Greensburg man honored for his fishing prowess

By Bob Frye Capital Correspondent

Greensburg, Pa. — A casting call for an actress has gotten a
western Pennsylvania angler a monument to his fishing
achievements.

Herb Ratner, who lives in the Westmoreland County community of
Greensburg when he’s not wintering in Florida, was in Pittsburgh
not long ago with his wife. She’s an actress, and was auditioning
for a part.

Ratner, now retired at 67, tagged along because he’s otherwise
just a “fishing bum” these days, he says.

He noticed the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, a part of the
Senator John Heinz Regional History Center, next door and decided
to peruse that facility while waiting. Inside, he saw exhibits
paying homage to people who played football, baseball and other
sports – but nothing in regard to fishing.

He mentioned that to someone at the front desk, and then to a
curator, and now things are going to change. Ratner and his
lifelong quest to catch big fish will be featured in an exhibit
planned for the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum, perhaps
sometime in 2007.

Ratner has been honored for his fishing prowess many times
before. He’s been been featured in newspapers and magazines, made
the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first person to
ever set 100 world records in any sport (he’s gone on to catch 180
world-record fish all told, almost double the total of the person
with the second-most records), and received the International Game
Fish Association’s first-ever lifetime achievement award.

Visitors to the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame
in Florida can see several of Ratner’s record fish, too. He has
nine on display there. No other angler has more than one big fish
hanging on the museum walls.

Yet his next honor will be, he believes, the most special.

“To me, out of all the honors that have been bestowed on me by
various organizations, this is the most soul-satisfying,” said
Ratner, who splits his time between homes in Greensburg and
Florida.

“To tell you the truth, because of how proud I am of western
Pennsylvania, this means more to me than being in the IGFA Hall of
Fame. I’ll be in there with Terry Bradshaw, Arnold Palmer, Roberto
Clemente, Billy Conn. This is my briar patch, these are my people,
this is where I grew up. It’s why I’m still here after 67
years.”

Museum officials first met with Ratner in early September to
discuss the idea of a fishing exhibit.

“The many experiences you have had as a world-class fishermen
from western Pennsylvania are an important aspect of our region’s
rich sporting tradition,” Sports Museum curator Nicholas Ciotola
wrote to Ratner in a letter following a face-to-face meeting.

Officials later convinced Ratner to donate various items,
including photos, tackle boxes, mounts of record fish, and a couple
rods and reels – including the Orvis fly-rod and reel he used to
catch all of his freshwater fly-rod records – for an exhibit.

How soon the pieces will be put together on display is hard to
say, said museum communications manager Ned Schano. The items have
to be cataloged, an exhibit designer has to be enlisted, and
display cases have to be purchased.

“We’re sorting everything out, trying to decide what the best
fit is, although no exact timetable has been set,” Schano said.

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