Jeff Pearlman

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Andy Hershock and family in Puerto Rico.

A story finally runs

Andy Hershock and family in Puerto Rico.

Andy Hershock and family in Puerto Rico.

So late this past summer, the family and I took an awesome vacation to Costa Rica. It was blissfully relaxing—so much so that, during our two weeks away, I dug into a book I’d long wanted to read: “Loose Balls,” Terry Pluto’s awesome oral history of the ABA.

I couldn’t put this thing down. It was riveting and detailed and packed with one amazing story after another. Really, if you’ve never read “Loose Balls,” do so. It’s outstanding.

Anyhow, somewhere deep into the book, Pluto makes reference to Andy Hershock, an ABA referee who died on the court during a Memphis-New York game. It caught my eye for two reasons: 1. Holy shit! 2. The reference came and went, but was never explained.

“This,” I thought, “is a story.”

I immediately pitched the idea to the Wall Street Journal, which has run, oh, 15-20 of my articles through the years. My editor liked it, and I spent the ensuing weeks learning about Hershock the Philly kid; Hershock the basketball die-hard; Hershock the passionate official; Hershock the father of 11 children.

Yes, 11.

As these things occasionally happen, I wound up in a bit of a spat with a fill-in editor at the Journal. He wanted some changes that I felt killed the piece. I refused to make them. Ultimately, the Journal decided not to run Hershock’s saga. I was crushed. Not for myself, but for the family. For his 11 kids. They were so excited about having their dad’s memory and legacy be remembered. Ugh. Awful., awful news—and I was livid with myself for not just making the alterations and moving forward.

I digress. I’ve had a long, positive relationship with ESPN.com and Rob King, the editor in chief. He agreed to run the piece—which makes my day. It came out a few hours ago, just in time for Thanksgiving.

It brings me great satisfaction.

I hope it brings the Herschoks great joy. And pride.

Here’s the link.

Poem written by Andy Hershock's wife.

Poem written by Andy Hershock’s wife.

  • Heather Hershock

    Thank you so much for working so hard to get this story published! It is a touching tribute to my grandfather, and I couldn’t think of a better way to start my Thanksgiving than reading this!

  • Ted

    Lovely article. Thank you.

  • Lisa Wiley

    Jeff, I want to thank you very much for this great article about my father. Many of us have very few memories of him but we have always been so proud of him. He was a great man and we are touched that you were so moved by the mention of him in Terry Pluto’s book that it inspired you to write this article. You have made us prouder than ever. You have no idea what this meant to all of us. Thanks again….we truly appreciate your story. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to you and your family. God Bless You.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life