SWANSON | Keystoner Great talking to ya, 'Rak'
There was no mistaking the voice at the other end of the telephone call.
"You mean you remember me after all these years? It's been a long time," he continued.
The voice was that of one Carl Racketa, a former standout basketball player at Sharon High School in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He was also one of the finest fast-pitch softball players to come out of the area.
"How could I ever forget you, 'Rak?' You were one of my idols back in the hey-days when softball was kingpin in the Shenango Valley," I replied.
I never had the opportunity to bat against 'Rak,' but I watched him in action many times. Outside of his raw talent, the thing that impressed me the most was his competitiveness. He downright hated to lose and perhaps that was the trait that made him such a tremendous pitcher.
'Rak' had called me to acquire some information he wanted concerning an article I had written about one of his friends a few years back.
Lives in Girard: 'Rak,' a former Sharon resident now 69, has been living in Girard, Ohio, for the last 45 years.
"I love it over here," he said. "Girard is a nice place to live. It's a small town and the people are just great."
At Sharon High School, 'Rak' played his basketball under Pete Collodi, graduating in 1951. 'Rak' was just as outstanding on the basketball floor as he was on the softball field.
He was All-State Honorable Mention in 1941 and was named to the Section III first team. That was an extremely high honor as Section III at that time was comprised of such teams as New Castle, Beaver Falls, Butler, Farrell, Aliquippa, Ambridge and Ellwood City, to mention a few.
He, too, had been a member of the famed Buhl Club Whiz Kids.
To Ohio University: Upon graduation from Sharon High, 'Rak' took his talents to Ohio University where he competed in basketball and was a standout for two years.
In 1954 and 1955 while in the military service, he played both basketball and softball for the 135th Engineer Battalion.
For his outstanding efforts and capabilities, he was inducted into the Curbstone Coaches Hall of Fame in Youngstown. He played in the Youngstown Oldtimers Fast-Pitch League for a number of years.
He also worked for many years at RMI in Niles, and is now retired.
"I still work out quite a bit and I do a lot of swimming to keep in shape," said 'Rak.'
Sounds like he thinks he can still pitch. Know what? I'll bet he still can.
Great talking with 'ya,' 'Rak.'
Crazy weekend: I can't ever remember such a crazy weekend in the sports world as the one that took place on Nov. 3-4.
In the college ranks Saturday, Arkansas and Mississippi started things off in a seven-overtime contest, a Division I record, that finally was nailed down by the Razorbacks, 58-56. That was a long game.
Things were just as wild on Sunday in the NFL but unfortunately the Steelers and the Browns were both victimized.
The Browns had an apparent victory within their grasps, but gave up two TDs in the final 28 seconds and then bowed to the Bears in overtime, 27-21. Unbelievable.
Then the Steelers' placekicker Kris Brown came unglued, missing four field goals including a game-tying, 35-yard attempt with eight seconds left that would have tied the Ravens. Baltimore prevailed 13-10.
And then, it all ended up in the evening hours when the Arizona Diamondbacks staged a miraculous ninth-inning rally to nudge the New York Yankees in Game 7 of the World Series, 3-2.
The heart can only take so much.