Sunday, July 27, 2014


On July 26, 2014, I was honored to be inducted into the Alabama USBC Hall of Fame.  I wish to the thank the AUSBC for selecting me and for the pageantry and locale of the awards celebration.  I've received many congratulatory well wishes.  Below, I have included the transcript from my acceptance speech.

Hall of Fame members who attended the 2014 awards banquet at Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge. How many can you recognize?

In bowling, work, sports or activities, the real honor is being recognized by your peers and competitors for your superior achievements.  When my friends and I discuss what constitutes hall of fame qualifications, I always thought that, whatever those may be, I fell short.  I did not warrant consideration to be included in the group with Jimmy Certain, Nicky McLantoc, and Tony Churchey.  So, I humbly thank the Alabama USBC for my induction into the state bowling hall of fame.  Bowling has been a large part of my life for the past 40 years.  My grandfather and father were both champion bowlers in the Memphis area.  I’m proud that I could carry on that tradition.  My first perfect game was bowled in 1986 in the Memphis Italian Sportsmen League, one of the oldest leagues in Memphis.  I was privileged to have my dad, my brother, and my uncle on that team to witness the first perfect game in the history of that league.  Those were the golden times of league bowling.  I welcome my family here, and thank them for all the support over the years, which included dropping me off at the bowling center, driving me to youth tournaments, listening to me brag and complain when I couldn’t in front of anyone else.  You provided me advice and coaching.  And thank you for that one tournament in Memphis just a few years ago, where you were the only ones cheering for me while the whole house was rooting for my opponent in the stepladder finals.  I just needed some entrance music so I could complete the picture of being the WWE villain. 

I would also like to thank Jeff McCorvey for your friendship, expertise, coaching, and the knowledge of the game that you imparted.  As a pro shop owner, your wisdom to know that I cannot just buy a game was refreshing.  It still comes down to me.  Introducing me to the area’s top bowlers, tougher tournaments, including the ABC/USBC national tournament and allowing me to earn my spot on some of your top teams has led me to this moment tonight.  If I had not walked into your only pro shop in 1986, I would have only been a two-time a week league bowler, who occasionally bowled a city or state tournament.  Some of my best tournament experiences have been the successes and near-successes at the ABC and USBC Open tournaments.  I have been honored to have worn a McCorvey’s Pro Shop shirt during every competitive game I have bowled for the past 28 years.

It is painfully obvious that bowling has changed over the years.   The number of participants has dramatically decreased while the number of honor scores has dramatically increased.  I have tried to adapt to these changing times.  While I have not bowled anywhere near 30 perfect games in a 3 year period, my successes have spanned decades.  I have bowled perfect games in the past 4 decades, and I look forward to trying to increase that number.  Of the perfect games I have bowled, only three have much meaning to me.  I have already mentioned the first.  The second one occurred a month later where I bowled the first ever perfect game in Memphis State history at my last collegiate tournament.  The rarity of that experience was that I was awarded for an AJBC perfect game after I was awarded for an ABC perfect game.  The third one occurred during the 2006 USBC Open in Corpus Christi, TX.  In this day and age, where perfect scores are rarely announced, nor even congratulated, the USBC Open tournament still recognizes that a perfect game at their event is a significant accomplishment.  That perfect game will cost me dearly, as I will now travel to all future tournaments to hear my name announced before my team event, no matter my age or ability.  Some people bowl for money, I bowl for the sense of accomplishment and achievement.  It is a wonderful memory of having PBA and USBC Open champions, Marc McDowell, Mike Shady, and Jeff Richgels shake my hand and congratulate me after the completion of the squad.

Honor scores should not be the only way to get into the Hall of Fame.  Tournament victories should be the major component.  In bowling, par is no longer 200.  In 2014, it is 230.  Now compare the all-stars of today with the all-stars of the 1980’s and 1990’s.  In a tournament, it doesn’t matter if you averaged 200 or 230, as long as it is more than the field, or more than your opponent in the championship match.  A few years ago, I was disheartened about the sport of bowling.  League bowling was shrinking.  It was no longer enjoyable, as friends were quitting the game, and complaints of ‘inconsistent’ lane conditions increased.   There was a loss of camaraderie in the spirit of true sportsmanship.  Play the same golf course in February, May, July, and October and tell me if the conditions were consistent.  I was getting older, not yet a senior player, but it was getting difficult to compete with younger high speed, high revolution players in leagues and local tournaments.  Just this past year, I decided not to worry about it.  Time waits for no man, and tournament bowling was still an outlet that I enjoyed.  Putting no pressure on myself, I finished third in season points in an overall scratch tournament series that bowls on challenging lane conditions in the greater Nashville and Huntsville areas.  I was much older than the many of the bowlers in the top 10.  It was a great feeling knowing that, maybe, I did learn something over the years that still apply; consistency, accuracy, physical game adjustments, and experience.  Sometimes this trumps the young guy trying to overpower the pins.  Just recently, a fellow bowler came to me, and congratulated me on last season’s success.  “It was great to see one of us old guys up there,” he said.  I said thanks and then hesitated.  “That was a compliment, right?”

I am probably the last of my kind to be inducted into this hall; the more classic style with less speed and stroker delivery. I’m sure the ones that follow me will throw the ball harder, impart many revolutions on the ball, and possibly even use two hands to make a delivery.  However, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Success is also measured over time, and I look forward to more personal triumphs as I start my 5th decade of bowling competition.  Thank you once again for this great honor.  I will strive to represent myself worthy of hall of fame membership.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Picking Lillies

Bowling as a participation and spectator sport has changed greatly over the decades.  In your league,  does anyone stop and watch a bowler throw the final three shots for a perfect game?  Does any one clap when it occurs?  Is it even announced over the loudspeaker anymore?

Compare that event to another bowling situation.  An unlucky bowler is embarrassed as he has left the 5-7-10 split, otherwise known as 'the lilly.'  Now, how much noise is generated?  How many people now gawk?

On January 30, 2014, during the Monday Night Men's league at Madison Bowling Center, Kevin Ralston left the 5-7-10.  Hey, there is no crying in bowling!  He approached his second shot and converted the spare!!  This has to be one of the rarer feats in bowling.  There was no 6 pound ball involved or deliveries approaching 30 mph speeds.  While this is not Kevin's second shot, see if you can guess the weight of this bowling ball in how the lilly is typically converted, if at all:

Now, can we see how it is converted by real men with real bowling balls? There happens to be a video of Kevin's spare conversion, well, sort of.  While no one had their phone out thinking they would record a 5-7-10 spare conversion, the automatic scorer camera system can do a replay.
Now, a camera phone can record the replay.  Here is how it is done.

Congratulations Kevin.  You have probably set a record or accomplished something very few people have ever done in actual competition.  However, is it something you feel comfortable bragging about?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

An Unusual 300

Do you still remember the Andy Griffith Show?  One episode in season 8, Howard, The Bowler, told the story of the character Howard Sprague substituting on the local bowling team.  What makes this bowling night different?
He doesn't have a lot of experience so their expectations aren't too high but at the big match against the blowhards from Mount Pilot, Howard can do no wrong. With only one frame to go, Howard is still on his way to a perfect game. Just then, the power goes out forcing the end of the game to be re-scheduled for the next night.
 During the Huntsville All Star League on October 31, 2013, Billy Sales started the third game of the set with the first three strikes.  Just then, the electrical power went out in the bowling center.  During a very windy evening with potential storms threatening the area, a truck had hit a power pole which disrupted power in a section of the city.  While awaiting restoration of power, the league decided, in darkness, to conclude week 12 of the schedule the following week.  At the completion of this game, the league would then bowl the 13th week of the schedule.  Two possibilities were discussed for the following week.  These situations were discussed in the USBC rulebook rule 116c:
116b. Scores Lost
When game(s) or frame(s) within a game are irretrievably lost in the scoring process, the following procedures shall apply:
1. Scores that can be documented or agreed upon by the opposing team captains stand and the game shall resume from the point of interruption in regular order.
2. Scores that cannot be documented or agreed upon by the opposing team captains shall be rebowled, unless the board of directors rules them null and void.
On November 7, the league concluded game 3 of week 12.  Pin Palace, the bowling center, still had the scores which included the frames bowled.  The computer the center uses did have battery backup which saved the scores.

After one week, 70 year old Billy Sales proceeded to throw nine consecutive strikes for a two-week perfect game.  The fictional Howard Sprague only had to throw one strike the next night for perfection.  Billy threw 25% of his strikes during one week and the other 75% of the strikes seven days later.

So, congratulations to Billy Sales for this highly unusual perfect game to add to his repertoire of honor scores.  Of all his honor scores, I'm sure Mr. Sales will definitely remember this one.  

There is another footnote to this story.  Billy's teammate, Ernest Reese, almost did the exact same thing!  However, Ernest left one pin standing on November 7 to throw a two week 299 game.

Two honor scores bowled on the same pair of lanes that took seven days to complete!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sanction and Awards are not linked

As you know already, your USBC sanction fee has, again, risen.  Remember the years gone by when you paid this sanction fee as an afterthought from your wallet?  Now, you have to remember this expense as part of your first week of league as the fee is now equivalent or more than one week's league fees.  As fewer and fewer people are signing up for league bowling, it seems that this failed economic theory of increasing the tax of the remaining bowlers is applied. 

You can look at this in two very different ways.  I only bowl in one league per week.  I seem to bowl in more unsanctioned tournaments than sanctioned tournaments.  Now, the USBC is cutting the awards program even more.  What's in it for me?  How do we convince our friends and co-workers to join us for a night out each week in league bowling to grow the sport?  Does our company league really need to be sanctioned?  This seems tough to give a convincing argument.

As a community, we are supporting the sport of bowling by paying our membership dues.  The USBC provides the rules and standards for the game.  They ensure the quality of the playing field in our sport.  Can you imagine if bowling follows the eventual evolution of the boutique bowling experience?  A nicer facility will be an advantage, but it will be just a place for a nice date night.  Bowling is just an activity for a night out with friends and mixed drinks.  Bowling in tight dresses and the latest fashions will just be a setting, not a competition.  Who then would care if the lanes have arrows, pins are different weights, or oil on the lanes at all?  We are not competing, we are having fun.  It is a date, a corporate bonding event, or a long lunch.  Boutique bowling will be to the sport of bowling as miniature golf is to golf.

However, how many play golf but are not members of the USGA?  It is another competitive activity which we thrive to get better, much like bowling.  I would like to know my handicap, but I don't have to join the USGA to calculate it or endorse it.  But, my golf experience would only be equivalent to my bowling experience if I only open bowled or bowled practice games.  I would know my average, but it would not be under any sort of competitive conditions, much like my walks on the golf course, just spending 3 or 4 hours hitting the golf course.  The USGA is healthy, while the USBC is not.  We must bowl in sanctioned competitions, pay our sanction fees, recruit new bowlers just for the sport to survive.

Is it really important for the USBC to have an awards program?  They have wisely removed the 11 in a row award.  
"Given that more than 50,000 certified perfect games are rolled in a typical season, the board agrees it is unnecessary for the national governing body to provide awards for near perfection with the 11-in-a-row,"
Do you get an award for a hole-in-one?  A tournament may offer a prize for one, but there is no USGA ring for an ace.  Now, what do local bowling associations do?  They mistakenly take up the former task of the national organization.  They expand their awards to cover all the awards that the USBC has dropped.  With fewer sanctioned bowlers, they have increased their costs by offering more and more awards.  We have to remove this preconception that our sanction is only paying for awards.  Where are your patches, pins, medals, and rings?  I bet they are in a drawer somewhere.  This is getting to be the adult equivalent of the participation trophy that all kids in most sports get just for being part of the team; whether champion or last place.

I can understand why the USBC is going to a once-in-a-lifetime award for 300 games and 800 series.  It is not the unique event it was two decades ago.  Some people get into their local association hall of fame by bowling a handful of such scores.  We must raise the bar on these qualifications.  As I have mentioned before,  par is no longer 200.  Par bowling is now 230 and quickly rising more.  If you want to improve, compete, and be an elite bowler, par bowling must always be just more than what you average.  If you want another 300 ring or 800 ring for another finger, just go to eBay and get one.  The ones that will be hard to find, as I wouldn't sell mine either, are the ones awarded from the ABC/USBC national tournament, PBA tournaments, or sport shot leagues and tournaments.  Those are the awards that will last in our memories. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Wally Barthel

Past president and State HOF member H. Wally Barthel will turn 88 years old Friday, May 3, 2013. He will be at Vestavia Bowl on Friday between 6:30 p.m. -8:30 p.m.  Old friends and bowling buddies are invited to stop by and help him celebrate.

Wally was elected to the Alabama State Hall of Fame representing Anniston in 1978 just after his 53rd birthday.  He was the only member inducted that year.

Happy Birthday.