When something piques Tom Hatch's curiosity, don't be surprised if he eventually ends up as an expert on the subject.

Consider the time in 1966 when he began inquiring about shutout games and other facts relating to high school football playoffs in Oregon.That he would be interested in such data about Oregon wasn't unusual. After all, an Oregon native, Hatch was working at the time as a sportswriter at The Oregonian in Portland. Just seven years earlier he had been the place-kicker for Portland's Grant High School football team. But when he started asking questions about the playoffs, he found no answers were available - at least not in one place.

Hatch pored through old newspapers and school records from 1940-1966. By the time he was done, he had amassed a compendium accounting for all but about 115 points scored in those years.

For his efforts, he now has the satisfaction of knowing that his research is regarded as the definitive record of Oregon's high school football playoffs. It was adopted by the Oregon School Activities Association and is updated yearly.

Another subject Hatch knows inside and out is streetcars.

As a 4-year-old, he became an aficionado of Portland's streetcar lines. By the time Tom was 5, his father said he could put Tom down anyplace in Portland and he'd find his way home. From those early rides on streetcars and weekend excursions with his father grew a lifelong interest in streetcars, trolley buses and light-rail lines.

"There was a time," he said, "when I had ridden every existing streetcar line in North America."

His quest to know more about streetcars has also taken him to Europe four times. "Each time I went there, my choice of cities to visit was predicated on the streetcar lines. That's why I've never gone to Paris - the streetcar lines there were gone by the start of World War II."

Genealogical research is another area in which Hatch has developed expertise.

After coming to Utah in 1981 to join the Deseret News, he met and married Marsha Ek, a native of Salt Lake County. Thereupon he immediately started digging into the archives of the LDS Church's Family History Library and eventually was able to show his wife that they are distant cousins in 10 ways.

As a Deseret News copy editor, he's been known to slip an occasional pun into headlines. Recent examples are "Penny bill made little sense" and "Telemarketing can be a pain in ear." One of his favorite headlines, written in February 1988, deals with Wheaties' practice of printing "Breakfast of Champions" cereal boxes of both Super Bowl teams before the game is played. The Denver Broncos lost last year's game, but Wheaties boxes graced by the Broncos found their way to a food bank in California, prompting Hatch to write this headline: "California food bank gets `Breakfast of Runners-Up.' "

Although Hatch enjoys journalism, streetcars and other interests, he calls his family his main source of satisfaction. The Hatches, who married in 1983, live in West Jordan with their two daughters, Maria Lyn, 5, and Meisha Ann, 4 months.

The young family's vacations have been confined mainly to Bear Lake, California and Oregon, but they plan some longer trips in the future. And when that time finally does roll around, could it be that somewhere on their travels they might end up riding streetcars together?

Don't bet against it.