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Pete D’Ambrosio, NBA Referee of Wilt’s 100 Point Game
Peter Joseph D’Ambrosio, age 98, passed away peacefully at Sunrise of Granite Run. Mr. D’Ambrosio will forever have his place in sports history as one of the referees of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game on March 2, 1962 in Hershey PA.
Mr. D’Ambrosio, a long-time resident of Yeadon PA, was born and raised in West Philadelphia by his parents Louis and Helen (nee Toll) D’Ambrosio. He was a graduate of West Philadelphia High School, and after serving in the United States Army during WWII, upon his discharge attended Villanova University for 2 years.
Peter was predeceased by the love of his life, Gertrude “Trudy” Halbert after 53 years of marriage.
As a child Pete was an accomplished student of the violin, which accounted for his lifetime fondness of music, from classical and opera, to jazz and pop. He was a Delco realtor for over 35 years, but his passion for sports helped define much of his life.
Pete’s love of sports, especially baseball, replaced the violin, and he became an excellent high school and semi-pro baseball player before going into the service during WWII. After the war he began to referee in men’s leagues in Philadelphia while attending Villanova, and playing baseball. He was one of several people whom made Villanova aware of a certain freshman, not playing in school, scoring at will in the rec leagues, Paul Arizin. When Pete left school to play minor league ball, and didn’t find success, he turned to umpiring to stay involved in the game.
He umpired in the minor leagues for over 15 years, meeting Trudy while umping a game in Oneonta New York. They married in 1952 and had their 4 children while he continued his umpiring and refereeing careers. In 1960 Pete just missed a call up to the National League after working spring training. That was the zenith of his umpiring career, but in basketball it was a different story.
Pete jumped from working C.Y.O and high school games to the NBA in 1955, once stating that he worked a C.Y.O. game for $5 in the morning, and then refereed in a NBA game that evening for a whopping $40! He became a full time NBA official from 1959 until 1962, and refereed many great players, but on March 2nd of that year, he and Willie Smith will always be known as the men refereeing when Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points. Pete often said, “All of the great referees who had longer careers than me, but because of happenstance, and of Wilt’s amazing individual performance, I’m still mentioned 50 years after retiring from the NBA.” His NBA referee career ended after that season, but he continued to referee at the college and high school level.
He was awarded many honors for his longtime involvement in sports in Philadelphia and Delaware County, including an induction into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and a special Markward Award in 2012. In 2012, to mark the 50th anniversary of Wilt’s feat the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association paid tribute to D’Ambrosio and others associated with that game at a banquet in Cherry Hill. He and others were also honored guests that year at a Sixers game commemorating the anniversary. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a March 2, 2012 front Sports page article on Mr. D’Ambrosio as part of a series of special articles devoted to the celebration of Chamberlain’s feat.
Once done officiating , he stayed involved in sports by coaching his sons, attending his grandchildren’s and great grandchildren’s sporting and other events.
Survived by his loving children Mark (Marie), Petra (Dave) Roney, Lee (Linda), and Jay (Pauline). Also 13 grandchildren Kristin (Matt) Pulcinella, Mark (Kristy) D'Ambrosio, Philip D'Ambrosio, Luke D'Ambrosio, Margo Bonhage, Lisa Bonhage, Mark (Michele) Roney, and Veronica Roney, Lee (Corilynn) D'Ambrosio, Jacqueline (Pat) Litz, Louis D'Ambrosio, Jay D'Ambrosio and Alyssa D'Ambrosio and 16 great-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
Relatives and friends are invited to call 9-11:00 A.M. Saturday, June 23rd at the Logan Funeral Home, 57 S. Eagle Rd., Havertown, PA 19083. Interment Fernwood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers family requests contributions to the Alzheimer's Association of the Delaware Valley, 399 Market Street, #102, Philadelphia, PA 19106.
Alzheimer’s Association of Delaware Valley
399 Market Street #102, Philadelphia PA 19106