After the 300 Game & The Johnny Petraglia Open

After the 300 there was a victory party at the lanes.The Ducat family (the owners of Imperial Lanes) gave me the 10 pins that were in the final rack, which eventually went to the 10 people most influential in making the 300 happen.After that I got on the road, drove 4 hours, got a motel and slept 4 hours, and then drove the rest of the way home.I had to get home by noon because my son was bowling in the junior pro-am of the “Johnny Petraglia Open.”The JP Open started in 1991, and this was the 4th year.Each year we had over 2000 pro-am entries.This time, with Michael J. Fox was bowling, we had 3000 pro-am entries!The pro-am would take 3 days.

The kickoff to the tournament was the Silver Spoke Doubles, which I unfortunately couldn’t bowl in that year because I was on the show.It would consist of 12 wheel chair vets and 12 pros.I would ask 12 bowling companies to each sponsor a team and we would pair up the pros and vets.The best wheel chair bowlers in the country would bowl, including Al Utecht, Walt Roy, Martin Frost, Dave Roberts, and many others.This event got started the first year of the tournament.I met a vet named Bob Calderon in Detroit and we put it together.Bob had 8 inches of one leg and none of the other.He had to have a counter balance in his left hand to keep him from falling out of the chair when he threw the ball.It was amazing watching Bob stand on his 8 inches during the National Anthem.A memorable moment with Bob came when a reporter asked him, “Why do you think John does this?Do you think it’s out of guilt because he didn’t leave anything there like you did?”.Bob’s reply was, “You think John didn’t leave anything there?You don’t know much about war, do you?”.Here’s a guy who lost everything but his life, and he’s putting me on almost the same level of loss as himself.How can you NOT help people who think like that?

It’s important to point out right now that getting involved in charity is not only about finding a cure.It’s giving a person a day.If you can give a person one day out of hell, so when they go to bed that night they can say, “This was a good day,” then you’ve done a good thing.Give them 10 days, you’ve done a great thing.That’s what BVL (Bowlers to Veterans Link) does.

When I got to Carolier lanes the next day it was bedlam.Carolier is an 82 lane center with a huge parking lot.We had to have people park in the shopping center across Highway 1 and shuttle them back to the lanes. They found a table and chair for me to sit and I signed autographs for 3 hours.Phil Mushnik is a sportswriter for the N.Y. Post.He told me that during the 300 the TV cameras should have been here.The wheel chair vets stopped bowling when the show came on.They all rolled into the bar.Phil said after the 12th shot that he had never seen a reaction like that at a sporting event.Paralyzed and amputee guys coming completely out of their chairs.He said the shame was none of it was captured on film.

On the third day of the pro-am, the celebrity pro-am squad was at 7:00 pm.Phil Mushnik and Phil Villapiano (linebacker of the Super Bowl X1 champion Oakland Raiders) did a great job getting celebrities for every pair of lanes.They had 41 celebrities there!Lee Livingston (owner of Carolier Lanes) and his staff did an incredible job keeping order.I still don’t know how they did it.It seemed like an impossible task to have the celebs get through the crowd without being overwhelmed.Michael J. Fox in particular was very gracious.For hours he handled it like he did this every day.
In life we have special days.When we get married, certainly when our kids are born.If we’re lucky, we have maybe a half dozen other special days in our life. I had a half dozen in one week.

The 300 game happened 20 years ago…. it happened yesterday!!!

cento anni’…Johnny Petraglia.

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