When a junior college coach asked Barth what sport Michael planned to play in school, he responded: “My son is going to ‘play’ student.”
“To me, that meant he understood the importance of balance,” said Michael, of Houston.
Barth believed in the power of sports to change young lives. In a 1989 interview, Barth talked about how well students were doing in the GOYA Collegiate Basketball League, which played at Mimi-Dade’s South Campus — where early Heat teams practiced and came to know Barth.
Barth helped organize the high school/college league for GOYA, the Hispanic-owned food company that financed it.
“We have 40 players from Dade County public schools,” Barth told a reporter. “You can see that these kids are serious about their grades and getting into college. … We’ve had white, black, Haitian and Hispanic players in the league, and that’s something I’m really pleased about.”
The story noted that as a Tamiami League commissioner, Barth took teams to play mainly black teams from the Miami Boys Club, and would recruit black officials to call Tamiami games.
“I knew it was a gamble, but the kids needed it,” Barth said. “I’ve always told the kids that the basket was put 10 feet above the ground for a reason: so that you have to reach up to score. Basketball should teach you to reach as high as you can.”
But he was “old school,” said daughter, Patti Lewyn, of McLean, Va.
“I got to come to the games and keep score, and I would ask him why he didn’t start a girls’ league. He’d say, ‘Maybe next year. This was for the boys.’ ”
In addition to his wife and children, Barth is survived by stepdaughter Aurora Cordero, of Miami.
Services will be at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 5900 SW 77th Ave., followed by burial at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery, 1125 NW 137th St.
The family suggests memorial donations to the University of Miami Student-Athlete Scholarship Fund.