Brother Lee Merritt Carey, remembered and honored as one of Arizona's finest athletes, coaches and educators, died Aug. 18, 2014 at the age of 85.
Known as “Legs” Carey, he was a three-sport star in basketball, football and baseball at Tucson High School from 1945-47, where he earned nine letters and led his teams to nine state championships.
He was baseball and football team captains and an All-State Player (1945-46) with 32 consecutive wins in football and three state baseball championships. In basketball, his team won three state titles and Lee was All-State in 1945-46.
Carey was a four-year member of Tucson's American Legion Junior Baseball Team. In 1945, Lee was the National Batting Champion for Legion Baseball with an average of .376 — only members of the legion's World Series teams were eligible to qualify for this distinction. Statistics were computed for accomplishments in games played in the national tournament that at that time included regional and sectional tournaments in addition to the World Series.
As Arizona Daily Star sports columnist Greg Hansen noted, “In today’s sports market, Lee Carey would’ve left Tucson High School with a $2 million signing bonus from the Cleveland Indians instead of the $19,000 he received in 1947. Or he would’ve had to choose from football scholarship offers by Arizona and ASU, or certainly some Top 25 programs.”
Nonetheless, it was said to be the largest bonus the Indians had ever offered a prospect. At least six other teams were trying to get the 5-foot-11 inch, 175-pound Carey to sign with them.
Hansen quoted Brother Lee’s son Brian as saying: “My grandmother had a scrapbook about my dad’s career that was 4 inches thick. He had nine varsity letters. He once ran against an Olympic sprinter and beat him. He was just a natural.”
Brother Lee worked his way up to Class AA until his voluntary retirement in 1952 at the age of 23. While playing for the Indians, he pledged Sigma C Chi and earned bachelors and master’s degrees in education at the University of Arizona. He then coached baseball at Tucson High School for five years, during which time his teams won three state titles. One of his players was Beta Phi Linn Wallace, ’60.
In 1959, he became athletic director and varsity baseball coach at Rincon High School, where his team won the state title in 1962. In the fall of 1962, Lee moved full time into administration, becoming the dean of boys and then assistant principal at Rincon before moving to Sabino High School in 1981 as assistant principal.
Brother Lee retired from TUSD in 1985 after 32 years. In 1972, the Tucson Daily Citizen sports staff selected him as Tucson High School's All-Time Best Athlete in the post-World War II era. Lee is a member of the Southern Arizona Baseball Federation Hall of Fame, the Arizona High School Sports Hall of Fame and the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame.
His athleticism and altruism continued well into his senior years. He honed his bicycling skills and was a finisher in the El Tour de Tucson Perimeter Race for five consecutive years.
Brother Lee is survived by two daughters, Joan and Janet Lee, a son Brian, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were private.
All Honor to His Name.