Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Sports column

March 16, 2013

Column: Baker uncovers history of Beavers basketball

— Did you know?

The Bluefield Beavers’ boys basketball team has played — give or take a game or two or three — 2,090 games counting Friday’s state semifinal with Robert C. Byrd since 1914.

They have won 1,245 of those — not sure about Friday as this is being written — and even tied Concord — yes, that Concord —13-13 way back in 1918.

The Beavers have compiled a .596 winning percentage over that span.

Bluefield hoped to add that win total against the Eagles on Friday, and would like make it one more against Fairmont Senior in the championship game on Saturday.

It might be a good idea to cheer for Bridgeport. The Beavers have played the Indians once, defeating them in 2002. However, Bluefield is 1-10 against the Polar Bears, but do remember that they haven’t played since 1996, and 10 of those games were played from 1916 through ’51.   

How, you might ask, do I know such facts? You can thank 1981 Bluefield High School graduate Rick Baker, who has compiled the schedules and scores — minus a game here or there — for every season since 1914.

He’s still working. He spent part of Friday at the state archives in Charleston working on the 1912-13 seasons, as he continues to research the complete history of Beaver and Bluefield high school basketball.

“I am going to Charleston Friday and spend all day in the state archives looking for earlier stuff, and I am trying to fill in the gaps here and there,” said Baker, who has been the public address announcer at Bluefield football games for 26 years. “I will go to the game Friday night and then go to the archives on Saturday.

“If they play on Saturday I will go to the game. If they don’t play, I will spend the whole day in the archives.”

 You could call it allegiance to his school, and it is, but he has also compiled the history of nearly 60 high school football teams in southern West Virginia and such Virginia schools as Graham, Tazewell and Richlands.

Baker has spent much of the last two months compiling a large database — it took a lot of paper to print it all out — of Bluefield schedules and results up to and continuing before 1914, with very few results that he is still trying to find.

Have any clue what the score was of Bluefield and Green-brier East in 2001 or Bluefield and Greenbrier West in 1998? If so, let him know. Those have eluded him in his research.

“It is basketball and it is easy to find,” Baker said. “I just had to go down to the library and scan through the pages.”

Sounds easy, but have you have ever tried finding information on microfilm? It can be a tedious process, but Baker searches on.

He estimates that 98 percent of his information has come from looking at the Craft Memorial Library looking at Daily Telegraph microfilm. He also uses old yearbooks and newspapers from across the state.

“This is the first basketball one of these that I have done,” Baker said. “I really didn’t think I would be able to do it because of all the cancellations and games being rescheduled, but I only have a few scores missing.”

His biggest issue has been 1937. Baker hasn’t been able to find any coverage of Bluefield basketball in either the Daily Telegraph or the Sunset News. Rumor has it that sports editor Stubby Currence didn’t get along with ‘37 coach Jake Miller, so nothing was reported.

Stubby was apparently a powerful man, from all I have heard about him. That coach lasted one season in Bluefield.

Baker said he was ‘lucky’ to find a schedule from the 1937 season in the Charleston Gazette archives and has pieced together most of the scores from that season.  

“Sometimes it is easy, sometimes it is not so easy,” Baker said. “When you have the schedule it makes it easy, when you don’t have the schedules it isn’t not so easy.”

Baker, whose brother, Todd, was a member of Bluefield football and basketball teams in the 1980s, has compiled the scores and schedules of every game, including the postseason, along with the numerous other facts that attracts a history buff like me.

In addition to season records and scores, he has compiled records for coaches, postseason performance, records against every opponent, state, county and the list goes on and on.

Here is a look at just a few of the items that Baker has uncovered. There is much more and he has been nice enough to provide them to the Daily Telegraph for use, and I will do just that in the future.

• The first game in a compilation of 2,090 games: Bluefield defeated Concord 24-20 in 1914. That was followed by a 28-14 loss to Virginia Tech — yes, that Virginia Tech.

• Bluefield has scored 120,240 points (57.5), while allowing 109,510 (52.4).

• Postseason record: 148 wins, 87 losses. First game: Thomas (1918, Bluefield wins 40-0). That zero isn’t a typo.

• State championships: 2 (1995, 1996).

• Record in 1914 (Where Baker’s research is now): 3-2.

• Best record: 23-1, 1923 (.958)

• Twenty-win seasons: 14 (Bluefield won between 20 and 24 games from 1920-23, and have won at least 20 games in six of the last 10 seasons.)

• Winning seasons: 68 (21 straight from 1914-1935); The current streak is 15 in a row.   

• Worst Record: 3-19, 1959 (.143).

• Losing seasons: 29 (Bluefield had six losing seasons and climbed to .500 once from 1946-1942). The Beavers’ last season under .500 was an 11-12 record in 1998.

• Most common opponents: Princeton. They have played 242 times, with the Tigers holding a 133-109 edge; Beckley (149, 32-117); Graham (145, 110-35), Oak Hill (133, 85-48) and Welch (133, 85-48).

• Others opponents of interest: PikeView 45-9, Tazewell 22-7, Shady Spring 15-1, Iaeger 10-0, Westside 8-2, Richlands 8-1. (James Monroe 42-1, Matoaka 17-1, both losses came in sectional games.)

• Not so good: Wyoming East 5-9, Tug Valley 3-7, William Fleming 0-4, Victory 0-4 (from 1920-24), Winfield 0-3, Ravenswood 0-3.  

• Records vs. college opponents: Concord 6-0-1 (1914-27), Virginia Tech 1-4 (1914-24); Shepherd 2-0 (1917); Emory Henry JV 2-0 (20-21).

• Who? Eccles Athletic Association: 1-1 (1918); Chicago Junior YMCA 1-0 (1921); B.M.A.C. 0-1 (1914). (Was that Big Man at campus, if you know let me know).

• States played in: 9.

• Scoring 100 points: 19 (3 in 1920; 103 vs. Shady Spring in 2012).  

• Best stretch for points: In a span of four games in 1920, the Beavers defeated Matoaka 116-4, Gary 117-9 and Williamson 122-7 by an average of 111.7 points a contest.

• Most points in a game: 122 (Williamson, 1920)

• Most points allowed: 109 (Huntington, 1955).

• Fewest points scored in a game: 6 (Ceredo-Kenova, 1925).

• First overtime: Princeton, 1915, lost 28-27.

• First (and only) tie: Concord, 1917, 13-13.

• Head coaches: Bluefield has had 23 coaches in 99 years.

• First, at least in 1914: Ben H. Williams, who was 32-16-1 from 1914-17.

• Second was C.W. Jackson, who was 81-16 in five seasons. He helped form the West Virginia state basketball tournament that has now reached 100 years, and is part of the state’s sports hall of fame.

• Known for other sports: Tony Lotito, who was the last Bluefield College football coach before Mike Gravier, was 33-16 in two years at the helm. Bluefield football coaches John Chmara (5 seasons, 64-66) and Merrill Gainer (6 years, 131-83) also led on the hardwood.

• Baseball too: George Fanning, who became the longtime general manager of the Bluefield Orioles, was 17-45 as a basketball coach for the Beavers over three seasons.

• Known for other schools: Jennings Boyd, who led Northfork to nine state championship, was the head coach for three years in Bluefield, posting a mark of 31-36. Elhanier Willis, who also coached in McDowell County and Bluefield State, was 45-59 in five years with the Beavers.

• Don’t forget the girls: Baker uncovered that in 1921 and 1922, the Bluefield girls finished state runner-up to Wheeling High School.  

That is it for now, at least for me. Not for Baker, he keeps looking for more history of Bluefield basketball.

A state championship would be a nice reward for a job well done.

*****

Brian Woodson is the sports editor at the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at bwoodson@bdtonline. com.

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