Thole: ‘Numbers’ is audit-proof Ponies loyalist

Stillwater’s Jim Ratte, shown with his wife of 58 years, Joan, has been an accurate record keeper for several Ponies teams in addition to serving as the public address announcer for four decades.
Stillwater’s Jim Ratte, shown with his wife of 58 years, Joan, has been an accurate record keeper for several Ponies teams in addition to serving as the public address announcer for four decades.

My very good pal Jim Ratte of Stillwater — aka, the Voice of the Valley, Numbers and other monikers acquired over the last eight lustrums — has manned the microphone 1,900 times at local prep athletic contests.

The 82-years-young numbers junkie also kept the scorebook for 235 home football games, 400 hockey games and close to 400 track and field meets.

When he was in his youth at White Bear Lake, Ratte was given the “Numbers” nickname by his friends and classmates. This guy has a memory like and elephant and I’ll bet that he can remember every Ponies home football game from cover to cover from 1971-2010. He covered the Thole-Scott Hoffman years and on down the road and you can add the Beau LaBore years to the list.

Ratte, and his wife Joan of 58 years, have four sons who were Ponies athletes of fine note. Jim Ratte, Jr. ’74 played football and was a hard-nosed guard at 160 pounds in the fall and a fine high hurdler in the spring. Chuck ’77 was a strong defensive back and a top-notch quarter miler. Rick ’79 played football, but truly excelled in track and still holds the school and Section 4AA record in the 300 intermediate hurdles at 38.4. Last, but not least, David ’80 liked football but opted for cross country and track and he ran the mile at state and made a good showing.

Three of the sons graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and Jim, Chuck and David all attained the rank of Captain during their outstanding military careers. Rick served as a captain in the U.S. Army. I’m not even going to start on the grandchildren.

Getting back to the senior Ratte, who for 28 years covered my tracks in the stats department, he was amazing when it came to numbers. The sheet had to balance at night’s end and it could have passed inspection at Bayport State Bank.

Jim always prided himself in always doing the job right and was precise almost to a fault. He would often drive on nights when Jerry Foley and moi would take in an out-of-town Bronco game. He would say I’ll pick you up at 5:53 p.m., and sure enough, he would be in my driveway at exactly that time. Our man would also supply us with rain gear, cushions, snacks and a newspaper. Oh, I almost forgot — stats of the game we just watched.

I was an assistant track coach my first 10 years for the Big Red and I came to appreciate the fact that Ratte had splits and times for every runner. Joe Sam, Steve Forseth, Jim Podratz and Scott Christensen enjoyed the same Jim Ratte experiences that I did.

Even my wife Karen and her Chevals benefited from “Numbers” as he kept track of all the girls’ points and tryout totals with just a pencil and pad.

The numbers were always right on, and you can take that to the bank. This guy was amazing with numbers and did tons more behind the scenes than his “Voice of the Valley” fame.


Mail call


Thank you so much for recognizing Col. Simonet in your column in the Gazette and noting the historical connection of the Pioneer Guard and First Minnesota to the high school team colors and the original “Red and Black” athletic team name. I had sent the athletic director a copy of the Colonel’s speech and would be happy to forward it along to you if you don’t already have it.

We are so pleased that the historical connection to former high school students who went on to serve in the military and those that even served before them in the Civil War is being kept alive. We appreciate Karen and your support of the Veterans Memorial and attendance at the cruises as well as the ceremonies.


Patriotically yours,


John Kraemer


In the huddle

Former North Dakota State gridders Dale Hinkle, Stu Helgason and moi, along with wives Patricia Hinkle and Karen Thole converged on the Fargodome last Friday night to see NDSU squeeze past Georgia Southern 23-20. You win some, you lose some, and once in a while one washes up on the beach. GSU dominated by running the triple option to perfection and posted a 430-276 edge in yardage. The 18,860 fans saw their Bison (13-1) dodge the bullet and, like our Ponies several times this season, provide more thrills than the best rides at Valley Fair. NDSU will play Sam Houston State on Jan. 5 for the FCS national title on ESPN2…. Former Ponies defensive tackle Travis Miller ’06 is playing Arena Football for the Cedar Rapids Titans. This is his third season with indoor football and he is employed by Per Mar Security. Away from the field, Miller has created a Facebook page titled “I’m So Panda,” which offers support through the game of football for children and others who are fighting cancer…. Led by University of Vermont recruit Claire Rutscher, the Big Red Ponies girls’ swim team placed no less than a dozen girls on the all-conference team. Rutscher, who was also voted MVP by the 11-0 conference and section champions, led a group consisting of Sammi Potts, Hannah Sneden, Megan Letkeman that will graduate this June. Back in the fold, however, are juniors Sophie Barnes, Kylie Burgess, Kristin Erf, Mary Knaak and Tiffany Vang. Returning sophomore diver Liz Click and freshman Abby Kunze are also expected to return. With seven all-conference types returning to a team that has won 101 straight dual meets — wow! — the Ponies remain in good hands. Morgan McBride, Burgess, Knaak and Erf will captain next year’s squad…. Former Ponies three-time Nordic skiing state champion Jessie Diggins is continuing her winning ways. The talented Diggins, who hails from Afton, joined forces with Kikkan Randall to become the first USA pair to win the Quebec City World Cup on the six-lap, 1.6-kilometer course, finishing in a time of 21:49.5. A German pair was second in 21:50.4…. Patrick Roth, who scored 28 points (15 goals, 13 assists) has been selected MVP by the Section 4AA champion Stillwater boys’ soccer team (16-2-4). Roth heads the list of all-conference selections, a group that also includes Roma Devine, Kevin Meads, Nathan Purdie and Ben Wilhelm. Retiring coach Phil Johnson (451-156-64) was selected Class AA Coach of the Year and Matt Carlson was the Section 4AA Assistant COY. Roth and Devine were all-state on the coaches association team. Jared Allen, Purdie and Charlie Farrington will captain the team next fall…. From the What Gives Department: In the top 20 boys’ rankings by Let’s Play Hockey, there isn’t a single SEC team listed, although the girls have Roseville seventh, Mounds View eighth, Hastings 14th and the Big Red Ponies at No. 18…. Don’t even think about treading on me!…. Next week, my friend Taco…. finis


Today’s rumination #597

Pick your friends — but not to pieces.

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George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]