For 54 years, William "Bill" Van Horne chronicled Ohio Valley sports with a passion, love, and knowledge of sports that is respected and remembered even after his death. Known for his truth and fairness in reporting, Van Horne was also admired because he considered no sporting event too large or small to chronicle. From high school wrestling and track and field events to college bowl games, from Major League Baseball All-Star Games to the LPGA tour, Van Horne found pleasure in covering all sports. One of his greatest thrills came in 1960 World Series, when Tiltonsville native Bill Mazeroski belted the historic bottom of the ninth home run in the seventh game. This home run marked the defeat the New York Yankees and gave the Pittsburgh Pirates the World Championship title.
Born in Martins Ferry on March 9, 1921, Van Horne graduated from Martins Ferry High School in 1939. Following graduation, he attended a six-week crash course for outstanding high school journalism students at Northwestern University. When the Martins Ferry Times Leader’s sports editor was drafted for World War II in 1941, Van Horne was hired as his replacement. Van Horne retained the sports editor position at the Times Leader for 25 years before moving on to hold the same position at the Wheeling & Sunday News Register for another 29 years. Van Horne died on June 11, 1995. He was survived by his wife Gladys and three children.
Van Horne's remarkable career afforded him the opportunity to follow the rise of many promising Ohio Valley high school athletes to their respective professional careers. Mazeroski, John Havlicek, Phil and Joe Niekro, Lou and Alex Groza, and Bobby Douglas are among those with whom Van Horne maintained professional and personal ties. In 1989, all of them attended a testimonial dinner honoring Van Horne.
Over the course of his career, Van Horne received numerous awards for his sports journalism. He was named "West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year, 1972." He was awarded West Virginia Wrestling Sportswriter of the Year honors three times. In 1993, he received the West Virginia Press Association’s award for "Best Sports Columnist." Recognizing Van Horne's dedication to sports, the West Virginia Sports Writers Association presented him with their Gene Morehouse Memorial Award for distinguished service to his craft.
He was a member and past president of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association and a member of the Football Writers of America. He was the first sportswriter from West Virginia to be elected to the Football Writers of America Board of Directors and he served as the state chairman for the Heisman Trophy selection committee.
Van Horne also broadcast play-by-play accounts of local high school football and basketball games on WTRF radio during the late '40's and early '50's. He served as announcer for numerous Ohio Valley Athletic Conference (OVAC) and district wrestling tournaments, as well as serving as official scorekeeper for those events.
In Martins Ferry, Van Horne was a community leader who served on the Recreation Board and as a charter member and president of the Rotary Club of Martins Ferry. After moving to his adopted community of Wheeling, he became a charter member of the Wheeling Hall of Fame Board. He was named the Upper Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Man of the Year in 1992.
In recognition of his dedication to the promotion of sports and the accomplishments of the young men and women who played them, the grandstands of the Wheeling Jesuit University Outdoor Athletic Complex were dedicated and named for Van Horne in a posthumous ceremony held September 4, 1998.
Information compiled from:
Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame Website (www.louholtzhalloffame.com/)
The Wheeling Intelligencer, June 12, 1995
Wheeling News Register, June 12, 1995
Wheeling News Register, April 7, 2002