Loyal A. Baker
Brigham Young High School, Class of 1964

Two Loyal Baker Stories

1. The Day a Tie
Became a Victory

By LeEarl Baker, Class of 1965

When my older brother, Loyal, was three years old, he got polio. That was back in the days when polio crippled or killed its victims. Miraculously it did neither to Loyal. The doctor said the only effect it would have on Loyal was to make him small. It did, and he was.

Loyal always seemed to be very conscious of his size while we were growing up. He was particularly over-anxious about being singled out by bullies. I remember when we first moved to Provo, Loyal was in the fourth grade, and after our first day of school at our new location, we were all asked how it had gone.

Loyal’s response was that he had been able to make friends with the biggest kid in his class – that seemed to be most important to him.

That pretty well indicates how things were, until Loyal became old enough to be a Boy Scout. The new Scout Master in our ward had been a Golden Gloves boxer, and somehow he influenced Loyal to change his circumstances.

In short order, we saw Loyal developing his timing on the boxing bag, and his muscles with the barbells. That Christmas, Loyal got his own set of barbells, and his enthusiasm and interest grew.

One afternoon he was so enthusiastically heaving the weights over his head that they continued past the mark and put a hole in our basement ceiling. But my folks had their priorities straight and continued their encouragement.

By the time Loyal was in the eighth grade, his horizons were broadening, and he began working out in the BYU weight room. He could do that because, as a student at BY High, his activity card gave him access to all of the university facilities.

The BYU weight-lifting team immediately took notice of him, not only for his expertise, but also for his size. The team did not then have a member in the lightest weight class. They invited him to join, and he did. He broke several Intermountain Conference weight-lifting records for his weight class, during their collegiate competitive meets.

In fact, our Mom designated a corner of our living room for the trophies Loyal won as an eighth grader at collegiate weight lifting competitions.

The next summer our folks took us on vacation to Phoenix, Arizona, where our cousins lived. I am just a year younger than Loyal, and we had a couple of cousins there who were about our same age.

One night we went to MIA with them. After it was over we were standing around on the church lawn waiting for a ride home; just a few Boy Scouts, milling around. Then out came the big guys, probably juniors in high school, loud, obnoxious, and laughing. They started to push us around, first our cousins, and then me.

Under those circumstances, the thing to do when pushed is to roll around on the grass and come up laughing. If you humor these bullies, maybe they won’t get violent. So I looked up from the grass, forcing out a chuckle, just in time to see one of them push Loyal.

Loyal hadn’t taken any special stance, but when he was pushed, he didn’t move. He did not sway, or shift, or anything. He just stood there as firm as a rock.

The big kid’s smile immediately disappeared, and within just a few seconds, he and his buddies had disappeared, too.

Loyal didn’t seem to worry about bullies any more after that.

By eighth grade, Loyal had found his niche. He was fast, he was smart, and he was strong. He had all the qualifications to be a great wrestler, and he was.

BY High was a very small high school, and in an attempt to increase the numbers for inter-school competition, the school allowed ninth graders to compete in varsity sports.

So, in the ninth grade, Loyal became a varsity wrestler. And he always won. He was intimidating, aggressive, and competitive. He knew what it took to win, and he paid the price. He always won.

But in our high school, the wrestling program was in serious trouble. In a sport that has twelve-man teams, our school only produced a six-man squad. There seemed to be no interest in the sport. The coach recommended to the school administration that, if interest didn’t greatly increase for the next year, the program should be canceled.

Loyal and some of his friends began a recruitment campaign, and they centered their efforts on us eighth graders. They told us that next year we would have the chance of a lifetime. Imagine the glory of being able to compete in a varsity sport and earn a varsity letter as ninth graders. Imagine!

Well, it worked. The next year, a whole bunch of us showed up for the team, and the program continued. That is how an unlikely fella like me got involved in wrestling.

That, and because my older brother, Loyal, provided my ride home from school, and he wasn't going home until after wrestling practice. So, I decided I might as well spend my time wrestling, while waiting for a ride home with him, as opposed to doing something else - like studying.

That first year, when I was in ninth grade, we were a sorry bunch. We didn’t do very well competing with the other school’s seniors – except for Loyal – he always won.

The next year, when I was a sophomore, we all did a little better. We had all grown up a little bit, and had gained a little experience and composure.

Except for Loyal. He always had all the composure in the world.
Loyal A. Baker, Class of 1964, Brigham Young High
Loyal Baker, Captain of the Wrestling Team

By my third year, when I was a junior, we had a pretty darn good team - except for me.

Somehow, I had not been able to find a way to fit in. My physical abilities and my mental aptitudes just didn’t make me a wrestler. Consequently, I became the team clown. That seemed to be my niche. And it was an uncomfortable niche, because I was just unable to become one of the team.

Loyal was every coach’s dream, always dedicated, determined, and leading. I was every coach’s nightmare, always horsing around and taking nothing seriously.

So, with that, the stage was set....

In my third year, when I was a junior and Loyal was a senior, and the season was about half over, Coach came up with another one of his schemes to keep workouts interesting.

This time he had devised a system whereby it could be determined who the best wrestler on the team was. To build interest, he made every effort to make the contest a big deal. It soon was. The spirit of competition became keen.

1963-1964 BYH Wrestling Team - Row 1 1963-1964 BYH Wrestling Team - Row 2
1963-1964 Brigham Young High School Wrestling Team:
(L to R) Brian Rawlings, Jerry Johnson, Francis Alder, Garn Wilde, LaMar Burton, LeEarl Baker, Darrel Danielson.
Next, Bruce Wolsey, Loyal Baker, Tom Chandler, Dave Shaw, Brent Barton, Mike Asay, and Paul Nibley.
Photos by Reed Smoot, Athletic Manager. [Click to make larger.]

An official wrestling team is made up of twelve fellas, and each fella is five to eight pounds heavier than the next fella, until you get to the twelfth fella, whose weight is unlimited. So coach divided the team in half, with the first bunch being the heavier six fellas, and the second bunch being the lighter six fellas.

The heaviest guy of the two bunches was to wrestle with the fella just lighter than him, and the winner was to wrestle the one just lighter, and so on, until the final winners of the two bunches would "wrestle off" for the championship.

When the day of the big wrestle-off finally came, we were all nervous and anxious. I don’t suppose there was any reason, because everyone knew that Loyal was the best wrestler on the team, and always had been. But we had all caught the spirit of the event.

After the preliminary warm-ups, it started. Our heavyweight, Brian, took on our 180-pound Gerald. Usually Jer could beat Bryan handily, but this was no practice. The stakes were high. Brian gave it everything he had, but Jer won.

But when Jer then took on Francis, Jer was worn out. Francis uncharacteristically beat Jer. Francis, in his worn-out condition, took on Garn, and lost. Garn, for the same reason, lost to LaMar. And then, again, because of LaMar’s depleted condition, I beat LaMar.

Hey, wait! Strange twists of fate had made me the champion of the heavier bunch!

Then it was the lighter bunch’s turn. Daryl wrestled Bruce, and Loyal beat whoever won, and then he beat the rest of the field. Loyal always won.

So, there it was. Loyal, the team captain, was going to wrestle off with his younger but heavier brother, LeEarl, the team clown, to see who the best wrestler on the team was.

Coach took the rest of the team to run laps on the stairs, and left Loyal and me alone in the wrestling room. We were to rest and recover from our preliminary matches, and to prepare for the main event.

As I sat there on the mat, I looked across and saw Loyal sitting on the other edge of the mat. I saw in him the only remaining obstacle between me and my becoming a real-life member of the team. I wanted so much to belong, to be lifted above my clown status, to join in on the strategy conferences, and to share fully in the joy of victory.

With these thoughts in mind, I began to psyche myself up. Maybe I COULD beat him. After all, I did outweigh him by 18 pounds. My emotions became intense.

As Loyal sat looking at me, he didn’t just see a competitor. He had faced many, many competitors, and had always won. He didn’t just see a friend. We had always been friends; I don’t think either of us had ever been on a date when we hadn’t doubled with each other. But all of us on the team were friends, and yet we had just done our best to try to beat our friends.

No, when Loyal looked across the mat at me, he saw more than a competitor, more than a friend. He saw his little brother, and that made all the difference.

When Coach and the team came back from doing their stair laps, the guys took up their places around the perimeter of the mat. Coach put his whistle in his mouth and Reed manned the time clock.

When the whistle blew, Loyal and I began to stalk each other, and the battle was on.

Six minutes later, Reed blew his timekeeper whistle, and it was over. Loyal sprang to his feet. He hadn’t even broken a sweat. I lay on the mat, panting, puffing, wheezing and snorting. I staggered up to my feet. Coach double-checked the score, and then raised both our hands.

“I guess the team’s best wrestler is the Baker brothers,” he said.

Everyone cheered. I had wrestled Loyal to a tie. We had both won. I felt great.

From that day on, I would burst through the wrestling room doors and with a broad sweeping gesture, say, “You’re all a bunch of losers, because the best wrestler on the team is the Baker brothers.” Then in total unity and singleness of heart, everyone on the team would immediately pounce on me and beat me blue.

Ahhhh, it felt great to belong!

It wasn’t until a few years later, while I was bicycling through the country lanes of England, recalling my former glories, that the truth suddenly occurred to me:
Loyal had allowed me to wrestle him to a tie!
Loyal proved on that day that to him, winning wasn’t everything, that to him, winning wasn’t the only thing, that self-aggrandizement and establishing status weren’t as important to him as taking care of his little brother. He had reached down and pulled me up to share his pedestal, and pulled me close to share his spotlight.

And I hadn't realized it for such a long time.

Loyal tells me now that he doesn’t remember our wrestle-off, and maybe none of the other guys do, either. But I remember it, because it was important to me then, and still is today.
LeEarl Baker, BYH Class of 1965
LeEarl Baker

2. An Incident
On a Sweltering Day,
Fort Polk, Louisiana

Fort Polk, Louisiana, 1964
Fort Polk, Louisiana, 1964

By David Whetten, Class of 1964

I had the misfortune of spending the four months following high school graduation in boot camp at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

However, I had the good fortune of suffering through this ordeal with several very close friends from my hometown.

On one particularly hot and muggy day, we were notified that our planned 10-mile hike with full combat gear had been cancelled by the post commander for fear of causing heat stroke. In its place, we were told to assemble for a class on how to clean our M-14 rifles.

Upon arriving at the classroom, we were dismayed to find that our instructor was going to be Sgt. Kolcz, the meanest, hardest, most vulgar individual ever to put on a green uniform. He had a well justified, horrible reputation.

After we had taken our seats, he began, “Gentlemen, the Army tells its instructors that we are not allowed to swear or tell dirty stories in the classroom. I’m sure that none of you would mind my starting the class today with a dandy I heard last night at the beer hall.”

He then proceeded to walk very deliberately from one end of the classroom to the other glaring at each recruit, daring someone to defy his authority.

I felt as if I had been struck by lightning when the person next to me, my close friend, Loyal, raised his hand and said, “Yes Sergeant, I object.”

Startled, Sgt. Kolcz whirled around and bellowed, “Come down here and repeat that!”

I was stunned. I was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions: terror, at the prospect that I might be confused with the person sitting next to me; apprehension, that if Loyal got out of his seat we would never see him again in mortality; and admiration, that of the twenty or so LDS boys in the bleachers, only Loyal had mustered the courage to remain true to his personal moral convictions by standing up to Fort Polk’s “Public Enemy #1”.

To everyone’s surprise, Sgt. Kolcz did not give Loyal the tongue-lashing we all expected. Instead, he quizzed him regarding the source of his strong beliefs and seemed intrigued by Loyal’s professed belief in Mormonism.

Later that evening, word was passed to Loyal and the group of LDS soldiers in our barracks that Sgt. Kolcz wanted to talk with us in his office.

We were mortified. We were certain that he was going to make the whole "Mormon battalion" -- as we were called -- scrub the toilets and empty the grease pits in the kitchen for the remainder of our stay in the Army, to atone for Loyal’s defiance.

We were certainly not expecting to find a subdued Sgt. Kolcz who, as the night wore on, and with great reluctance, acknowledged that he too was a Mormon.

He recounted how he had been baptized while stationed in Hawaii but had been transferred to a remote location, before he was able to feel comfortable in his new church.
Dave Whetten, BYH Class of 1964
Dave Whetten
He complimented Loyal on his courage and stated that he had observed several of the other LDS soldiers make equally difficult decisions during boot camp.

After a lengthy discussion, during which several of us voiced our testimonies, Sgt. Kolcz asked if he could begin attending church services with us.

For me, Loyal Baker’s actions that day will always stand out in my mind as a great example of a life-changing commitment to principle – the hallmark of integrity.

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