Spencer was a prolific scorer
County's record holder for points in a game enters HOF
By Chris Larick
For the Star Beacon
Al Schubert thought he had just missed an Ashtabula County record when he scored 51 points in a game for Austinburg in 1953.
Williamsfield's Harvey Hunt was unaware that he had (supposedly) set a standard when he notched 53 in 1957.
For a while, until Hunt's total was unearthed in the 1990s by Don McCormack, it seemed that Geneva's Jay McHugh's 52-point night against West Geauga in the tournament was the mark to match or exceed.
In truth, everyone was wrong about all of those performances. Dorset's Bob Spencer had already scored 61 points in a 117-17 demolition of Colebrook on Dec. 19, 1947. That should stand as the existing county record if and until some other, unknown performance comes to light.
If unlikely, it is possible. Consider the following statement published in the Star Beacon after Spencer's great game:
"The score recorded by Coach Stan W. Simpkins' Dorset quintet is especially spectactular when considering the fact that under present-day basketball rules the team against which the basket is scored gets possession of the ball on the next play. Under rules of years ago the center jump after every bucket enabled a big team to hold possession of the ball virtually the entire game."
BOB SPENCER (11) as shown in a Dorset team photo, scored an Ashtabula County record 61 points in a win over Colebrook on Dec. 19, 1947
BOB SPENCER shown with his family. Spencer holds the Ashtabula County record for points in a game with 61
In addition to Spencer's individual mark, Dorset's team total of 117 shattered the then-county record of 103, previously held by Rowe.
Spencer will be inducted posthumously into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation Hall of Fame on April 12 at Conneaut Human Resources Center.
According to the forementioned article, "Most of Spencer's 61 markers were zipped through the hoop on breakaway plays as he took the ball while cutting under the net. He scored from other spots, however, in nailing 28 field goals."
Spencer, described in different places as a center or forward, led the Blue League with 144 points in six games, a 24-point average. Dorset posted a 14-3 mark that year despite losing its first two games.
Dorset was a very small school at the time. In fact, there were only 13 students, boys and girls, in Spencer's sister's graduating class. His class would have had a similar number.
A writer named Carl Ritter wrote several joke resolutions at the end of that season, including the following:
"Bob Spencer, center who scored 61 points in Dorset High's 117-17 conquest of Colebrook: 'I resolve to ride a motorcycle, a very fast horse or other rapid conveyance when passing through Colebrook and never to be caught in that community after dark.' "
According to his sister, Jean Whobrey, Spencer, who played from 1945-48, had to work his basketball around chores.
"When we took over my grandfather's dairy farm, Bob would do the milking, catch the school bus, come home and do the same thing. He was a good student except that he didn't have time to do his homework. So I, as a good sister, did it for him.He was liked by everyone.
"I was the baby of the family on the farm, but I carried milk for him. He was so good to me. He would send me checks for college."
According to Whobrey, Spencer played first base for the local team in the summer.
"All of his sports ability was inherited from his father, Rufus," she said.
Other players on Dorset's basketball team included Jim French, John Pirinen (Spencer's best friend), Jim Keep and Jim Comp. Keep scored 26 points in the rout of Colebrook and Pirinen added 15.
"I kept score for all his games," Whobrey said. "He was very good, about six feet tall. But he had bad eyesight, so he wore glasses with a guard over it. He was probably the high scorer in every game."
Bob Hitchcock, a member of the ACBF Hall of Fame and one of that organization's directors, is Spencer's nephew.
"When I was a kid, he wanted to help me out," Hitchcock remembers. "He had a basket in the back of his garage. That was a learning experience. When I started playing basketball, he would talk to me in general about (his career). He never wanted to talk about himself."
Spencer married Ruth HItchcock (Bob's aunt) and ran the dairy farm until his son, Bob Jr., took over. The Spencers had four children: Cindy, who now lives in South Dakota; Bob, Larry, and Chrissa. There are four grandchildren.
Spencer would never talk about his sports career. When one writer wanted to tell his story, according to Whobrey, Spencer refused.
"He had read a couple of letters to the editor criticizing his coach for letting him play in the game so long," she said. "It hurt his feelings."
"He was a very good person who would help anyone out. When his mother became ill with diabetes, he and Ruth took care of her. Our father was in a nursing home."
Spencer died just before his 82nd birthday.
Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.