Memories of My First PBA Title, Being Drafted to Vietnam & Tossed from the Hotel – Johnny Petraglia

Winning My First Professional Bowling Title

In August of 1966 in Ft. Smith Arkansas I won my first PBA title. I was on tour for 8 months. Barry Asher finished second. Needless to say it was quite a shock. I didn’t know if I would ever win much less win so quickly. I called home to tell my parents that I won, and they told me I was drafted. Victory parties back then were a big deal. When the guys found out I was drafted, it became a victory/going away party. Barry Asher would find out 2 weeks later he was drafted as well.

Arkansas, in 1966 was a dry state, so Sam Baca and Jim Godman drove to Oklahoma to buy the booze for the party. The party got pretty wild. At 3:00 a.m. the police showed up for the first time. At 6:00 a.m. we were thrown out of the motel. A pro bowler named Bobby McMillan fell in the pool and Norm Meyers (Dick Weber’s brother-in-law) had to dive in to fish him out. Don Johnson fell asleep (or passed out) with his beloved Hi-Fi speaker next to his ear listening to Mustang Sally by Wilson Pickett. This made perfect sense to me since KOKO and I were driving in his gold Mustang.

The next week in Dallas we were all on report. When we stood in front of the tournament committee, it was hall of fame roll call…(Carter, Weber, Bluth, Pat Patterson, Bill Lillard, etc.). Billy Welu was chairman. Billy gave an impassioned speech saying, “Guys , I like to party too. I like to party more than most guys, but you have to understand that the PBA is a baby!! We’re just starting to grow, we can’t have our members being thrown out of motels!!! You guys are our future stars.” Right in the middle of Billy’s speech, Ray Bluth interrupts and says, “And you McMillan… you insist on drinking this 190% proof grain alcohol… are you going to continue to drink this stuff?”. McMillan looks at us and says, “Hell yeah.” Bluth says $50. He fines McMillan on the spot, no meeting no vote, and I thought, “Oh my God, this is really going to be bad.”

My brain was going in two directions…one side was saying, “How could we be so stupid? How could we have acted that badly?” I’m standing in front of my heroes, on report, I’m an idiot!!! The other side was saying,

“C’mon Billy. I’m 19 years old. I just won my first PBA title and got drafted the same day. You were young once, cut us a little slack.”

And they did, we got fined $25 a piece, no probation, except Mc Millan who got fined $75, because of the $50 fine from Bluth. Over the next 48 years, there have been some questionable moments, but nothing like Ft. Smith.

Shipping Out To Vietnam One Year Later

One year later I’m in Oakland air base, the debarkation base to go to Vietnam. One of the soldiers processing us out is… you guessed it, Barry Asher. He got me off the base a couple of nights. We went to San Francisco and hung out with Godman and had a great time. The day came that I had to leave. I walked out on the tarmac (Barry walked with me). Went up the stairs to get on the plane, and looked back at Barry at the bottom of the stairs and he said the words I’ll never forget. “I’ll be right here when you get back,” he said. The optimum word was WHEN you get back, not IF you get back. I’ll always be in debt to Barry for that statement…… 24 hours later, I was in Vietnam..

cento anni’…Johnny Petraglia

3 thoughts on “Memories of My First PBA Title, Being Drafted to Vietnam & Tossed from the Hotel – Johnny Petraglia

  1. Larry Costilow says:

    Johnny, I think back to the days you practiced at Neptune Lanes with your dad. I miss seeing you at Golden Pin Lanes in Tucson. Hope that all is well with you and the family.
    Stay well my friend

    Larry Costilow

  2. pat alexander says:

    Johnny I really enjoy these stories !! Keep it up !! I bowled some on the regular tour a little and on the senior tour with a few cashes !! Enjoyed every minute !! I crossed with Barry Asher once on the senior tour and he just picked up his ball and went !! Still dealing with the yips !!! Bowled well though !!

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