A Story About 2 of the Nicest Guys on Tour – Bowling Memoirs of Johnny Petraglia

I would like to tell a story about two guys on tour who were and are excellent bowlers and two of the nicest guys out there.

When Charlie Tapp started the tour, Mark Roth was Bowler of the Year 3 for years in a row. At that particular time Roth bowled for the title 33 times in 3 years. When people went to watch a tournament, if Roth threw a double everybody cheered. It being Charlie’s first year, he didn’t realize this.

At one tournament Charlie was on 9&10 and Roth was on 13&14. Charlie started with a double, left a 10 pin and then struck all the way to the 9th frame. In the first 9 frames Roth had double, 9 spare, 4 bagger, 9 spare, strike. The crowd was going wild every time Roth struck. Every time Charlie struck three or four people would clap. Roth got up in the 10th and struck (cheering everywhere), Charlie struck in the 10th (3 people clapped). Roth struck in the 11th (wild cheering), Charlie stuck in the 11th (3 people clapped). Roth struck in the 12th for 258 (bedlam), Charlie struck in the 12th for 279 (silence). The reason for silence was because even the 3 people clapping for Charlie were cheering for Roth and I guess felt funny starting up again. Charlie (who eventually won 2 PBA titles) who stands about 6′ 3″, walked back and stood at the edge of the edge of the approach. After about 5 or 6 seconds he finally yelled out, “HEY, THIS IT FOLKS, I DON’T SING OR DANCE!”. The crowd started to laugh and finally cheered for Charlie.

Butch Gearhart was a 4-time champion who I won two ABC Eagles with. The three other teamates were Larry Lichstein, Mike McGrath, and Ernie Schlegel. We needed Ernie on the team because we wanted to have one righthander, but his ball would have to hook in the same direction ours did. Ernie threw the ball so straight , you could swear it backed up. Anyway, Butch was loved by everybody. You never heard him yell or get mad or have a harsh word for anybody. When Butch got a bad break on the lanes, you would see him raise his right arm so that his palm was facing the pins and give a short wave.

The crowd never thought much of it. It just looked like a sarcastic thank you. Actually, what was happening was before a block, Butch would write something on his palm. Sometimes it was something as simple as “Kiss my butt.” But sometimes, especially during role call before the first block, you could tell Butch had an inspiration. He would sit in the corner and you could see him writing in his palm. The slower he wrote, the more was being written because he was concentrating on making the words smaller. What was really amazing was most of the time they weren’t really dirty. He would write something like “May the bluebird of happiness crap all over your birthday cake!”. If you want to know the others, just use your vivid imagination.

I would ask, “What have you got today Butch?”. He would show me his palm. I shouldn’t have asked, because when it was a good one, and I would see Butch wave, I would start laughing and lose my concentration.

When you would say goodnight to Butch, he would always reply, “Hey, if I die tonight, I had a great life.” One night, driving home from the lanes, Butch was killed in a car accident. The phrase, “Only the good die young,” almost applies here….he was one of the great ones. It just comes to show that vehicular accidents, such as unfortunately getting hit by a semi-truck, for instance, can happen to anyone, anytime and anywhere.

cento anni’…Johnny Petraglia


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