Juan Báez

Juan Báez

Juan "Johnny" Báez (April 14, 1935 born in San Juan, Puerto Rico), was an active and notable Puerto Rican basketball player. He played from 1953 to 1969 in Puerto Rico's Superior Basketball League and from 1957 to 1961 with the Real Madrid basketball Spanish basketball team in Europe. He is considered by many Puerto Ricans as the most notable survivor of the 1950s-1960's Río Piedras, Puerto Rico Cardinals basketball team.

Early years

Báez, also known as "El Indio de la Vía", was the sixth child of nine children born to Andrés Báez and Sisa Mariño. He received his primary education at the University of Puerto Rico Model Elementary School. It was in Modelo School where he would learn to play basketball under the guidance of his physical education teacher Lilliam Colberg, sister of Rebekah Colberg. Báez continued his education at University of Puerto Rico High School. During his high school years, he would frequently attend the local Superior Leagues basketball games and himself participate as a basketball player in minor leagues where he continue to learn the discipline of the game.

Río Piedras Cardinals basketball team

In 1953 the "Cardenales de Río Piedras" (Río Piedras Cardinals) basketball team of Puerto Rico's Superior Basketball League selected him. Even though his active participation was minimal, Báez was promoted to the teams starting lineup in his third game. From 1955 to 1957, the Cardinals won three consecutive championships. In 1957 Báez was named the leagues MVP (Most Valuable Player) and points leader. He scored a total of 394 points in 16 games.

His participation in the islands local basketball league was very limited in 1958 and 1959 because he continued to pursue his academic education in Madrid, Spain. During his stay in Spain, he played from 1957 to 1961 for the Real Madrid basketball team that won the "Generalísimo" Cup, now known as the King's Cup. While playing in Spain, he caught the eye of a young royal whose grandfather was the owner of the Real Madrid team and who became one of his best-known fans. That young royal is now known as King Juan Carlos, who corresponded with Báez in 2006 to wish him a speedy recovery from his illness. Báez represented Puerto Rico in the 1959 Pan American Games, celebrated in Chicago, Illinois. In the tournament which included American basketball stars, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West, Báez was the champion scorer. Báez and fellow Puerto Rican Juan "Pachín" Vicéns were named to the All-Star team. [ [http://www.as.com/opinion/articulo/johnny-baez-gran-madridista/daiopi/20070221dasdaiopi_13/Tes Gran Madridista] ]

In 1962 he withdrew from Spanish basketball and one year later, in 1963, Báez led the Cardinals to another championship and was once again named MVP. In June 13, 1969, the same year that he retired, he scored his point number 5 thousand during a game against the Piratas de Quebradillas (The Pirates of Quebradillas) with a “jump shot" in the beginning of the games first quarter. After retiring Báez dedicated most of his time as coach of several local teams.

Currently

Báez is married to Irma Hernáiz, his wife of 44 years with whom he had three children. On March 8, 2006, had an accident and is suffering from a delicate neurological condition which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Honors

On January 20, 2007, several top International Basketball Federation (FIBA) officials traveled to the island and in a ceremony which included the presence of the Mayor of San Juan Jorge Santini, Puerto Rico Senate President Kenneth McClintock, Puerto Rico Olympic Committee President Hector Cardona, PR Sports and Recreation Secretary David "Kike" Bernier, his wife Irma and his son and daughter, Carlos and Irma, bestowed upon Báez Puerto Rico's top sports award, the Puerto Rico Olympic Medal of Honor. Báez was also inducted into Puerto Rico's Sports Hall of Fame. [ [http://www.endi.com/noticia/baloncesto/deportes/amigos_juntos_por_el_indio/147229 Amigos Juntos por El Indio] ]

Notes

References

* [http://www.endi.com/noticia/baloncesto/deportes/por_la_via_del_indio/147940 El Nuevo Dia]
* [http://www.endi.com/noticia/baloncesto/deportes/amigos_juntos_por_el_indio/147229 Juntos por El Indio]
* [http://www.endi.com/noticia/baloncesto/deportes/baez:_idolo_de_reyes/149558]
* [http://www.bsnpr.com/mvp05.asp BALONCESTO SUPERIOR NACIONAL]

ee also

*List of famous Puerto Ricans


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