Web Special / February 2009

PBA 50th Anniversary Gala

The PBA 50th Anniversary Gala held January 24 in Las Vegas was the most spectacular and most impressive bowling event I have ever witnessed.

Dick Evans wrote a detailed column and exacting rendition of this festive night at the Charleston Room in the Red Rock Resort Hotel and Casino. It was nothing short of a masterpiece.

Consequently, I shall refrain from elaborating on the outstanding program. Any attempt on my part to follow Evans's presentation of this gala event would be an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, I was "almost" equally impressed with another event that I joyfully participated in.

Several hours prior to the kickoff of the big bash, 38 of the 50 top bowlers were seated at tables alongside the foul lines for a poster/book signing at the Red Rock Lanes. The line started at the high end of the Red Rock Lanes, starting with the 50th-place player selected, Bob Strampe, and moved leftward in the order the players finished in the poll, ending up with Walter Ray Williams Jr., who finished in second place behind Earl Anthony.

Absent from this elite group were the following deceased bowlers: Earl Anthony, who was selected as the number one player in PBA history, Dick Weber who finished third in the balloting, Don Johnson (eighth), Jim Godman (32nd), and Bill Allen (37th).

Those unable to attend included Don Carter (11th), Dick Ritger (14th), Jim Stefanich (27th), Wayne Zahn (31st), Joe Berardi (41st), Gary Dickinson (46th), and Tommy Hudson (48th)

The fans in attendance were able to purchase elegant slick-paged books published by Luby Publishing Co., that contained mini-bios of the Top 50. The books sold for $20 but would have been a bargain at $40. As a matter of fact, the book sales were so overwhelming, they sold out. Many would-be purchasers were offering as high as $300 for a copy. To my knowledge, not one fan was willing to relinquish their jewel. The books are now on sale to the public.

However, those unable to buy a book weren't completely disappointed: The PBA issued posters with pictures of all the Top 50 to those in attendance. The line lasted approximately three hours. Included in the line was yours truly, weak legs and all.

I've never stood in any line for autographs of anyone, but this was not an ordinary occasion. I sprung at the opportunity to see and talk to many of the PBA players that I coached or admired during the past 50 years. It brought back great memories. Most of them stood up and hugged me and acknowledged our close relationships of the past.

It was especially heart-warming to see players whose relationships with me went beyond the bowling lanes: Mike Aulby, Parker Bohn, David Ferraro, Amleto Monacelli, George Pappas, David Ozio, and David Husted. It was especially heartening when I approached Pete Weber, whom I have helped coach during the past 15 years. I couldn't help think how proud his father Dick was as he looked down at his son on this magnificent night.

The 50 top players in PBA history were chosen by a select group of 17 bowling writers, and 17 members of the bowling industry, including coaches and industry leaders.

It must be noted that the balloting rules only included records of PBA members since 1959. Therefore, any accomplishments prior to this date did not come under consideration, which may explain the absence of some of the game's greatest names.

It may also illustrate the conspicuous absence of Don Carter, who finished 11th, from the top five or six place finishers. Carter captured 11 Majors; the All-Star (U.S. Open) in 1953-54-57-58, the 1960 PBA National, the 1961 Masters, and five World's Invitational tournaments. He recorded these feats prior to the birth of the PBA; consequently, they were not included on his Top 50 PBA record.

Apparently, majors played a very important role in the voting process. For example, Steve Hoskins, with 12 titles, and Bryan Goebel, with 10 titles, did not make the top 50. Yet, Doug Kent with nine titles, Tommy Hudson with 10 titles, and Bob Strampe with seven titles, were all selected to the top 50 ahead of Hoskins and Goebel.

Again, it seems that "majors" tended to sway some voters: Doug Kent's nine titles included four majors.

Tommy Hudson's nine titles included one major.

Bob Strampe, who finished 50th in the poll, had seven titles. However, Strampe garnered three majors; the 1964 All Star (U.S. Open) the 1964 PBA National and the 1966 ABC Masters. Although Strampe's came along too early to have longevity, his three majors apparently impressed the voters.

On the other hand, Steve Hoskins recorded 10 titles, which included two majors the Touring Players Championship in 1997 and again in 1999. Perhaps Hoskins's oversight can be traced to an error in the latest PBA Media Guide. Unbeknown to anyone, Hoskins's name was omitted from the list of title-holders in the latest PBA Media Guide. The Media Guide, with all statistical records of PBA bowlers, played a major role in the bowling writers' voting decisions. Furthermore, Hoskins's failure to secure a position for the exempt at the 2005 Tour Trials may have prevented him from adding any additional titles. His unsuccessful attempt at the Tour Trials resulted in his retirement from the PBA Tour.

Bryan Goebel, a 10-time winner (one more than Hudson), had one major to his credit, the 1998 Tournament of Champions.

Lest I be misunderstood, I believe the voters made great choices; I merely meant to point out the closeness of the balloting. Principally, I wonder if the absence of Hoskins's name in the list of title-holders in the PBA Media Guide had any affect on the calculations.

Like many other polls, the results are a matter of opinion. Unfortunately, as has occurred in many poll selections, some voters exercise their rights by voting for favorites, rather than rewarding candidates with worthier accomplishments.

Fair or not, those with voting powers earned the right to express their opinions.