Tales of adventure by local author Dick Shellhorn

Jerry Bendzak and Dick Shellhorn have had many adventures refereeing basketball together at CHS Court for 46 years.

“Balls and Stripes: A Life Time of Sports Adventures”, a new book by Cordova’s Dick Shellhorn, gets its title from his many experiences playing, coaching and broadcasting sports.

As in his first book, “Time and Tide: Adventures on Alaska’s Copper River Delta”, the focus is on tales and history, this time of Alaska’s most popular sport, basketball; and much more. Scattered throughout the book are 90 photos, many from Cordova High School yearbooks, plus sports clips from old Cordova newspapers

The title comes from Shellhorn’s adventures playing, coaching and broadcasting Naismith’s game, as well as refereeing the sport, and the stripes of a sergeant while in the U.S. Army. (James Naismith, a Canadian-American physical educator, physician, chaplain, sports coach and innovator, invented the game of basketball in 1891.)

After traveling all over Alaska for almost 50 years with referee whistle or broadcast gear in hand, Shellhorn has a lot of stories to tell, in the colorful style that won him the 2016 Alaska Press Club Awards first place honors in the Best Humor Category for a column headlined “Why Salmon Jump” that appeared in The Cordova Times.


“In many ways,” notes Shellhorn, “sports transcend location. Small town basketball is the same anywhere; yet Alaska, with its vast spaces and dramatics climates, offers unique experiences.”

Anecdotes describe cooks in the cafeteria at Barrow High School stopping lunch for visiting teams, so they can see the sun for the first time in 67 days, Men’s Night Out after ball games in Petersburg, helping erect the famous Ice Classic Tripod between a series in Nenana, and a police escort through blinding snow for hoops in Nome.

Shellhorn and fellow local referee Jerry Bendzak, now together in Year 46 of calling hoops, have had their share of zany moments, calling a technical foul on the stage curtain, and deciding a last second shot taken as the gym lights went out was good, because they heard the swish of the ball going through the net.

Can you name the members of this famous 1956 CHS basketball team that came close to winning Cordova’s first Class B title?

Other insights into life in Cordova include the Night It Rained Ravens in CHS Court, a Cordova High pep rally that ended with a smoke-filled gym being evacuated, the time CHS students jumped off the dock to protest ferry cuts, the worst defeat in Cordova’s history; and the Teddy, Skookie and Carl backcourt tandem that almost led CHS to its first Class B title back in 1956.

Protests over cuts in ferry service are nothing new, as this spirited groups of 1989 CHS students demonstrates.

Autographed copies of the book are available by contacting Dick Shellhorn at 907-424-3543 or shorn@gci.net. For more detailed information about both books, as well as placing mail orders, go to www.dickshellhorn.com

A book signing, at the Cordova Museum, complete with refreshments, sports memorabilia and a slide show presentation, will be announced later this spring.

Only one Cordova team has won a ASAA State 3A title. Do you know who was on that team, and what year was it?