Media Alamogordo Town News)
Photo on Blog of Mr. Relevant Coach Billy Aldridge New Mexico Golf – (Coach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days Book Alamogordo Town News 2nd Life Media)

Both were alumni of Oklahoma State University, both were competitive and avid golfers; (competing in many tournaments together and against each other) and both were drafted to the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. 

Neither actually had play time in the NFL instead; Aldridge pursued his passion of Coaching Golf and Tate followed his passion into Coaching Track & Field and Football primarily Track and Field. 

For a brief time Tate coached in Alamogordo for the 1960/61 Track & Field Season, while Aldridge had a long career in Alamogordo as a recognized winning coach.

Tragedy shook the boys and coaches competing at State in 1976. Concurrent to the State Track and Field meet is also competition of other athletic events, Golf being one of them. Alamogordo had one of the winningest and most successful high school golf programs on the west coast. 

The Golf Program was under the Coaching leadership of Billy Aldridge. Aldridge and Coach Tate had a very strong bond and strong relationship in the early 1960’s. Tate moved on from Alamogordo but Aldridge built a reputation unsurpassed in Alamogordo even in more modern times. 

Coach Aldridge’s program was unique in that it was coached by him and he had exclusive control of that program. He collaborated in PE and was respected by all the other athletic coaches. He produced the 3 and only three State Golf Titles Alamogordo has ever won per the NMAA. The Tigers won the team state title in 1968, 1971 and 1972 under Coach Bill Aldridge.

Alamogordo High School has had 4 male golf champions win the state golf title 3 were under Coach Aldridge.  Under Coach Aldridge in 1966, Bruce McKenzie won the title and the title went to Brad Bryant in 1971 and 1973. Bryant attended the University of New Mexico for three years, but turned professional and qualified for the PGA Tour in 1976, a year before his scheduled graduation.

May 13, 1976 Alamogordo News Headline Page 1 Article by Rick Wright: “Team Playing for Coach, Aldridge Hit by Car on Duke City Street”

“ Alamogordo High School Golf Coach was listed in critical condition…after being struck by a car Wednesday night… Aldridge 53, was struck by a car while walking across Albuquerque’s Central Avenue… A medical center spokesman said Aldridge was in critical condition and suffered a broken back, broken ankle, broken leg, broken ribs and collapsed lung…

Aldridges 5 man golf team competing at state was badly shaken up by the event. Alamogordo’s individual leader Dan Koesters spoke for the team and said,”We are trying to win for him. He’d like for us to win for sure. We are trying to put the accident out of our minds for a few hours and win it for him.”

Per the Alamogordo News, May 14, 1976; “the Alamogordo Tigers Golf Team was 3rd after the first round and only 3 strokes behind Sandia and Santa Fe.”

Coach Bob Sepulveda was asked to step in to console the boys and fill in as the tournament coach during the final phase of the golf tournament. Coach Sepulveda said, “the boys were obviously shaken up as was I. I was there to console the team and provide support. We were all shocked and broken hearted.”

Coach Billy Aldridge did not recover and died of complications from the accident with the announcement of his death on May 16th, 1976.

Jimmy Tramel, World Sports Writer did an interview with Aldridges wife in 2006 and outlined a great highlight of his life…

1945’s ‘Mr. Irrelevant,’ a former OSU player, was relevant to many people during short life. The title of “Mr. Irrelevant” is given annually to the last player picked in the NFL draft. The label doesn’t fit Billy Joe Aldridge…

Aldridge, an Alma, Okla., native and former Oklahoma State football player, was the final player picked in the 1945 NFL Draft. He was selected in the 32nd round — 330th overall — by the Green Bay Packers. Aldridge never played a lick for the Packers, but he was relevant to many people during a life cut short 30 years ago this month.

Aldridge was a successful high school golf coach in Alamogordo, N.M., for more than two decades. He accompanied his team to Albuquerque for the state tournament in 1976 and the fatal accident occurred before the event concluded. His grief-stricken players got the worst kind of wake-up call the next morning, but teed it up nonetheless.

“He would have kicked us in the a– if we didn’t play,” said former player Dan Koesters, who is now director of golf at New Mexico State University’s course. “It was definitely one of those deals. There was never a day when you weren’t going to play some golf.” Aldridge coached Alamogordo teams that won multiple state championships. By Koesters’ count, at least seven Aldridge pupils played major college golf and five were All-Americans. Brad Bryant is fourth on  the Champions Tour money list this year and younger brother Bart Bryant is on the PGA Tour.

Billy Joe Aldridge died a month shy of his 54th birthday. He lived a long time in comparison to a younger brother, Bennie, a five-year NFL veteran who died in a 1956 plane crash, and a brother who died at age 3.

Another brother, Hubert, flirted with the grim reaper while in Iwo Jima. He took a sniper’s bullet and was unable to walk after he was transported to a military base.

Billy Joe Aldridge played football at Oklahoma A&M from 1941-42. His college career was interrupted by World War II. He spent three years in the Marines and his primary wartime duty was entertaining troops via athletic feats. He boxed and suited up for a Marine football squad alongside Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch, an NFL Hall of Famer who was picked 325 spots before Aldridge in the 1945 draft.

Aldridge once spotted a pretty female Marine, Bonnie Pedigo, in a dance hall. He told buddies he was going to marry that gal, and he was true to his word. Said Bonnie, “He called home and said ‘Mom, sell my 4-H calf. I’m going to get married.’ ” He had to pay a whopping tab (more than $30!) for a multiday honeymoon stay at the Statler Hotel in Washington, D.C.

After his military stint was over, Aldridge returned to his home state because he wanted to fulfill his dream of being a star runner at Oklahoma A&M. Problem was, a lad named Bob Fenimore already had that job.

Aldridge and his wife took advantage of the G.I. Bill to earn degrees and, while in Stillwater, golf became a passion. He soon was playing or practicing every day, regardless of weather.

If it rained, Aldridge would go out after the downpour stopped and hit balls until “dark-thirty,” said his widow. She recalled the time she made a hole-in-one and it was so cold that when she reached in the cup to grab her ball, she came away clutching a handful of ice. Aldridge burned a pile of leaves on the next hole so he and his wife could get warm.

Billy Aldridge wanted to coach and was determined to find a way to coach and was soon enroute to Alamogordo via teaching hitch in Carnegie. His first job was a $2,400-per-year gig in Carnegie. He and Bonnie took jobs in Idabel the next year because two incomes would allow them to be better providers for a son, Kent. Oklahoma teachers weren’t getting rich back then and Aldridge doubled his salary when he drove sight unseen to take a teaching and coaching job in Dexter, N.M. He left after one year to go to Alamogordo. “I heard they were building a golf course here and decided that since I liked golf better than any of the other sports I had been connected with, I would come here,” he once told an Alamogordo sports writer.

Aldridge coached nothing but golf at Alamogordo. Dan Koesters said Aldridge was ahead of his time as a high school coach, including the use of yardage books. Koesters said Alamogordo golfers “did things as a high school golf team that college teams didn’t do and things that I still have never seen a high school team do. We would meet at the park at 6:30 every morning and hit golf balls . . . and when we would get out of school, we would go to the course and play until dark.”

During Aldridge’s coaching career seven people came out of Alamogordo High and played Division I golf, that was really pretty amazing,” per Dan Koesters.

Koesters is in New Mexico State University’s Athletic Hall of Fame. “There is absolutely no question that my whole career hinges around a couple of people — coach Aldridge and my college golf coach, another guy I would put in that same classification. I guarantee you that Brad Bryant would say the exact same thing,” said Koesters of Aldridge.

Aldridges wife Bonnie, in an interview in 2006 acknowledged her husband’s contributions and his imperfections…

The late Billy Joe Aldridge was not perfect (no golfer is — imperfection is what makes golfers always come back for another round).” She acknowledged, “he battled the demon in the bottle.”

Bonnie found out what others thought of her husband after his death. She said “people I didn’t even know sent cards and letters.” She takes solace in the fact her husband made a difference. “I would like to think that every individual did good things for other people,” she said.

So the 1975,76 Alamogordo Tiger graduating class moved forward with tears and also great memories. The decade was a period of great change. Change did come to Alamogordo over the decades but the history and contributions of Coach Billy Aldridge are certainly relevant to this sports history of Alamogordo and of New Mexico. His impact on so many youth within New Mexico was relevant and is relevant today.

To learn more stories of the relevance of Coach Aldridge, Coach Tate, Coach Sepulveda and 100s of athletes. For more stories purchase Coach Robert Sepulveda The Early Days book series available on Amazon in 46 Countries or in the US also on Amazon and at fine independent book sellers such as Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue Alamogordo, New Mexico or your local independent book seller. 

New Mexico Olympic History: The 1950’s, Alamogordo High Schools First State Track & Field Title & New Mexico’s First Native Born Olympian Marvel

The 1950’s and Alamogordo’s First State Track & Field Title in New Mexico History

Photo on Blog and in original article posted to 2nd Life Media’s Alamogordo Town News courtesy of Coach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days Book Series and Archives. To see more photos of sports from the 50’s, 60s and 70s, visit 2ndlifemedia.com

The 1951/52 Track & Field Season was very historic for Southern New Mexico and for Alamogordo, with a state medal win from some very distinctive athletes.

The results of the State Competition winners include…

  • Bobby Lee, 1st Place, 100 Yard Dash, 9.8
    • Bobby Lee, 1st Place,220 Yard Dash, 21.21.6
    • Bobby Lee, 1st Place, Long Jump, 21’-01.375
    • Norman Kinder, 1st Place, Pole Vault, 10’-10.50”
    • Benny Garcia, 1st Place. Javelin, 193’-01.325

The Alamogordo Tigers Track and Field Team of 1951/52 smashed the competition at the state finals of that year.

They took and won the state competition with 48.5 points. Albuquerque High, the 1951 State Champion scored 21.5 points less for a 2nd place finish of 27 points.

  • Lee in addition to setting 2 state records personally scored 24 ¾ points. He broke the state records in the 100-yard dash by .2 seconds and the 220 by .8 seconds better than the record.
    • Lee was also 3rd Place in Shot Put
  • Benny Garcia shattered the state record in Javelin 11’ 3 ⅛” of 5 state records; the Tigers broke 3 of them.
  • Norman Kinder Placed 1st in Pole Vault with 10’-10.50”
  • Ed McAlpine, 2nd Place. in the state competition in Javelin behind Garcia.
  • Bobby Fritz, 3rd Place, Broad Jump
  • In the sprints in addition to the 1st Place wins of Bobby Lee, Oliver Lee, 4th Place 180 Low Hurdles.
  • The 880 Yard Relay Team consisting of Henderson, Fritz, O Lee and Bobby Lee placed with a 3rd place medal.
  •  Benny Garcia shattered the state record in Javelin 11’ 3 ⅛” of 5 state records; the Tigers broke 3 of them.
  • Norman Kinder, 1st Place, Pole Vault, 10’-10.50”

Coach Rolla Buck was incredibly pleased that year with his team having won both the state football title and the state track and field title. He said his boys; “overperformed and beat his expectations.”

 Coach Buck viewed Bobby Lee as “the best high school overall athlete the state of New Mexico had ever seen” to that point.

He also said that Garcia was the best Javelin player ever to come out of New Mexico’s high school system.

Two incredibly special athletes and their legacy is an honor to Alamogordo from that seasons track and field team of the early 1950s. Both athletes go down into the sports history of the United States, New Mexico and certainly of the Alamogordo community for their achievements.

Bobby Lee, after the amazing team results at Ysleta, (7 first place finishes out of 10 competitions) and winning the District Meet several athletes went to Albuquerque and competed at University Stadium in the State Competition. It was here that Bobby Lee set the state record on the 100 Yard Dash with a 9.8 which stood for 20 years and of course this strong team won Alamogordo’s first State Track and Field State Title.  

Bobby Lee also won the 220 Yard Dash and the Long Jump garnering enough points by himself to win the track meet for Alamogordo High School beating favored Highland High School which placed second.

In 1951 there was no class system in competitions, so all size schools and teams competed.

Bobby Lee kept his competitive spirit going as an adult and became a recognized political cartoonist and eventual New Mexico State Senator.

Coach Bob Sepulveda Alamogordo High Schools winningest Track and Field Coach in its 108 year history of the program  said of Bobby Lee; “Bobby Lee remained a strong supporter and advocate for the Alamogordo High School Track & Field Program as an adult. He attended many of the state meets. Bobby would come by and visit my student athletes in the 70’s and the 80’s for support of our team. He was a true leader on the field and as an adult for decades beyond.”

                                Also, of note from the 1951 competition was the amazing Javelin Talents of Benny Garcia with a distance of 193’-01.325.

The next year of 1952 brought Alamogordo High School Track & Field back to the winner’s circle with Benny Garcia winning for the second consecutive year in the Javelin competition.

  • Javelin Benny Garcia medalled with 186’-03.50”

Benny Garcia was an excellent Football kicker. He was on the B team. After some injuries and with the objection of his father concerned about him being injured, he became the primary starting kicker. Albert Romero sprained his ankle and Benny became the primary kicker after that. He had a reputation for making it between the goal posts when it mattered most.

Coach Buck saw Garcia’s talents and made concessions to ensure he was able to take part in the school athletic programs.

Benny would walk or run 6 miles home in the dark after practice to La Luz.

 At the request of Coach Rolla Buck, Superintendent Barnie arranged the use of a driver education vehicle for Benny to use so that he could take part in Sports.

The extra effort paid off for the High School and was life changing for Benny.

His real notoriety came from the Javelin throwing. He set the state record that stood from 1951 to 1966. That record got the attention of the Arizona State University Track and Field Coach that awarded him a full ride scholarship.

He is the only graduate of Alamogordo to make it to the Olympics taking part in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. He was the first native-born New Mexico athlete to ever compete in the Olympics.

His name is displayed at the Tigers Hall of Fame, Arizona State Hall of Fame, Drake Relays Hall of Fame, and US Navy Hall of Fame.

At the 1956 Olympics he finished 8th place, disappointing Garcia but making his hometown exceptionally proud.

Garcia went on to live a phenomenally successful life as a high achieving Tiger Alumni and a respected businessman in Arizona.  He died in 2015.

Special Note on Alamogordo New Mexico:

Alamogordo High School and the region of Southern New Mexico has a rich history in sports and academic achievement. In the 1950’s and 60’s Alamogordo High School ranked in the top 10 High Schools for athletic and academic achievement in the United States. The region has a rich history in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is home to the International Space Hall of Fame and is the testing ground for the latest in drone and military technology via Holloman Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Testing Grounds.

Today, Alamogordo is also the home to New Mexico State University, Alamogordo and is recognized for its pistachio farms, proximity to White Sands National Park and the Lincoln National Forest. As an oddity, Alamogordo is home to the largest Pistachio Sculpture in the World at the McGinn’s Pistachio Tree Ranch just outside Alamogordo.

For photos and more visit https://2ndlifemediaalamogordo.town.news/g/alamogordo-nm/n/27497/1950s-alamogordo-high-schools-first-state-track-field-title-new-mexicos

For the complete sports history of the founding of interscholastic sports to its impact on a small town check out Coach Bob Sepulveda The Early Days 1912 to 1976 on Amazon and fine independent book sellers such as Roadrunner Emporium, 928 New York Avenue Alamogord, New Mexico and fine independent book sellers nationwide. Coach Bob Sepulveda The Golden Years 1977 to 1995 coming soon.