The Eccentric Mark Roth – Bowling Memoirs of Johnny Petraglia

Okay, I think it’s time I wrote something about Mark Roth. Actually, I could write for days on just him. Trying to pick out one or two stories is tough. Mark is tough to describe. I guess the best adjective is eccentric. He’s one of the greatest bowlers of all time, but he’s never grown up. His loves are still the same; Hockey (Rangers), Model trains, NYC busses. His favorite bus is 8832. He used to hang out at the bus terminal and one of the greatest thrills of his life was when they let him drive 8832. He owned a stretch van New York City blue, and had a special window put in so it could hold a destination sign. It even had a changer. Everybody would get on and he would yell, “Watch the doors.”

When asked once in an exhibition how he adjusted to lane conditions Mark said, “When the lanes are hooking I throw it harder, when the lanes are tight I turn it harder.” He had such confidence when he bowled, he would do things like making a plane reservation for his wife on Friday before he bowled the tournament because he knew he would make the show. He was Bowler of the year in 1977, 1978, and 1979. During that time he bowled for the title 33 times. In 1980, AMF came out with the Angle (the first urethane ball). That didn’t hurt him too much, but when reactive resin came out it really hurt Mark’s career. Now bowlers could do stuff with a bowling ball that Mark did with his hand. Before that, nobody hooked the ball like Roth. He changed the game. There are so many stories I don’t know which to tell… I’ll start with this one, and maybe in the future I’ll tell some more.

It was the late 70’s and Pete Rose was coming in to NYC on a 37 game hitting streak. He needed one more to tie the National league record. He eventually ended up at 44, the NL record. DiMaggio has the AL and ML record at 56. The owner of Carolier Lanes (Lee Livingston) had a box at Shea stadium. Great seats. They were in the 10th row in line with first base. He took a close friend, Roger Gardner, myself, and Roth to game 39 of the hitting streak. At this point in time, everybody in the city knew Mark Roth. He was on TV practically every week for 3 years. We were first in our time slot in the ratings (20 million people a week were watching our show). The game starts and the Mets pitcher walks Rose on four pitches. The second time up nothing comes close to the plate, Rose reaches out at a pitch and slaps a grounder to short. The 3rd time up, pitch one is in the dirt, pitch two is around the eyes. Roth has had enough. First he stands up, then he stands on the seat. He rolls up his program and as loud as he can yell through the program says, “Hit the strike zone you %#*&#*”. The whole area goes silent. The first base coach and umpire turn around and look at Mark. The next pitch is over the plate, and Rose hits a double in the gap. He’s tipping his cap as everybody is cheering. As the cheering dies down, Roth stands up again and yells, “All right, now pick him off.” If the fans missed who was standing on the chair the first time, they didn’t miss it the second time. Now we have a line of people going back all the way under the mezzanine for autographs and Roth is livid. He’s giving his patented no look autograph. He wants to watch the game and he’s going to be signing autographs until the end of the game. At one point he looks at an autograph seeker and points to me and yells, “What about Him?!” We were hysterical. I don’t even remember who won the game.

I bowled Mark Roth for the title 2 times. We split one and one. I want to thank him for giving me a front row seat to watch super greatness and for making life more colorful.

cento anni…Johnny Petraglia

7 thoughts on “The Eccentric Mark Roth – Bowling Memoirs of Johnny Petraglia

  1. Bob Schwartz says:

    One of the friendliest Pros in the bowling history,he never forgot where he came from and always greets you with a smile !!!! I’ve seen him in the East Islip pro shop and he is a class act and one of the best bowlers even today!!!

  2. Gil Barkman says:

    John I know you from maple and the action your father was one of the nicest guys he work on bowling with my son Mark is a friend of mine for a long time I was with you and Mark at marks tournament on long Island you are a great friend to mark I just missed you in nc 2013 you did a ball show Buffalo south lanes would have love to see you thanks for keeping the game alive for us older guys

  3. Big Red says:

    What a wonderful story. I enjoyed watching Mark and yourself bowl every chance I had (first run). Being in my mid 50’s does have its advantages. Watching the greatest bowlers EVER was just one of them.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

    Respectfully,
    Bob Haile

  4. Time A. Hill says:

    I was in the AIrish Force in Korea from 1976 till 1981. We had a base bowling team that traveled to different bases. Mark was one of my favorite bowlers,we had bowling patches made for our shirts. One was of a thumb with marks around it like it was bleeding because we had seen Mark bowling once with b a bloody thumb. We alll tried to imitate his cranking power. The bad thing was we only had 4 LANES with pinions and oiling the lanes was optional. Could go on with lots of stories. Our goal was triple nickel series, a 185 average, get a 600 series and you b were king of the lanes.

  5. Time A. Hill says:

    I was in the Air Force in Korea from 1976 till 1981. We had a base bowling team that traveled to different bases. Mark was one of my favorite bowlers,we had bowling patches made for our shirts. One was of a thumb with marks around it like it was bleeding because we had seen Mark bowling once with a bloody thumb. We alll tried to imitate his cranking power. The bad thing was we only had 4 LANES with pinions and oiling the lanes was optional. Could go on with lots of stories. Our goal was triple nickel series, a 185 average, get a 600 series and you b were king of the lanes.

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