One of the social mores that all athletes practice is calling their fellow teammates by their last name or a nickname. Hence the above headline which immortalizes the sobriquet most often used for the late Dick Trachok. The practice of using the surname probably had its genesis in the service during the war years of the last century.
When you have a friendship with an individual that lasts over 75 years, you tend to know just about everything there is to know about that person. Such was the case of my relationship with Trachok. Although he was on a football scholarship at the University of Nevada and I was on a basketball scholarship, our paths often crossed. We would especially get together at functions of the Block N, an athletic organization for lettermen. As far as sports went, Tray and I competed in Handball and Squash.
For most of his adult life Dick devoted himself to the University of Nevada. As a football player, coach and athletic director he had what is undoubtably one of the longest careers at the U. Following his graduation, he had a ten year plus stint as a high school basketball and football coach and then went on to the University as the head football coach. When AD Jake Lawlor decided to retire Dick was a natural choice to replace him. When Dick retired from the AD post, he assumed an emeritus position and was at his desk up until the time he passed away.
My direct competition in sports with Trachok began sometime in the mid-‘50s when we were both encouraged to play handball at the YMCA, which was Reno’s only sports facility at that time. After a brief career in Handball a fellow athlete, Dick Munn, introduced us to the sport of Squash. The game of Squash, which is a tough indoor racquet sport, was brought to Reno by Newt Crumley when he purchased the Holiday Hotel. Crumley taught Munn and Munn quickly had a total of some twenty players engaged in the sport. Reno was a hotbed for the game during the decade of the ‘60s. Shortly before his untimely death in a plane crash Crumley had set up a home-and-home Squash match between the Reno Y and the San Francisco Olympic Club. That series lasted for some dozen years.
During that time Trachok and I averaged at least two matches a week. The one I remember most was a full contact affair where Dick happened to crowd my backhand and was struck by my racquet which split his lower lip, revealing five of his six front teeth showing through. We hastily wrapped a towel around his wound, slipped on our overcoats and I drove him to the Emergency Room. On our way into the hospital we bumped into Doctor John Sande who quickly took Dick under his wing and proceeded to sew up his injury.
While Dick was best known for his prowess on the football field he also excelled at many other sports. We have mentioned Squash, but Dick was also an avid golfer. In addition to that I remember when Dick in the off season played Reno City League Basketball, he was often the high scorer on his team. For me I’ll always remember seeing him cavort on the greensward as a member of those great football teams Nevada had in the late ‘40s.
During the ‘60s when I was managing Mapes celebrity golf tournaments Dick was my go-to guy when I needed substitute golfers for the hungover regular participants.
One of Dick’s greatest contributions to the monetary fortunes of Wolf Pack athletics was his creation of the annual Governor’s Dinner held each summer in the well-manicured backyard of the mansion. The last time I saw Dick was at the 2018 celebration of that event, which happened to be the 50th.
Dick was recognized and called on to speak. As the honoree was Shaquille O’Neal, Dick took advantage of the situation. One of Trachok’s other talents was that he was a gifted speaker and raconteur, his most memorable quip that evening to all of the attendees was, “Don’t you think if Shaq had been a few inches taller he might have been a good basketball player?”
A true man for all seasons Dick will be sorely missed by all who knew him.
Harry Spencer is a 75-year resident of Nevada and a freelance writer living in Reno. He writes a weekly column for the Sparks Tribune.