Among the handful of old-school, do-it-yourself scorekeepers at Avista Stadium on a given game night, Wanda Powell carries two distinctions.
First off, she’s 91 years old.
And she’s the only one who was taught to keep score by one of the ballplayers.
It was 1947 and she was Wanda Jackson then, living in her family’s duplex near Corbin Park. Just a year out of North Central High School, she began seeing George Bufflap, a young catcher with the Spokane Indians from Pennsylvania.
“I liked him and he liked me and we went steady all summer,” she said. “Some of the players and girls would come to my house and we’d play the piano and sing – one of the other boys, Buddy Hicks, was a wonderful singer. I don’t know whatever happened to George after he left Spokane. We weren’t that romantic.”
But he did leave her with one romantic notion about baseball.
“He got me started scorekeeping that year,” she said. “He said no game should go without a record, without it being put on paper.”
So now she sits in Section H, her perch next to the beer stand behind home plate for nearly 25 years, and faithfully charts every hit, out and run.
It’s an art she put away for a time, then came back to. In the late 1940s, she attended dental nursing school in San Francisco and returned to work for a Spokane dentist briefly before finding a career selling and instructing with newly established Tri-Chem hobby company that put her on the road throughout the Northwest for 45 years. Somewhere in there, she married a former Gonzaga catcher named Wally Powell, who bore a mild resemblance to her first catcher.
“My grandfather kept saying, ‘Isn’t that George?’ ” she recalled. “He could never get it out of his head that I didn’t marry George.”
She still picks out favorite Indians. The most recent was Chad Smith, a right fielder on the 2016-17 teams whose jersey she won at auction with a $100 bid and wears to some games “though it’s pretty big.”
But the fact is, her true favorite is just an inanimate voice: broadcaster Mike Boyle.
“I feel like I know him,” she said. “I think some day we should meet.”
Because even when the Indians are out of town, she’s keeping score at home, listening to the radio. And he’s her backup at the ballpark, when she misses a play or simply needs an explanation.
“I used to put my radio in the cup holder,” she said, “but the people sitting in front of me would put their arm back there and knock it out. So for Christmas last year my daughter got me a Bluetooth and now I can keep my radio in my purse and still hear everything.
“So I’m a little bit in this century, at least.”
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