Candela earned his stripes
Ashtabula man will be first referee to be inducted into ACBF Hall of Fame
By CHRIS LARICK
ASHTABULA — Basketball officials may wish for a cloak of invisibility at times, but they're a necessary part of every game.
This year, the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation has selected one of the finest representatives of the officiating fraternity, Ashtabula's Ange Candela, as one of its Hall of Fame inductees. Candela becomes the first official so honored in the foundation's second year of existence. He, along with the other selections, will be inducted Sunday, March 28 at the annual banquet at the Conneaut Human Resources Center, starting at 6 p.m.
"I'm very proud and happy about it," Candela said when informed of his selection. "I really enjoyed officiating and working. That to me was an enjoyment."
Candela, 88, is already a member of one athletic hall of fame. He was inducted into the Ohio High School Athletic Association's Officials Hall of Fame on June 13, 1998.
Though his officiating career in the county — which included football and baseball as well as basketball — lasted through the 1940s and 1950s, Candela actually began officiating fraternity basketball games as a college student at Ohio University, from which he graduated in 1938 for $3 per game.
"That was no easy job, let me tell you," Candela, a 1934 Ashtabula High School graduate, said.
When he went into the United States Navy, he continued to officiate, assisting in the Gene Tunney physical education program and serving as athletic director of the program at Monterey, Calif.
After Candela returned to Ashtabula, he began officiating high school contests, serving more than 20 years in this area, as well as in and around Canton, Youngstown and Cleveland. But he rarely accepted assignments to officiate Ashtabula or Harbor games because he taught in the system at the time.
"I usually worked in the Painesville area or throughout the (rest of) the county," he said. "I knew most of the coaches and had no problems as I saw it. The coaches were very friendly. I did at least 15 or 20 games a year."
Candela actually preferred baseball umpiring.
"I used to do a lot of summer work in baseball," he said. "The Son of Italy had different ball clubs."
Candela retains a sense of humor about his officiating. After his selection to the OHSAA Hall of Fame, he said, "When they were having tournament play, I was picked. But if you ask some of the boys, they'll tell you I was blind."
"There were some funny things that happened," he said recently. "Sometimes I went to the wrong school. I'd get a call and think I had it right. I'd get there and there was nobody there."
Don Cannell, former principal, athletic director and coach at St. John and then Riverside, wrote a letter recommending Candela for induction into the OHSAA Hall of Fame.
"When I think of Ange Candela, I am reminded of his professionalism, technical expertise and integrity as a high school sports official," Cannell said, in part. "Ange Candela was always in control of the game and truly ‘called them as he saw them.' Mr. Candela respected the coaches and players and in turn earned their respect. Ange truly took pride in doing his very best as a sports official."
"Ange's paid his dues," legendary OHSAA official Ed Batanian, a member of the ACBF's first class of inductees in 2003 said. "I don't think people realize it, but Ange spent 25 years officiating basketball, football and baseball.
"He worked a lot of regional basketball games. He was quite prominent in his time. When I first started coaching, Ange was officiating in the county. I always thought he did a good job."
"Ange was our favorite official," Jim Dodd a player at Grand Valley during Candela's officiating days and the second-leading male scorer in county history. "Coach Searcy and he had a good relationship. Our team really enjoyed it when he was the official."
Candela's teaching career began at State Road School, then West Junior High. He later became an administrator, at State and at West as well as the now-defunct West Grade School. Eventually, he became superintendent of the Ashtabula Area City Schools and finally, a board member.
During the time Candela officiated basketball, one official, by himself, covered both the junior varsity and varsity games.
"When they made it two it was much better and much easier," Candela said. "I don't know what they'd do with three. But when they went to two refs I thought that was a good deal. You could cover more and didn't have to work as hard.
"We got $8 for two games, junior varsity and varsity. At times, you wanted to sneak out and run. But I always had a good relationship with the administrators."
Though the game hasn't changed much, the speed of it has, Candela said.
"The scoring was real low," he said. "It wasn't as fast a game as we have at the present time."
In addition to his basketball officiating, he worked as a football umpire, linesman and eventually referee, starting at $8 and finally moving up to $20 a game.
"Football was much easier in a way, because the crowd was so far away," he said. "They never knew what was happening. You didn't have the crowd right in front of you."
At least in baseball, Candela usually had another official to work with, making $12 for umpiring a game.
"Basketball hasn't changed much," Candela said of the game over the years. As of 1998, he had attended every high school boys basketball tournament since 1951.
"You had coaches (then) who were a little more organized and some who let the players get the ball and run to the basket without any plays."
Candela recalls officiating against Bob and Ross Boggs.
"Now, when Bob writes to me, he always ends the letter, ‘Number 57.' He was a big guy under that basket and I got him on a lot of fouls."
Candela still lives in Ashtabula with Edna, his wife