Shoe Column: Nyuk Nyuk
By Tim “Shoe” Sullivan
February 28, 1990, is a date that should live in infamy. History was made on that night in Stevens Point Rec. Department League Basketball.
I was the official scorer for the games that evening at Madison School. (We played league games at the “Rec” and schools like Madison, Jefferson, Bannach, SPASH, Washington, and Ben Franklin).
My duties included working the scoreboard, keeping track of player points, team points, player fouls, and team fouls, substitutions, and telling players to stop whining.
I also had to operate the game clock, when it worked. One night it stopped running at halftime, and we went by Kim Koback’s watch during the entire second half.
On the fateful night of February 28, 1990, all systems were “Go” as the first two teams were doing pre-game warmups. My buddy Randy Wievel, a fellow scorer, was on hand to observe the action.
And minutes before the opening jump, things got interesting.
Larry Kokkeler, a UWSP Communications professor, showed up to officiate. He was an excellent referee. A minute later, Gary Marquard, a veteran “zebra,”arrived. We were all set to start the action.
But wait. In walked Jim Moe, chairman of the UWSP Communications Department. Jim had been a “Rec” League ref for many years.
So we had a slight problem. We usually had two referees, but never three. We had one too many.
The refs huddled and decided one of them should’ve been at Ben Franklin. So Marquard headed for the door.
But not so fast. Wievel said: “Don’t let him go yet. We can make city history here.”
I asked him what he meant.
Randy continued: “Don’t you see? There’s never been a game in the rec leagues with three refs ever. Let all three do at least part of the game.”
So we did. Marquard stayed until the first timeout of the game was taken.
And then came the real fun part.
Gary Marquard, a ref for many years, was balding, and his nickname was “Curly.” He tossed the ball for the opening tip.
Mr. Kokkeler and Mr. Moe went to their positions on the court.
And then we stopped the game. Everyone was confused. I said: “Folks, this is historic. This is the first time in Rec history that we had three refs work the game.”
And better yet, just look at what we got. Jim Moe, Larry Kokkeler, and Gary Marquard. In other words, Moe, Larry, and Curly.
The gym exploded with laughter.
The chances of those three guys working the same game were one in a million. For the record, Lepak Builders clobbered Hohensee Financial Services, 78-42.
Fred Hohensee, the player-coach of HFS, commented: “The refs didn’t bother us. We simply played like a bunch of morons.”
Following the game, I sent a short report of the game and a copy of the official scorebook to Sports Illustrated. The national magazine published a few lines in the “Scorecard” section of their March 26 issue.
Archie Hansen later took some pictures of our three heroes in their ref uniforms. The UWSP “Pointer” ran the photos and the story.
Joe Graceffa, the Rec League director, was so impressed with the notoriety that he scheduled those three refs to officiate the American League’s Championship Playoff Game on March 27. History was made again.
By the way, former NBA ref Blane Reichelt, who stepped down after calling fouls on Charles Barkley and others for 25 years, worked many games in the Point Rec. Department.
Jim Moe noted: “We really got a kick out of it. One of my buddies saw the piece in Sports Illustrated and called me from Maryland.”
Larry Kokkeler added: “I used to teach at UNLV, and our “Runnin’ Rebs” just won the NCAA Tournament. It was a great time for me in basketball. I heard it was mentioned on Channel 9 in Wausau,and it got a big play on the local WSPT radio.”
Mr. Wievel also had something to say. He smiled and said: “It’s too bad we didn’t have a fourth ref around here named Shemp.”