This Past Week We Lost Two of the Great Ones…. Mike McGrath and Bill Lillard

This past week we lost two of the great ones…. Mike McGrath and Bill Lillard, and for me both are personal.

Mike Mcgrath shocked the bowling world when he won the very first PBA tournament he entered in Portland Oregon. He won 10 PBA titles and two majors He’s a Hall of Famer. What is very personal and special for me is in 1970 my team won the Classic team championship at the then ABC tournament (now USBC) Our team was myself, Butch Gearhart, Larry Lichstein, Ernie Schlegel and our anchor was Mike McGrath. He had to mark in the 10th for us to win. It was our first Eagle and we were all so young it was more than exciting, it was unbelievable. Butch Gearhart was killed in a car accident about 30 years ago, and now we have lost Mike. Talking with Larry and Ernie on the phone was very emotional. Mike was a good friend all these years and I will miss him a lot.

Bill Lillard was one of my first heroes. I loved watching him bowl on TV. He used a conventional grip and could hook the ball a ton in the era when you couldn’t hook it. A couple of years ago my son gave me a DVD of Lillard bowling Don Carter on Championship Bowling. Bill is going 20 to 10 and bringing it back, it’s great to watch. A couple of years ago Bill and I were talking, and he was telling me he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t hook the ball as much as the bowlers of today. I said” well Bill you’re in your 80’s” He said, Yea, I guess that must be it. That was Bill,he never used age as an excuse. He was always full of life. A Hall of Famer who currently holds the record for most pins knocked down in the USBC tournament. And when you look at who’s in the top 20 after him, it’s going to be a long time for somebody to break his record, if ever. It may never be broken.
Bill is one of the classiest people I have ever met. When looking for role models you didn’t have to look farther than Bill Lillard. One of my heroes is gone, and it hurts.

God Bless Mike and Bill
Johnny Petraglia

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One thought on “This Past Week We Lost Two of the Great Ones…. Mike McGrath and Bill Lillard

  1. John Scarchilli says:

    I was fortunate to have met and speak Bill Lillard on a couple of occasions at the Houston Bowling Hall of Fame Award Ceremony dinner. He was just plain nice, and spoke to you as if you were a long time friend, and had great and funny stories about almost everyone in attendance. My boss also had a few funny stories about Mr. Lillard as well. Rest in Peace Bill Lillard. You were one of a kind in the best way.

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