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Walter Ray the Greatest; Figure Skaters Get It Right; Jockey Makes Friends

Feb. 13, 2003 

Here are the strange musings that raced through the mind of an old sports writer while flying on a Delta 
jet at 30,000 feet:

   Long Live Walter Ray 

Remember that you read it here first Walter Ray Williams will be named PBA Player of the Year for his sensational bowling during the 2002-2003 season.

In my mind Williams nailed down the title with his two spectacular finishes in consecutive major tournaments. He finished second in the ABC Masters and won the U.S. Open title two weeks later. He's the clubhouse leader in money, TV appearances and averages.

And I am starting to agree with old friend John Jowdy that Williams will break Earl Anthony's hallowed
PBA record of 41 victories. Williams' win at the U.S. Open was his 36th victory and he only seems to be getting better with age...especially when it comes with coping with mental challenges today.

   ESPN Sports Almanac

Every avid bowler should purchase the 2003 Sports Almanac  for the following reasons:

    1. ABC, WIBC, PBA, PWBA and BPAA address information printed on page 597.

    2. Check out the names of bowling greats who have their names listed in the Who's Who section
         starting on page 517.

    3. See if you know all of the Hall of Fame bowlers listed on pages 474 to 477.  

    4.  Read the 14 pages current and past bowling information starting on page 757.

    5. If interested in bowling research, go to page 957 where information is given about Bowlers Journal's
        Annual and Almanac,  plus  PWBA and PBA guides.

If you love bowling in particular and sports in general you are going to like this 959-page book that is available in most bookstores for $12.99.

   Figure Skating Has Right Idea 

The great newspaper USA Today ran a long story about Sarah Hughes in which the reigning Olympic gold medalist admitted she was worried about the upcoming U.S. Figure Skating Champions. Hughes felt pressure because she knew she had to finish in the top three or she would not be representing the United States in the World Figure Skating Championships this year.

Forgotten was what she had accomplished in the Winter Olympic Games. Fortunately, Hughes finished second behind Michelle Kwan and ahead of third-place finisher Sasha Cohen.  However, apparently officials were sorry that another young skater had not qualified and Vicki Michaelis had this to say in her follow-up USA Today story about the finals:  "Despite landing seven triples in her long program, up-and- comer Ann Patrice McDonough finished   fourth and therefore was left off the United States World Team."  Talented but she finished fourth. Tough luck Ann Patrice...see you next year.

I wish they followed the same criteria in the USA Bowling National Amateur Championships...if you don't finish in the top eight then you don't make the TEAM USA bowling squad.  But they don't...the top five automatically win TEAM USA berths, the remaining three are picked by a hand-picked committee to compete in such major events as the Pan-Am Games, FIQ World Tournament and AMF World Cup.

I have an idea for the three top eight finishers who were not picked for TEAM USA this year.  As a consolation prize, send them to the Tournament of Americas in Miami Aug. 9-16.  It's a fun event and the junior bowlers who lost their berths through arbitration will have a chance to drown their sorrows in the Atlantic Ocean.

   A Winning Prediction  

I read where Jerry Bailey won the Eclipse Award as the 2002 Jockey of The Year and it brought back some memories.  About 20 years ago an unknown jockey who was riding horses at Hialeah came over to bowl in the pro-am tournament before a PBA event at Don Carter's Kendall Lanes.  His name was Jerry Bailey and he made a big impression on the pro bowlers by telling them that he was riding a thoroughbred in the fifth race the next day that was listed at 10-1 in the morning line but was going to win the race.

The pro bowlers, most of whom liked to gamble, went out and bet the horse down to 7-2 odds and the colt won going away.  Bailey became famous at Kendall Lanes. But not as famous as he was going to become by riding horses who returned their owners $22 million in 2002.

But the second point of this note is how they vote for the Eclipse Award.  As the new turf writer for The Miami Herald, I really didn't pay too much attention to who I was selecting for jockey, horse, trainer, owner, etc. for the yearly Eclipse Awards.  But when the winners were announced I became more conscious that I had to do more record searching before voting next year.  If you voted for the winner of the individual Eclipse Award then your name was not listed. However, if you voted for another horse, jockey or trainer then your name was printed along with whomever you voted and where they finished in the balloting.  You could look like a fool if you voted for some horse who finished say No. 10 in the Eclipse voting.

Maybe bowling should try a similar system when voting for bowlers of the year.  I would like to know who did not vote for Carolyn Dorin-Ballard as the 2001 Bowler of the Year.  And with the Eclipse Award system, I would find out real quick.

    Golf Takes Scoring in Stride  

I know that scoring is out of hand in bowling, but then again that seems to apply today in most sports. Ernie Els shattered a PGA tour scoring record in relation to par, closing with a 6-under 67 to finish a record 31-under-par in Kapalua, Hawaii. Els didn't just break the record, he shattered it by three shots.  Funny, I didn't read anything from the golf press being critical of the PGA for allowing such soft scoring conditions.

    Split Heaven  

I read with interest a release that said "International Bowl Expo attendees will have an opportunity to leave Las Vegas a millionaire should they be fortunate enough to pick up a 7-10 split.  VIA Bowling Products is sponsoring The Million Dollars Split contest at the Mandalay Bay resort in June.  Sign me up. I'm bringing Mark Roth, who made a name for himself by converting the 7-10 split on national TV, with me to attempt my shot.  Only kidding. I never got past the 4-6 split myself.

    $1 Million for Our Veterans 

Maybe it was because of the hovering war with Iraq news, but I got a rush of pride when I read that "Bowlers of America Raised $1 Million for Veterans."  The 2002 donation brings league bowlers' total donation to hospitalized war veterans to over $30 million.  Keep up the great work.

    A Real Pearl  

Enjoyed reading Chuck Pezzano's column entitled: "Pearl Keller has had a gem of a career."  Pezzano wrote: "Few knew the background Pearl Keller brought to bowling.  She was one of the early female graduates of Yale, taught at a deaf school and was talented enough in music to be a concert pianist."  She also was talented enough with her bowling endeavors to earn WIBC Hall of Fame induction.  Pearl recently decided it was time to step down as executive director of the Women's All-Star Association.  It was a job well done for 31 years.

    Joyce Deitch Honored -- Again

I was happy to read that the Billiards and Bowling Institute of America was going to honor Joyce Deitch, who stepped down last year after serving as WIBC's president for nine years.  And there she was in Las Vegas last November serving as a runner during the Storm PWBA Tournament at the Texas Station Hotel/Casino/Bowling complex.  Joyce was a great choice. But I hope the Billiards and Bowling Institute will consider Chuck Pezzano next year.  He's deserving and long overdue.

Speaking of deserving, I think Hazel McLeary is very deserving of receiving the Chief Wapensky award at Bowl Expo in June.  Hazel, just like Chief himself, has done it all and done it with a touch of class.

    Bowlers Journal Rolls On

In 1977, as publisher of the BJ Mort Luby was looking for a bowling center in Miami to host the Bowlers Journal tournament during the 1978 WIBC National Championship Tournament.  Stan Stanczyk, an Olympic weightlifting champion, wanted the BJ tournament so he invited Mort and this writer out on a fishing expedition on a boat owned by his son.  We landed a few fish and Stan landed the BJ tournament. If I remember correctly, a South Florida bowler by the name of Mary Ellen Majers (now married to former PBA champion Bob Handley) won the event and I won an opportunity to take pictures and write the story for the BJ.

A lot of good tournaments have disappeared over the years but fortunately the BowlersJournal Championships just continues to thrive.  So it was with a great deal of nostalgia I read the information about the $250,000 in total prizes that is expected to be awarded during the BJ event that will be staged at Family Bowl during the ABC National Championship Tournament in Knoxville through June 22.  To me, no WIBC or ABC Tournament would be complete with a companion BJ event.

I realize a lot of  readers will disagree with a lot of my opinions printed above, but remember just that they are only opinions.