Mont Pleasant’s Ray Vacca to Draper’s Dick Ellis

Ray Vacca – Vacca graduated for Nott Terrace in 1936 and from Manhattan College in 1940.  He was a stellar performer in both track and field and cross country at both levels.  In high school Vacca challenged Mont Pleasant’s sensational Ray Trail and other runners in the two-mile run and finished second.  Trail was the national champion.  After graduating from college, Vacca returned to Schenectady and taught at Nott Terrace and Mont Pleasant.  He coached at Mont Pleasant and his track and field teams won sixteen sectional titles.  In 1957, he was elected to the Schenectady City Council and served the city for twenty years.  Many Schenectadians might remember his many confrontations with former Schenectady mayor, Frank Duci.

Jeff Blatnick – Blatnick, an Olympic gold medal winner from Niskayuna, became a motivational speaker, and the crux of his speaches are about overcoming adversity.  Blatnick speaks to a variety of groups.  Among them are schools, businesses, and Rotary and other clubs.  He travels throughout the country and makes these speaches for fees that range from five to ten thousand dollars.

Sig Makofski – He won 70% of his games as the head coach of Mont Pleasant, and he was a darn good football player who could have played pro ball.  A talented all-around athlete, Makofski won two Schenectady County Amateur Golf Titles in 1951 and 1952.  During his golfing days, he shot incredible scores of 61 and 62.  In his later years, Makofski moved to Clearwater, Florida, where he passed away at the age of 89.

Lee Riley Sr. – Pat’s father, he managed the Schenectady Blue Jays in the late 1940s.  Riley had a short stint as a major league player with the Philadelphia Phillies in the mid-1940s.  He banged a double in 12 trips to the plate for a batting average of less than .100.  His biggest weakness was hitting lefthanded pitchers,

Walt Przybylo – The former Linton basketball coach would sit his team down before every practice and expouse some pearl of wisdom about life.  A couple of his favorites were:  “Good things happen to good kids.”  And, “Be smart like Blorchberg, (Howie Lorch our basketball manager , who is now a very successful businessman in Texas) he smart, you be smart like him.”  Coach Prz sometimes murdered the English language, but he was a shrewd and very intelligent man.  He was also very street-wise.  A great motivator of young people, Przybylo could take just mediocre talent and motivate them to play over their heads.

Dick Ellis – Ellis of Draper High School in Rotterdam, a Class B school, was Pat Riley’s chief competitor for the Schenectady County scoring title in 1963.  Ellis was a machine gun at the offensive end of the floor.  He was quick to take a shot, had a soft touch, and he put up big numbers in nearly every game.  Though Ellis was bucketing about 25 points in most games, Riley won out with a 28-plus scoring average.  Ellis’s style of play was similar to another former Draper star by the name of Rit Keith.  Keith once had a 64-point night.


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