The Beginning – My First Professional Bowling Tournament – Bowling Memoirs of Johnny Petraglia

Professional Bowling Legend Johnny Petraglia Discusses His First PBA Bowling Tournament

My first PBA event was in 1965. It was the PBA National Championship in Detroit at Continental Lanes. I was 18 years old. To give you an idea of how young and naive I was, I was crossing with Harry Smith, Ray Bluth was to my right and Don Carter was one more pair away. In the first frame I left a bucket. I remember standing at the ball return saying to myself ( the three of them are watching you… if you miss this spare they’re going to think… this kid stinks, how did he get out here?) I made the bucket and all the pressure was off, I struck in the second frame and figured they didn’t even look at me after that.

The 1965 PBA National Championship Bowling Tournament 

Because it was the National Championship and a very big field, the PBA had their general membership meeting that week. I don’t remember much about the meeting, I was too busy star gazing. All my idols were there. Carter, Weber and the rest of the Budweisers, Salvino, Bill Lillard, Buzz fazio, Dave Soutar, Dave Davis, Billy Hardwick… you get the picture. Remember it as 1965, so the young upcoming stars I wasn’t too familiar with. Nelson Burton Jr., Don Johnson, Jim Godman. We would certainly learn about them in the coming years.

The PBA Members Raised $10,000 For Steve Nagy

As the meeting came to a close the then executive director Eddie Elias had one last piece of business. He said “I want to talk to you about Steve. Steve Nagy is sick, very sick, he might not make it out of the hospital. The hospital bills are piling up and he has no way to pay for them.” He then put a shoebox on the podium and said “I’d like to take up a collection.” Dick Weber was the first to go up.. he put $500 in the box, Carter followed, he put in a check, he wouldn’t say how much it was for. After that everybody went up and put in money. I wasn’t sure what to do, I finally went up and put $20 in the box……… 10 grand:.. , in 1965 in less than a half hour we raised $10,000. When I got home my father asked me how was it? I told him the whole story, and then realized.. with the people that are on tour, if I’m good enough to stay out there… I’m going to have a great life!… and it’s been great!!

cento anni’…Johnny Petraglia

P.S. Cento anni’ is an Italian toast, It means (Life and Luck for 100 years)

14 thoughts on “The Beginning – My First Professional Bowling Tournament – Bowling Memoirs of Johnny Petraglia

  1. Robert Lawrence says:

    Can’t wait to read more from JP in these memoirs. I’ve heard so many great stories from him in person over the years and it never gets old. Should be in a book.

  2. Anthony D Angulo says:

    I grew up watching all of these great players and saying the word great is just not enough. They are all amazing at the sport of bowling, not only with their skills, but how they interact with their fans at tournaments and special events. They never forget their loyal fans. I remember being anxious and eager on a Saturday afternoon just waiting for the Profession Bowlers to come on TV. This was a great learning experience for me. Although, I had coaches, there was nothing like watching these Pros in action on a Saturday afternoon. I joined the PBA in 1990, I compete in Regional events as with work, I am only able to compete in weekend events. Nonetheless, I am very proud to be a part of such a great organization. My motto, “Practice, Practice, Practice and then Practice some more.

  3. Brett Sterley says:

    Johnny is a class act. I loved being around him when I was on tour and could listen to him for hours. He’d also be my first pick in a trivia contest.

  4. Dennis Kugler says:

    On Friday night March 12, 1971, I went to Madison Square Garden with friends to watch our friend Mike Limongello bowl the final 8 game block to determine the top 5 bowlers for the Saturday TV finals. Loved the format in those days. The top 24 would bowl single games against each other with each game winner getting bonus points added to their scratch score. After each game, each bowler would move to a different lane to bowl a different pro. Since it was NYC, a large crowd would follow Johnny Petraglia from lane to lane since he was bowling well.
    As it turned out, a little known bowler named Earl Anthony won the tournament. In short order, Earl Anthony became a hall of fame bowler. Great memories. It was local bowlers like John Petraglia, Mike Limongello, and Mark Roth who inspired my interest in the Pro Bowlers Tour on ABC TV and to bowl in leagues myself which I do this day.

  5. Robert Arutunian says:

    Johnny – as a fellow lefty enjoyed watching beat the right hangers. Keep rolling those strikes in good health!
    Dr. Bob

  6. Ira says:

    Johnny, after you got out of the service I bowled in the same league with you in 1968. Doubles league that first started at midnight. Avenue M Bowl in Brooklyn. Knew you were great then and always watched you on TV in later years. Thrilled to have known you and had some crazy memories in the old days If you know what I mean.

  7. Audrey Fetters says:

    I loved reading your memories of your first PBA tournament. I look forward to reading more. I have seen you bowl a number of times on television and enjoyed it very much. You certainly are one of the greats!

  8. John Vanderlyn says:

    LT48 was the first new ball I purchased as an adult. SSgt in the USAF stationed in Sacramento CA at McClellan AFB. Had a great center and pro shop on base. Scratch King of the Hill every weekend, where I won the last tournament of season, making the finals, and coming in 3rd in finals at end of season. I was hooked….Lol Thank you Sir for being an idol to me. Vietnam through Desert Wars and now a high school bowling coach in my senior years.

  9. Robert C Nix says:

    I have been bowling for 6 years and had the good fortune to bowl with Red Bassett who entertained me with with many great bowling stories . Several of the stories were about Johnny Petraglia . I also had the good fortune to bowl with Skee a great leftie hall of famer .

  10. Joe Salleroli says:

    I met Johnny in Madison Square Garden in 1971 l was on the same squad. My Dad came to watch and was surprised John was in the same said. Dad was a left handed and a big fan of John . I asked John during a short break if l could bring him down and introduce him. He replied “ Sure!.” Well that made Dad’s day. I ran into John at a wedding about over 20 some years later and talked with him. He was the same nice guy. A great bowler and great ambassador of the sport. I am still bowling at 82 and spent a lot of time in local, and State Associations.

  11. Barry Warshafsky says:

    I remember bowling MY first P.B.A. national event with John in Cranston R.I. in I believe 1967 and made the finals later in the Newsday tournament which he won. WOW!!!!

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