Special to the OBSERVER
FREDONIA - It began because of a protective father. Candace Ludwig started dating a boy in high school. Her dad, Bill, had a clever idea on how to keep an eye on the new beau.
Bill Ludwig was the Fredonia State men's basketball coach at the time, so he asked the boy to serve as his scorekeeper at home games. Before long, Ludwig was taking the teen on road trips, too.
Fredonia State’s basketball scorekeeper Jim Polvino, right, pays attention during a women’s game this past Friday against New Paltz. Polvino was recognized Saturday during halftime of the men’s game against Oneonta as one of the longest-tneured basketball scorekeepers in the nation. He has been keeping the Blue Devil book at home games for 50 straight years.
"I think it was his way to keep an eye on me," says Jim Polvino, who has been the Blue Devils' official scorekeeper ever since. This season marks his 50th straight on the book, believed to be the longest consecutive streak in all of NCAA Division III.
"I just love basketball," Polvino explained when asked what has kept him involved since December 1961, long after his high school romance was over.
There's no way to determine exactly how many he has scored - the Blue Devils have played approximately 500 home games since he began - but it is a tenure served at four home gyms, Old Main, Fredonia's Wheelock School, Dods Hall, and the current site, the Steele Hall Fieldhouse.
Among his most memorable games was a night on the road against Roberts Wesleyan at North Chili High School. As Polvino recalls, Fredonia State's Dean Bedgar was undercut as he drove to the hoop. To cushion his fall, Bedgar grabbed the rim and bent it.
"That was before they had extra baskets in gyms," Polvino said. "They got a ladder and tried to fix it, but we had to play the rest of the game with a bent rim."
See POLVINO, Page B5
Polvino is all business during games, so outwardly it is hard to tell where his allegiance lies. Yet make no mistake, he's pulling for his alma mater. He counts the 1985 ECAC Upstate Tournament victory at Hamilton and a last-second 67-66 win over Buffalo State in January 1992 among his fondest memories while scoring games.
His most-upsetting moment occurred in a 113-112 season-ending loss to Geneseo in the 1989 SUNYAC Tournament. A play occurred right in front of the scorer's table that went Geneseo's way.
Polvino was convinced the official should have blown his whistle.
"You gotta make that call," he shouted to the official.
"I'm not going to decide the game," the official replied.
"You just did," Polvino replied.
In addition to men's games, Polvino has filled in as the women's scorekeeper, as he did this past weekend for a pair of games. He has also served as official SUNYAC Tournament scorekeeper, and there was a time he also kept the baseball scorebook.
Years ago, he was responsible for filling out and filing the official NCAA scoresheet, before there were hand-held calculators, let alone computers.
"I'd figure out shooting percentages with a slide rule," he said. "Hey, why not? I was a science teacher."
A 1967 Fredonia State graduate, Polvino majored in geosciences and is a retired earth science teacher of 29 years. Since 1995, he has been the recreation director at the Cassadaga Job Corps, where, among other duties, he organizes basketball games and tournaments.
Some romances never die.