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Sports Talk: Jimmy Polson was one of a kind and the best scorekeeper in softball

If you’ve ever spent any time around Tommy Forrest Ball Park, there are plenty of things you’ll see and hear over the course of a game.
Jimmy Polson was the long-time scorekeeper for the Yellowknife Fastball League and one of the friendliest people there ever was. Headshot courtesy of Yellowknife Fastball League

If you’ve ever spent any time around Tommy Forrest Ball Park, there are plenty of things you’ll see and hear over the course of a game.

You’d also see some familiar faces who hang around the ball park watching. One of those people was Jimmy Polson. He would be in his same spot every time: right behind the backstop, studiously watching every play and listening intently. That’s because he was the official scorekeeper for the Yellowknife Fastball League.

I say was — sadly — because Jimmy Polson is no longer with us. He died on April 2 at the age of 79 and with his passing goes plenty of good memories and one of the keenest eyes at the park. Anyone who ever spent any time around Jimmy knew his ability to come up with stats or players names from the past almost on command. He had that encyclopedic knowledge some of us wish we had (or didn’t have, depending on what you may or may not know or remember from the ball park) and he was always good for a chat.

As an umpire in the league for several years, I got to know Jimmy very well. Before games begin, teams trade line-up cards and give a copy to the home plate umpire as well. Another copy goes to the scorekeeper and that’s where Jimmy was at his absolute best. You would always see Jimmy at the backstop before a game waiting for his copy and if you forgot to give it to him, he would remind you very quickly.

Something else Jimmy was great at was keeping the official time. As umpires, we’re told that we keep the official clock but we would always give that responsibility to Jimmy because he was absolutely impartial. Some teams I’ve encountered over the years (not here in Yellowknife, mind you) have taken liberties with umpires and their ability to tell time. So the easiest thing for me was to ask Jimmy to keep the time. That way, you could take it up with the man who kept the official score as well.

Would you ever take issue with Jimmy’s watch? Exactly.

As much as Jimmy was impartial, he was a friend to everyone at the ball park. After tournaments, everybody — players, coaches, fans, umpires (yes, us) — would get together for a post-event beverage and that’s where Jimmy was in his element. He would work the crowd with a drink in his hand — sometimes two — and he’d put himself right into the conversation, no matter who it was and no matter the situation. It was story time whenever he got going and he would tell us about great players from the past or talk about his travels with teams or photos he took of broomball players.

Yes, he was big in the broomball scene as well, as Jan Vallillee will tell you.

There are people who can eulogize Jimmy better than I can because I only knew him for a short time but for the amount of time I got to know him, I could tell how respected he was. I never heard anyone say a bad word about Jimmy, even if it was in jest, and that’s how you know you’ve earned respect. It’s going to look a lot different without Jimmy behind that backstop but he’ll be there in spirit.

Rest well, Jimmy, and I’ll deputize someone else’s watch.

About the Author: James McCarthy

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