I had made my first TV show. I think 45 or 46 years ago at Bowling Square in Arcadia Ca. To begin with, I was lucky to make the show. I had to win the last game to make the show and in the middle of the game I left the 7-10. I shot for the one pin and it bounced out, rolled across the lane and knocked over the 10 pin. I won the game by 9 pins, so if I don’t make the 7-10, I don’t make the show. It’s the only 7-10 I’ve made in my life.
The five bowlers on the show started with the #1 seed Ed Bourdase. The number two qualifier was Dale (Skip) Seavoy, a member of the great Stroh’s Beer team out of Detroit. The show was rounded out with Hall of Famer Bob Strampe, Mickey Higham, and myself. It was Mickey’s first time on TV also. He was the higher seed so he got to choose who would start the match. Naturally he had me start the match. When I got up for my first frame I was so nervous I didn’t even know if I could make it to the foul line. Luckily I was playing inside all week, so at least I didn’t have to worry about throwing a gutter ball.
One thing I forgot to mention, this is so far back, the show was in black and white. Back then the lights were so bright and hot, you had to get used to the shadows they cast across the lane. Almost everybody in the stands wore sunglasses and inside, I knew, some of them wore them just to cover their corrective torics. Worst of all, the giant cameras of the day were right on the approach one lane over , and it turned and followed you as you took your approach. I was so out of time on my first shot, I actually said to myself, “Pull it,” so I wouldn’t throw it in the gutter. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than throwing a gutter ball from the 3rd arrow on TV. The ball crossed over Brooklyn and I struck. Mickey got up and luckily he was as nervous as I was, but managed to get two spares. When I got up for frame two, I thought I was more relaxed, but I wasn’t. I started shaking in the third step, pulled it, and went Brooklyn again for a double. At this point I had decided I wasn’t going to win this game. My total mindset changed. I said to myself, “Okay, what is Billy Welu saying to Chris Schenkel right now?”. He’s saying, “John is nervous and that’s why he pulled the first two shots.” Okay, I’m not going to go Brooklyn 3 shots in a row. I was looking at 15, I moved my eyes to 12 and planned on missing the headpin so that Welu could say, “He just over corrected.” I took my approach looking at 12, pulled it right over 15 and the ball hit dead flush for a Turkey. Years later when I got to see a replay of the show, that’s exactly what Welu said in Frame 3. That I pulled the first 2 shots, and by now I was calming down and would make a good shot in frame 3. After I hit flush, Welu said, “See he’s relaxed now, and back on track.”
Incredibly I beat Higham, Strampe and Seavoy. Bourdase had 7 seconds, but had never won. I needed a double in the tenth frame to beat him. I threw a good shot and left a solid 9. Bourdase won his first title and I was happy to have made a good shot for the win. However, in the future, when you’re watching the show, no matter what the announcers are saying, they don’t know what’s going on inside the player’s head. What you see is not always what it seems, through personal experience, I can guarantee that.
cento anni’…Johnny Petraglia