With 3.7 seconds left in overtime, Wallenpaupack Area High School was lucky enough to witness a man blow his whistle for the last time ever.

With 3.7 seconds left in overtime, Wallenpaupack Area High School was lucky enough to witness a man blow his whistle for the last time ever.

William Hartshorn called his last basketball game, after 46 years of officiating, on Thursday night. On the floor with him were the Buckhorns of Wallenpaupack, and the Cavaliers of Scranton Prep, the hardwood gods obviously wanted to get their money out of this man, as they sent his final game into overtime.

After the game The News Eagle caught up with the gentleman and he agreed to an interview...with a tear rolling down his face he told his life story, including a stint with the Orioles back in the day, as emotion overcame him.

First Game Called
“It was a jv game, back in 1965,” explained Hartshorn.

“Back then there was only jv and varsity, there wasn’t seventh and eighth grade, none of that, but it was definitely a jv game, 1965.”

Over the course of 46 years, Hartshorn has definitely seen the game evolve, and change, sometimes not for the better.

“The game has changed so much, but the players aren’t as good as they were 20-30 years ago. They’re quicker, they’re bigger, but they can’t shoot like the guys who played in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.”

Gymnasiums would be jam packed. Sold out games were common back then, and standing room only crowds lined the hardwood.

That made it all more worthwhile for a player, and the men officiating the game. Nowadays, big rivals bring out the masses, but regular games can sometimes be as quiet as sitting in a church vestibule.

Hartshorn not only reffed high school, but for 39 years was a collegiate official in the ECAC.

“I worked from Virginia up to New Hampshire,” he said. “The biggest game that I got was a Division three Eastern final in New York, but one night I was out in Penn State and had West Virginia, who was 16th in the country, that was a great night.”

One Game in 1979
Through 46 years of on-court action, there is one game, one night, that Hartshorn remembers fondly, with every intricate detail from being booed to “pinned up against a door.” There’s nothing he would have done differently.

1979 was the year.

“I called one game that meant the game. The one call that meant the game. In 1979 Bobby Stevenson was playing in a dream game at the Scranton CYC in front of 5,000 people,” he reminisced.

“At the time a tap-tap shot was illegal. Well...with two seconds on the clock, Bobby Stevenson tapped the ball and the ball went in the basket.

“He played a phenomenal second half and is the greatest high school basketball player I ever saw… and the ball goes in the basket. Well, I run out and say no goal, and they all come after me.”

Looking Back
Though he has officiated both basketball, and football throughout his career, baseball is his passion.

He was drafted out of high school, and played in the Baltimore Orioles organization, under the direction of Cal Ripken Sr. at the time.

“I have to go with baseball. I was real good friends with Cal Ripken Sr. He was my manager for two out of my three years,” he added.

Right then, the interview was interrupted, by yet another person thanking the referee for his years of dedication to the game.

“Hey, good luck buddy, and I mean this seriously,” said Scranton Prep coach Joe Ferguson.

“Of all the guys I’ve had, you have sincerely been one of the best. I, and the kids have appreciated it, and they know that.

“It was an honor to have been in your last game. We’re going to miss you. When you do a game, you know the game is managed. The kids know that and respect it.”

Emotion began to flow from the battle-tested official.

“It’s quite emotional right now…I’ve met so many good people, and a lot of rats, people who would cut your throat…but a lot, a lot of really nice people.

“I got along good, and I refereed hard, every game. The bottom teams, top teams or whoever, I always worked hard, and that’s what respect is,” added Hartshorn.

Taking Work Home
It’s not uncommon to stand on a sideline, or up in the bleachers, and hear some pretty awful things being thundered down to the man in the black and white stripes.

Sometimes fans cross the line, and when it did happen, Hartshorn quickly resolved the problem.

“I’ve had people abuse me and yell at me, but as long as they’re not personal and don’t use foul language, they can holler all they want, but if I did hear it, I found the people who could get rid of them. I’ve thrown a number of people out of gyms,” he joked.

There is always going to be that call that you make as an official that haunts you. Sometimes the game comes home to your wife and family.

“You go home with it all the time, and anyone who tells you different is lying. It’s always in the back of your head,” he added.

Back to 1979
That call in the game where the fans refused to leave the gym, ended peacefully...and more importantly, Hartshorn got the call correct.

“Red Wallace (Elk Lake coach at the time) had me pinned up against the door (after the game), because they thought I made the wrong call, they thought it was a bad call.

“The people in the CYC wouldn’t leave, but Bob Spagna, the district chairman, went out on the court and read the rule (the rule called on the floor) on the mic, and the people left. He read the rule, over the mic, to the people so they knew I made the right call,” recalled Hartshorn.

“I’m really going to miss being around the guys.”

And then, just like that, it was over.

Mr. Hartshorn left the building, wearing a Washington Redskins jacket, zipped up, and ready to battle the impending snowstorm that was falling on the Big Lake shores.

His whistle will never blow again.