In January of 1970, Tom Rataiczak and Terry Snively were two young teachers on the same floor at Bellaire High School. Snively had just been named the boys’ head basketball coach and he needed somebody to keep the scorebook. He asked his good friend Rataiczak and Tom said yes. “Rat” hasn’t missed a JV or varsity game since and that streak reaches an impressive milestone on Friday evening when the varsity game against Union Local will be his 2,000-consecutive game at the table when combining JV and varsity contests.
When reached by phone this week, Snively commented on Rat’s attention-to-detail from the very beginning. “Beginning with that first season, Tom and I would get our morning coffee the day after a game and we would meet in his classroom before the students arrived.” Snively commented. “Every morning when I walked in with my cup of coffee, the stats would be completed and given to me. As I would look over them, we would talk about the game. He was very meticulous and thorough with the stats.”
Former Bridgeport superintendent Mark Matz took over for Snively in 1977 and asked Tom to take the stats to the next level. Up to that point, the basic stats kept at the table were what was kept. Matz asked Rat to expand and start keeping more of the ancillary stats such as rebounds, blocks, steals, shooting percentages and other secondary stats. Rat said yes and the idea of the “The Stats” was born. Yearly, this was a group of students who would sit together in the stands and track all of the new stats that Matz had requested. Over the years, “The Stats” became a family affair as Tom’s daughter, Sheri, was a member of the group during her high school years. When she became a teacher in the district, she took charge of the group and has been leading the group for 27 years.
Given her unique insight into her father’s streak, I reached her by e-mail this week to ask her a few questions to inquire on her thoughts and feelings as he reaches this benchmark. Here is our exchange.
Question #1 – In retrospect, what do you feel your father’s streak has taught you over the years?
In the words of Coach Wooden…..“It is amazing how much can be accomplished if no one cares who gets the credit.” ~ I have always said that I am a great “worker bee.” Tell me what you need me to do, put me to the task, and I will make it happen. I am not one for the limelight. I just like knowing I was a part of something successful. It really is incredible to witness what gets accomplished when everyone’s focus is in the right place. Rat’s success has been because of this very concept. He always wanted what was best for his school, the basketball program, and the athletes who played. Nothing more, nothing less.
Question #2 – What has your father doing stats and subsequently getting you involved and doing them done for your relationship as a father and daughter?
My Dad started this the year I was born. The gym was built the year I was born. My parents toured the “new gym” the very night my mom went into labor with me. The gym…the basketball program….I swear it is woven through my DNA. This is “our thing.” I think my favorite part is traveling to away games. We talk all the way there, and all the way home. We solve all the “problems of the world,” we discuss the games, we discuss teaching, we discuss everything. I also have been proud to carry on a tradition that he began with “The Stats.” I have made some incredible friendships over the years through managing The Stats. I have had the honor of working with two of my children. I get to watch a sport that I love. I get to spend time with my Dad. I have been doing this with him for over half his 50 years. (27 to be exact) It doesn’t get much better than that.
3) When considering your father and his time doing the stats, give me three words that best describe it?
Ha! EASY….. SPIRIT, PRIDE, TRADITION. If there ever was a person to embody what we stand for as Big Reds….it is my Dad. 50 years….2,000 consecutive games. I don’t think there is another person in the Valley that can say they have accomplished that.
Current athletic director Mike Sherwood also has a unique perspective of the streak with his different duties in the district over the years including principal to go along with athletic director. When I asked him for one thought that encapsulates Rat’s longevity, he stated, “As athletic director, I have a mental checklist of everyone working every job for an event no matter how small or mundane the job. I always check to make sure that everyone is going to be there when they are supposed to be. I have never given a second thought to the scorekeeper for the boys’ team over the years because I know that Rat will absolutely be there.” Sherwood added, “With everything that my job entails, it’s greatly appreciated that he is so dependable and committed.”
There have only been five men who have been the head coach during the streak. Snively, Matz, Gene Ammirante, JR Battista and Ben Doyle. 50 years, five coaches and one scorekeeper. I asked Battista for his thoughts and he reiterated something that his Uncle, Coach A, said to him multiple times over the years. “It’s amazing through this streak that Rat never had to miss a game because of a family commitment or just getting the flu or a cold. It’s remarkable when you sit back and think about it.” Rat has been at the table while nine different US Presidents have been in office. In honor of a story about stat-keeping, here are some mind-boggling stats. These are stats that have been compiled since 1977 when more detailed statistics were kept.
56,316 shot attempts
On behalf of the Bellaire Athletic Department, I would like to thank “Rat” for his commitment to the basketball program, the players, the school and all students in general. I believe we will be hard-pressed to see something like this again in our lifetime. Now, how about 3,000?