Saturday, April 26, 2014

Score One For "Stats"

Photo courtesy Gannon University
One of my highlights this season was finally seeing Gannon's all-time leading scorer inducted into the school's athletic Hall of Fame. You might be thinking to yourself, "Wait -- I thought Butch Warner was already in the Hall of Fame." Warner, who scored 2,090 points in his Golden Knight career and is listed in the media guide at the top of the scoring charts ahead of Gerald "Bad News" Walker, Glen Summors, and Steve Moyer, was named to the GU HOF in 2010.

But the actual all-time leading scorer is Rick "Stats" Klapthor, Gannon's official scorekeeper for 39 seasons. Stats was inducted into the hall this year and was gracious enough to share his induction speech with me. It was so good, I wanted to share it with you:

Dr. Taylor, Mark Richard, committee members, fellow inductees, past inductees, family, friends, and the rest of you who are simply friends who I have yet to meet.

A few years ago, a wise man was asked, "How does a physical therapist become a university president?" Dr. Taylor's response was, "I'm not quite sure, but it's kind of neat isn't it?" Similarly, I'm wondering how someone as unathletic as myself is being inducted into an athletic hall of fame. I'm not quite sure, but it's kind of neat!

I need to thank the Hall of Fame committee for naming me the recipient of the Distinguished Service Award this year. When I consider that the three most recent recipients have been Joe Gaeta, Gary Miller, and Chuck Campagne, I'm humbled to be thought of in the same category as those gentlemen.

I would like to acknowledge three people who are influential in my being here tonight. My mother Louise, who is 94 years young, but despite having never attended a Gannon sporting event is one of the most loyal listeners to the basketball broadcasts on radio. My brother Bill, who passed away in 2003, is responsible for getting me started on my career path by teaching me how to keep score of baseball and basketball. On the other hand, he taught me how to root for the Indians and the Browns. Let's call that a push. Bud Elwell, who in 1975 had enough confidence in an 18-year-old freshman with a full head of hair to anoint me the official scorekeeper for his men's basketball team. Hopefully in the past 39 years I have rewarded that confidence.

Now back to my lack of athleticism. The extent of my athletic career was two years of Boys Baseball, Erie's version of Little League. I played in the 2B division for 11- and 12-year-olds. But, truth be told, I actually wanted to keep score at 11 years old. I never signed up to play Boys Baseball, I never tried out for Boys Baseball, but to make a long story short, I ended up on the Security-People's team in the Lawrence League. Some people will tell you that I had a batting average of .500. However, those same people will tell you that they calculated the .500 batting average by dividing my one hit by the two years that I played. I was horrible. I counted my foul balls until I finally grounded out — and I didn't ground out very often. So if you look at the list of speakers tonight, you'll notice that I'm hitting ninth in the batting order, a place that I am very familiar with.

But the silver lining in having played those two years was that it confirmed what career path I should be on. As the years have gone on, I never once looked back and thought that I should've been more of a jock in high school (going out for football, wrestling, basketball, whatever). I know exactly where I belonged. I belonged in the football press box keeping stats. I belong at the basketball scorers table.

If someone had told me then that I would be getting inducted into an athletic hall of fame, I would've told them that the day that happens, the NFL would be playing a Super Bowl in an open air stadium in the Northeast.

But the greatest thing about being involved in athletics even on the periphery are the people that you meet along the way. When I started 39 years ago I was as young if not younger than the players; now I'm older than most coaches and older than most officials. How many people do you think I've met, both directly and indirectly, over these 39 years? Whatever number you come up with is woefully low. As I look around the room at my many friends here tonight, I realize that the longest friendship that I have in this room (other than family) is tonight's emcee Steve Bohen. Steve and I go so far back that he can vouch for how bad a baseball player I was.

As I wind up tonight, let me leave you with one thought. On a night when it is really, really nice to be important, it is much more important to be nice!

Thank you and may God bless you all!