By CHRIS LARICK
For the Star Beacon
For a short time in 1953, Austinburg’s Al “Red” Schubert felt he had established what was believed to be an Ashtabula County record for scoring when he put in 51 points in one basketball game.
Shortly thereafter, he discovered that Williamsfield’s Harvey Hunt had notched 52 points several years earlier.
Schubert, who will join Hunt as he is inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Hall of Fame on April 7, can’t remember the opponent or some of the other details of that contest, but he does recall a few details about it.
“(The opponent) had three men out front, with one guy in the center and the other two way over. Those two would throw the ball back and forth so fast they didn’t even look (at the defense),” Schubert remembers. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I intercept that?’ I’d cut in front, grab the ball, take five or six steps and I’d be at the basket.”
Despite the fact that Schubert was scoring basket after basket, the opponent never changed its style of play. Eventually, the score became so lopsided that the Pioneers’ coach, the late Hiram Safford (who will be inducted into the ACBF Hall of Fame posthumously this year), took Schubert out after the third quarter.
“I was one point short of the record but didn’t know it,” he said. “But (Safford) said, ‘You don’t have to play anymore.’”
Schubert and Dutch Cotton, who was inducted into the ACBF Hall of Fame last year, were the standouts (Cotton at one forward, Schubert at center-forward) on an Austinburg team that won the Ashtabula County championship in 1953 and took the Big Seven crown both his junior and senior seasons. Others on the Pioneers team included Larry Brail (who died on Jan. 7 this year), Norm and Joe Kikel, Harry Foster, Jerry Clemmer and Arnold Burton.
“I scored about 25 points a game and Dutch was close to that, maybe 23 or 24,” Schubert said. “Dutch and I shared the scoring. If they’d put two guys on me, Dutch would score a lot. If they put two guys on Dutch, I would be the main scorer.
“We had a graduating class of 25, 12 boys and 13 girls. For that small a school, it was something to go as far as we did. We were all in one classroom, just moved from one room to another when we changed subjects.
“Jerry (Clemmer) and I were the only juniors (on the 1952 team). Most of the time we scored in the 60s; a couple of times, we got into the 100s (points). Two years we went undefeated in the Big Seven, in 1952 and 1953. After that, the team fell apart. Then (Austinburg) consolidated into Geneva (in 1961-62). “
According to Schubert, Safford had a big role in the Pioneers’ success.
“He was one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever seen,” Schubert said. “I never saw him raise his voice or throw a temper tantrum. If he wanted you to do something, he’d show you, then expect you to do it. I saw him mad, but he never took it out on anyone else.”
With Safford coaching and Schubert and Cotton leading the way on the floor, Austinburg won four straight games in the 1953 tournament, beating Rock Creek, Rowe, Edgewood and Kingsville before running into Fairport and falling, 66-44 to exit the tourney.
“Fairport and Mentor were always the top-notch teams,” Schubert remembers. “We were a Class B school. They were Class A. I couldn’t understand why we played them.”
Schubert also played baseball and ran track at Austinburg. He was a pitcher, caught or played third base in baseball and ran the sprints and hurdles in track.
“The other sports cost too much (for the school),” he said. “And we didn’t have enough guys to put on the football field.”
College proved to be no option for Schubert despite his talents.
“I thought about it and would have liked to do it,” he said. “But my grades weren’t the best.”
He became an apprentice bricklayer after his graduation in 1954, but that was interrupted when the U.S. Army drafted him in 1956.
After basic training, he was sent to Fort George Meade in Maryland, then on to San Antonio, to Fort Sam Houston.
“I was a floater,” he said. “I worked a week here, a week there. I did all kinds of things. It was very easy duty. I was a clerk in the mess hall for a while. They even gave me two more stripes to show my authority.
“I was attached to the medical outfit for a day, did some teaching of the new guys.”
In the army, Schubert had the opportunity to play sports, mainly basketball.
“We played against guys like Elgin Baylor,” he said. “I was on the fast break once, thought I was all alone, and when I got near the basket, a big hand came out and hit the ball away. My coach said that was from dragging ass. ‘If you’d hustled, that wouldn’t have happened,’” he said.
“I was on the baseball team, too, but at the end of the bench. There was a guy who was farther down. He was there every day. Eventually, I shook hands with him.
“I said, ‘I’m light duty, a floater.’ He said, ‘I’m the general of the post, General Shambroa. I come out here to get away from things for a while.’
“When those baseball players came out, they’d get five pitches. Every one of those guys hit the ball so high, it looked like the size of a pea. Every ball went over the fence. I asked the general about it and he said, ‘This is a softball field. You have to be darn good to make the team.’”
Schubert was released on Mother’s Day. He went to work as a bricklayer, then was hired at the Cabot Corporation, which made titanium dioxide, which was used to replace lead in paint.
“It won’t fade out like lead does,” he said.
The company went through seven different changes of ownership and as many different names, but Schubert stayed on, for 33 1/2 years. When he left, the company was SCM Chemicals, but it is now called Global.
“When you get new buyers, you always get name changes,” he said. “That way, they don’t get stuck with somebody else’s debts.”
Schubert married Joanne Crandall from North Kingsville. The couple had three daughters: Debbie, Diane and Denise, but Al and Joanne later divorced, amicably.
He remarrried, to Mary Tovolia.
“Her dad was a cop,” Schubert said. “We were married for 10 years before she died of mad cow disease. She and her first husband were hunters and she contracted the disease from wild animals.”
Schubert now lives alone. He said in the interview that he keeps himself busy collecting wooden nickels.
The reporter thought he was joking, but Schubert explained that he is president of a club that meets to talk about the wooden nickels that were made from 1931-1934 and that they now collect. The wooden coins were of many denominations, up to $100, and could only be used in the community which issued them.
A person could have his own personal wooden nickels, reflecting his occupation.
“It was like a business card,” Schubert said. “I used mine as a business card when I was working.”
As president, Schubert has a large role in keeping the club running.
“I write a newsletter every month,” he said. “It’s tough when you don’t have anything to write about.
“The president of the club died, but there were four or five of us who missed the camaraderie. We restarted it and said we’d split up (the presidency). But I’m still president after 10 years.”
Larick, a retired Star Beacon sports writer, is a freelance writer from Geneva.