Practically every day of the basketball season you hear about Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld, Phil Chenier and the other prominent Washington Bullets. Unless you happen to sit in the front row, you hear vitually nothing of the Bullets'" other starting lineup," the scoring table.
All the members have other jobs. One drives a cab, another works for the Internal Revenue Service, a third teaches history to 13-year-olds. But every time the Bullets play at Capital Centre, they go the full 48 minutes, modestly paid but eager moonlighters.
They are responsible for running the game clock and keeping official statistics as vital as points scored and fouls committed, as esoteric as minutes played by each man. Without them and their counterparts in every National Basketball Association city, the shows as we know it could not go on.
Who are these guys? Where do they come from? What do they do?
From right to left, as they sit facing the floor:
Rick Davis, 24, od Washington, a staffer for the Commission on the Administrative Review of the House, the so-called "Obey Commission" which is studying the ethics of members of the House of Representatives. For the Bullets he is the "statiscal recorder," responsible for keeping track of field goals attempted, offensive and defensive rebounds, steal, assists and blocked shots for bothe teams.
Rick Kramer, 32, of Potomac, deputy director of the Federal Government Division for Lanier Business Products, marketer of dictation systems. He is the "statistical supervisor," ans tells Davis what to record. he make the determination as to who is credited with a rebound, steal, block, assis or shot attempted.
Jerf Schultz, 33, od Silver Spring, history teacher and basketball coach at Parkland Junio High in Rockville. he types the running account of the game, succinctly describing each play as it occurs and noting the elapsed time. he sees plays as Kramer calls them. Although there is no decision-making involved in his job, it is probably the toughest one at the table. His eyes are constantly darting from the clock to the game to his sheets as his fingers dance over the keyboard as swiftly as Van Cliburn during a piano rechal.
Stanley Grossbratt, 33, of Baltimore, who licenses biliboards, junkyards, and other roadside properties for the Outdoor Advertising division of the State of Maryland Highway Administration. He keeps tabs on the minutes played by each player, and hopes that they add up to five times 12 for each team every quarter. If not, something is wrong. he also runs the rebound tally board that is unique to capital Centre and keeps track of turnovers per quarter.
Al Michael, 72, of Baltimore, who retired 7 1/2 years ago after 47 years of testing meters for the Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. You can't miss him; he's the guy dressed like an exploding scorboard. He runs the 24-second clock. (In the NBA, a team has 24 seconds from each time it takes possession in which to get off a shot or relinquish the ball.)
Izzy Back, 34, od Baltimore, who owns three taxi cabs and takes tickets ("I work in the admissions department") at Maryland race tracks - Laurel, Bowie and Pimlico. He is the official timer, and keeps everybody else at the table working smoothly and laughing by the sheer force of his delightful personality.
Marty Barrett, 60, of Baltimore and the Collections Dept. of the IRS. Silver-haired> with balck horn-rimmed glasses, he looks the part he plays: Official scorer. He tabulates scoring and fouls by individual and team, timeouts, technical fouls and other essential information. It is to him that players report before they go into the game, and he is the link between the table and the officials on the court.
Moc back, 58, of Baltimore, who owns and drives a cab in the city he calls "Ball-deemore." He is 6-6, the tallest man at the table, and perhaps that is why he refers to 5-foot-9 Izzy as "my kid brother," he is the scoreboard operator, and also holds up the wooden black and red numbered flags when a foul is called, to indicate the total number against the individual and the team at that point.
That is the scoring table as such, but at either end, guarding the octet like bookends, sit men who work closely with them and must be regarded as part of the team:
Melifluous Mary Brooks, 33, of Silver Spring, the silver-throated oublic address announcer of Capital Centre. He is the one who reduced the name of Nick Weatherspoon, now departed via trade, to "Spo-o-o-o-n," and has fans greeting Elvin Hayes' baskets with sirenlike crescendoes of "Ee-e-e-e-e-e!"
Dolph Sand, 34, of Alexandria, an attorney for the Federal Aviation Administration and potential winner of the Gene Shalit LookAlike Contest. His title is "media assistant," but they should call him "odd job." He began with the Bullets as a statistician, the only man known to have replaced a computer, but now performs "a variety of game night responsibilities, from about an hour before until an hour after the game."
If a player complains that the rim is too low, Dolph has it checked. If a guest is needed for the postgame show, Dolph summons him from the dressing room. Between times he screams loudly at officials, usually trying to hid behind trainer John Lally to avoid being charged with a technical foul.
Sand sometimes thinks of himself as the "autocrat of the scoring table," but what really makes the crew function efficiently is a working camaraderie and esprit de corps.
"You become a well-oiled machine," said Schultz. "There's a chain of dependency. If one guy falls down, everybody feels it, so you work together. If somebody gets behind, the others cover for him until he gets caught up. It's as much a matter of teamwork at the table as it is on the court."
Izzy Bach, the spiritual leader of the crew, is good-humoured, but takes his responsibilities seriously. "There's only one way to do this job: the right way," he said flatly.
"Occasionally we'll make some mistakes, minor errors in box scores and things like that," said Marc Splaver, 28, the Bullet's public relations director who hires and supervises the scoring table, and has overall responsibility for its operation. "But I'm a perfectionist.I hate to make mistakes. And since these people are an extension of me, I hate to see them make mistakes. When they do I let them know I'm unhappy."
There are two distinct cliques at the Bullet's table, but they work well together.
The Bach brothers, Barrett and Michael have been with the team since Dave Trager moved the then Chicago Zephyrs to Baltimore in 1963. Grossblatt is also a part of the "Baltimore Group," although he didn't come aboard until the team moved to Capital Centre three years ago, when the new arena in Landover opened. His brother-in-law is Buddy Finkelstein, who was the statistical supervisor and chief of the scoring table for the Bullets at the Baltimore Civic Center.
Barrett, Grossblatt and Moe Bach generally ride to games together in a caprool that becomes a rolling exercise in basketball talk and sports trivia. Izzy Bach comes before, often direct from the track, to time preliminary games and kibitz with early arrivals at the Capital Centre. Michael invites a guest chauffeur to each game and has calculated that "it's exactly 38 miles from my house to the parking lot."
The Baltimore contingent tries to arrive 45 minutes before game time, and has never been late for the start. "We're just like the mail," said Moe Bach, who apparently remembers how the mail used to be, "we always get through."
Kramer and Davis were associated with Splaver at American University. Splaver was Sports Information Directo there for three years after ebing graduated in 1970.
Kramer, who says "at 5-6, I didn't play too much basketball," was on the statistical crew for coach Dean Smith at the university of North Carolina before graduation in 1966. Subsequently, he was the official scorer at AU and George Washington University.
Davis played intramural basketball as an undergraduate at American and started with the Bullets as an unpaid "go-fer," moving up to a position on the table the season before last.
Schultz came to Splaver's attention because he is a friend of Mary Brooks, and was hired because he is one of the few people who has both the basketball knowledge and the typing skills to do a running play-by-play. "I really have an appreciation of that job," said Splaver, "because when I was a senior at AU, I did it for the Washington Caps in the American Basketball Association. I'd say the running score and the P.A. announcer are the two toughest jobs to fill."
"When I took over, my initial thinking was that we were moving from Baltimore to Washington, we should bring in news people and start fresh," said Splaver, "but Bob Ferry (Bullet's general manager) made the point that the Baltimore group knew what they were doing and it's difficult to start from scratch with a pro basketball scoring table. So we brough in the Baltimore holdovers who still wanted to work, to see how it would go the first year. It's worked so well that I hope these guys will stay as long as they want."
"Most of the guys do a tremendous job because they love what they're doing," said Izzy Bach. "The compensation is not that great that you'd do it if you don't like it. I'd like to get a little more, but who wouldn't? It's not bad."
Members of the table are paid between $15 and $25 per game, depending on their job, and get one ticket in addition to their admission for each game, more when they are available. They are also entitled to free food in the press room before games, which they regularly scarf up as if 40 days and 40 nights of faminine were in prospect.
Fees and fringe benefits for scoring table personnel vary around the NBA. A 1974 league survey indicated that pay for official scorers ranged from $10 to $40, with a $22 average; 24-second clock operators, $10 to $25, with a $12 average; timers, $10 to $25, with a $16 average; scoreboard operators, $10 to $40, with a $22 average; play-by-olay recorders and statisticians, $10 to $25, with a $16 average.
Members of the table are employees of the home team and unabashed Bullets fans, but to a man they insist that their partisanship does not affect the performance of their jobs. They are indignant at any suggestion to the contrary.
"I'm very careful about that. You've got to have integrity," said Splaver. "For example, Wes Unseld was involved in a last-day race for the rebounding chanpionship two years ago. The Celtics finished their season the day before we did, and I figured out that Wes needed 29 rebounds to beat out Dave Cowens.
"I told K.C. (then Bullets coach K.C. Jones) that, and he kept Wes in the game, even though it was a runaway. I personally kept track of every rebound to make sure he didn't get anything he didn't deserve. In fact, the table gave him one I didn't think he deserved, and i made them take it away. We had an advantage knowing how many he needed; I wanted to make sure every one he was credited with was absolutely realistic. I get more complaints from my players that we don't give them enough."
From time to time, scoring tables in the NBA are accused of being "homers," padding the home team's statistics. The Bullets were suspect when Kevin Porter, now with the Detroit Pistons, led the NBA in assists and when Unseld won the rebounding title. SPlaver is sensitive to the charges and discounts.
"It's not economically feasible to have neutral officials from out of town for every game," he said, "but the league monitors subjective statistics such as assists and steals to see how they compare, home and away. They make sure nobody's way out of line."
When you're doing your job, you do it impartially," said Schultz. "I get excited during a game. I yell at bad calls. I'm a screamer. That's the fan in me. But I separate that totally from my work. You do that as fairly as you can."
"It stands to reason that a team's stats are going to be a little better at home because teams play better at home. Their records show that," he adds. "And the table is more familiar with the home players and how they work together, so it's easier to spot assists for them than for teams that only come to town a couple of times a season. But that evens out when the Bullets go on the road."
"We never pad anything. I think that would be the worst thing, for someone to cal us a 'homer' table," said Davis, the Ethics Commission man. "These are official stats. People make a big deal about them.
"Wes Unseld won the shooting percentage title last year by five ten-thousandths of a point. If I had missed one shot all year because I didn't hear Rick shout it out, he would have lost the title. I thought about that. And I wouldn't want ithanging over my head that I padded Wes's percentage and took the title away from John Shumate. I would have cheated and felt guilty. I wanted Wes to win it fair, and I'm sure that's the wanted to win it."
The one exception to the partisanship code is announcer Brooks, who says, "I've never been told I'm not supposed to be blased." He changes tone and delivery with the mood of the game and consciously strives to work the crowd into a vocal frenzy of support for the Bullets.
"I try to incite the fans as well as inform and entertain them," says Brooks.
Izzy Back doesn't remember when he started running the clock at basketball games. "I'm married 29 years, and I was doing this before I met my wife," is the way he estimates it.
He can only recall being involved in one controversy. "We were playing in the Civic Center in Baltimore, against Detroit. We were down by one point with one second on the clock and had the ball out at midcourt," he remembers. "We got a basket and won by a point. A lot of people were disputing it. People teased me and the radio announcer talked about 'The magic fingers of Izzy Bach."
"But the clock doesn't start until the ball touches a man on the court, and there are times when the clock reads one second but there are really closer to two left. People don't realize how much can happed in that time. You could conceivably have four or six points scored in that time, with the time-out and foul situation in pro basketball."
Bach does much more than operate the clock. He yells out the names of players who score to help Barrett and Brooks. He calls out turnover to assist Michael.
Everyone is amazed by 24-second-clock keeper Michael, who says he is "72 but feels like 20."
He, too, talks to the officials. When Jake O'Donnell came out to referee a recent game, his hair a trifle longish, Michael was only too pleased to help. "I'll introduce you to my son-in-law, Jake," he said before the game."He's a barber."