Fear the scorekeepers
Memories of a wild Pittsville-Stratford boys basketball game from 1956
By Marv Kohlbeck
The slogan of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team is “Fear the Deer.” After reviewing a recent weekend sports page and noting that the Stratford Tigers wrestling team humbled the Division 1 Wisconsin Rapids Raiders 46-15, I would think that the Rapids wrestlers would caution future wrestling teams to “Fear the Tigers.” The Tigers have already pummeled the wrestling Panthers of Pittsville 76-3, but the Pittsville boys basketball team is scheduled to play at Stratford on Tuesday, Feb 9.
Reflecting back on memories of previous clashes between Pittsville and Stratford always brings to mind the first basketball encounter I witnessed between the two teams.
The year was 1956, and I was the new agriculture teacher in the Pittsville school system. Howard Roemer, principal, was lining up personnel to handle extracurricular activities such as ticket sellers and scorekeepers for basketball games. School policy did not allow extra pay for those events, but he did promise a steak dinner at an area supper club at the end of the season. That offer sounded good to me, so I volunteered to help him as scorekeeper or clock manager.
Back in the ‘50s, the only basketball court in Pittsville was the community hall with its low ceiling and limited seating capacity. The few rows of bleachers were generally filled at ball games. The overflow crowd was seated on the stage or the standing-room-only area. The scoring table resembled a cafe dining table for two and was placed in the corner near the restrooms. The storied game was Pittsville hosting Stratford.
Roemer and I got situated at the scoring table only to find out that the scoreboard did not fully function. The gym was packed, game time was closing in, and although we were able to post scores, we could not get the clock to work. Not likely to call the game off, someone came up with an alarm clock for us to use. The referees called the coaches to the table and informed them that due to the large, noisy crowd and lack of a clock, they advised they would confer with us at the scorers’ table on any decisive calls.
It seemed as if the referees had written the script. The two teams had a seesaw battle throughout the game. Time was running out, and Stratford held a one-point lead with just seconds remaining. A foul was called on a Stratford player, and the Pittsville player toed the free throw line. Everyone knew that a successful free throw would tie the score, but the shot was missed, and the ball bounced back toward scrambling players. A Pittsville player came up with the rebound, shot, and scored.
Our alarm clock began ringing when the player grabbed the rebound. The capacity crowd stormed the court and erupted with cheers, Pittsville supporters thinking they had won with the final shot and the Stratford fans cheering as they felt time had run out.
The referees were not sure what to call, so they struggled to get through the crowd to find out what our decision was.
Without hesitation Roemer and I informed the referees that the alarm clock had rung while players were fighting for the ball and that the basket did not count. Our decision stood up, and Stratford emerged as a one-point winner.
With newly adopted cheering policy coming forth from WIAA, I am not sure if cheers such as “Fear the Tigers,” “Fear the Panthers,” or “Fear the Scorekeepers and Referees” would be tolerated. I will be at the game but quietly keeping score with pencil and score sheet.