Marinacci will always be a Big Red
BELLAIRE – ”Winter, Spring, Summer, Football”
That saying is emblazoned on a sign hanging in the ”man room” of William ”Bee Bee” Marinacci’s Shadyside home.
While that sign says all you need to know about what Marinacci does during the fall, his impact has been felt year round for years in the All-American Town.
And while he’s stepped down as equipment manager for the Bellaire High School football team after 28 years, Marinacci said he’ll continue to be a Big Red at heart.
”The school has been my life, really,” said Marinacci, a 1966 Bellaire graduate.
He grew up in the shadow of Nelson Field, a stone’s throw away on Belmont Street. The son of the late William and Helen Marinacci, ”Bee Bee” spent many days at the field before he played for the Big Reds himself.
He’d walk the couple of blocks to catch the Big Reds practice, play and, many times, spend a few minutes with Ben Paul, who served as Bellaire’s equipment manager for 30 years until his death following the 1983 campaign.
”He was real good friend of mine,” Marinacci said of Paul. ”We got along great and I would go over and help him a lot in the evenings.
”He stayed there a lot of nights rather than walk back up to his house. He didn’t drive.”
Following Paul’s death, Rick Burke, a Bridgeport native and St. John alum, assumed the duties in 1984. That was also John Magistro’s first year guiding the Big Reds.
A year later, Burke, who attended Ohio State, decided his workload was too heavy and Marinacci was approached about taking over the equipment manager portion. He gladly accepted.
”I enjoyed it,” he said. ”It was one way to be around the team.”
Marinacci already had a full plate at the time. He had his full-time job with Bellaire City Schools as a custodian and bus driver, which helped support his wife, Christy (Banig), and three children – Michelle, Billy and Marc. He also served on Bellaire City Council, something he ended up doing for nearly three decades.
Through the years, his custodial work took him to the former First Ward Elementary School, to the new elementary school in Neffs and to Nelson Field. Later in his career, he also worked for Head Start in Bellaire. But, through it all, Marinacci said his bosses were supportive of his job with the football team.
”I must say, my supervisors were very good because they worked with me to get my hours where I could be at the football field at a time where I would help the team out,” he said.
As the years progressed, Marinacci added many more duties to his resume. He became Bellaire’s head softball coach, started running the clock at Big Reds’ boys’ and girls’ home basketball games, and even, for a short time, served as equipment manager for the Ohio Valley Greyhounds. But, through it all, his work with the football team gave him the most satisfaction.
The biggest reasons for that were the relationships he cultivated with the players and coaches.
”The kids have always played hard,” he said. ”Now, kids of players that I had when I first started are playing.”
Marinacci served under three coaches – Magistro, Gregg Bonar and Jose Davis. It was Magistro with whom he shared the closest bond.
”John and I grew up together,” he remembered. ”He went to St. John and I went to Bellaire. We were the same age.”
During Magistro’s tenure, the bulk of his staff stayed intact, which Marinacci viewed as part of the reason for the program’s success.
”Bruce Stolz is still there,” he said. ”Ed Miller is still there. We’ve had some great coaches.
”John was a good guy to work for. He was very, very good with the public.”
Magistro guided Bellaire to its first playoff appearance in 1993. And while that was one of Marinacci’s memorable moments, the 1995 and 1996 state final appearances top the list.
”We got beat 50-44 in 1995 and that was a heartbreaker,” he recalled. ”Ask my wife, I was depressed for months.
”She said, ‘What’s wrong with you? It’s just a football game.’ I told her, ‘You don’t understand, we may never get back there again.’
”Well, lo and behold, we got back there the next year.
”That’s a team (1995) that should have won it. We had everything.”
Magistro recently showed his appreciation for Marinacci’s work by joining him and a few friends, which included former Big Red and Ohio State standout, Joey Galloway, for a get-together in Columbus.
”People don’t realize how much you do,” Marinacci said of the equipment manager’s job.
His first year involved organizing football uniforms and equipment for the varsity and freshman squads. He was also responsible for washing all of the uniforms after every game and collecting everything following the season.
”Being the custodian at the field was good, but it was bad because I was there from like 6:30 a.m. to 7 at night,” Marinacci said. ”I would do my work around the field; taking care of the buildings there, cleaning up after games.
”Once practice started, I was there to take care of helmets, shoulder pads if anything broke, helmets if air was needed in them, jerseys if they ripped.
”The season was the easy part. The before and after was the hectic part.”
Equipment has certainly evolved over the years.
”A lot of coaches aren’t trained in that,” Marinacci said. ”I was fortunate because Rick Burke and a fella named Glenn Trudeau were two guys that taught me so much about it.”
Marinacci said helmets have gone from water helmets, to helmets of specific sizes to the ones used now that utilize air.
”Now, they have ones with air in the inside, in the back and in the jaw pad,” he said. ”Before, the jaw pad snapped in and it came out all the time. But now they have air cells in there.”
Despite the many changes, Marinacci said he was able to adapt to the trends. But through it all, he said football was football. And being there on Friday nights, or, in Bellaire’s case, Saturday afternoons, was what it was all about.
”It evolved where I was doing a lot more than I was supposed to do,” he said. ”But, it was always to help the kids out and that’s all I ever wanted to do.”