Forty-five Years and Counting: Three Stat Crew Members Have Seen it All
March 13, 2013
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To say they go back to the first game the Pacers ever played robs them of an assist. They go back farther than that.
Bill York, Paul Furimsky and Bill Bevan were keeping stats for the franchise well before the Pacers played their first game against the Kentucky Colonels on Oct. 14, 1967. They worked the six exhibition games prior to that and the call-out scrimmages in June, when dreamers from all over central Indiana came out to see if they could become a professional basketball player.
Forty-five years later they're still here, working the home games for a stat crew that has more than doubled in size from the days at the Fairgrounds Coliseum when a skeleton crew tried to keep up with those fast-paced ABA games. While each of them has missed a game here and there over the years – but no more than 10 – they have declared Wednesday's game against Minnesota to be their 2,000th. They've included home regular season and playoff games in the count, but not preseason games.
Unofficial as it might be, it's a milestone likely unmatched throughout the NBA. Forty-five seasons is a long time for three men to work at something that paid nothing at the beginning, then $2, then $5 and all these years later still doesn't pay enough to make money the motivation for doing it. It's all for the love, which springs from camaraderie, a courtside seat and the opportunity to be an integral part of every home game.
“It's the family aspect of it,” York said. “Basically, we're a family. We still have parties together and still send each other Christmas cards and all that good stuff.”
The family aspect is being felt as strongly as ever today, as Furimsky has been hospitalized with a serious bacterial infection that kept him from working Wednesday's game. York and other crew members have visited him in the hospital, a reminder that their time together has been long, but won't be eternal.
They came together shortly after the formation of the franchise, when Sports Headliners, a local promotion company headed by Chuck Barnes, was hired to direct the Pacers' promotions. Barnes was an original investor in the franchise, and his company was given the account as a returned favor. Barnes assigned his associate Bill Marvel to handle the Pacers' needs, but Sports Headliners' specialty had been auto racing and neither Barnes nor Marvel knew much of anything about basketball. Marvel, confused by all the statistical requirements that were being sent out by the ABA home office, called York, who he knew as a member of the stat crew at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
York agreed to head up a stat crew, and put together an eight-man group of scorers and timekeepers and scoreboard operators that included Furimsky and Bevan. And the rest, as they say, is history. Years and years of history. They have not only worked games at the Coliseum, Market Square Arena and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, they have driven throughout the state to work games – exhibition and real – from Evansville to South Bend and smaller towns in between.
They've seen it all, at least in the home games. They've witnessed every player to wear a Pacers uniform, from Tom Abernethy to Tony Zeno … every homecourt moment, from the first basket of the first game to Reggie Miller's farewell to the most recent game … watched every coach stalk the sideline, from Larry Staverman to Bob Leonard to Frank Vogel.
Basketball and technology have changed a lot over the years. Originally, York typed the running play-by-play from a courtside typewriter and later ran them off on a hand-cranked mimeograph machine before passing them out to the few reporters covering the game. Furimsky operated the game clock. Bevan kept track of field goals and other stats before graduating to official scorer. The press room was a converted ladies restroom in the southwest corner of the Coliseum. Cramped and spartan, to say the least.
Today, York runs the operation from a bustling back room at the fieldhouse that is named after him, down the hall from a spacious media center where dozens of reporters work.
Technology and basketball have changed a lot over the past 45 years. The stat crew started with about eight people, grew to 11, where it stayed for many years, and is now at 22, including those who run stats and beverages to media members all over the fieldhouse. The players, coaches, referees and stat crew members once gathered for holiday parties. There was one memorable New Year's bash in which guns and rifles were fired into the trees just for the fun of it. That didn't go over well with the police officers who were called in by neighbors, but what could the police do when the Mayor was attending the party?
Today the groups that make up a professional basketball franchise tend to be more exclusive, so York's gatherings are smaller. It's typical of how professional sports have evolved, and of a society in which classes have grown apart, but doesn't detract from the meaning of it all to the stat crew veterans. The fun is still there, the relationships with the group remain strong and the memories can't be taken away.
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