Over the course of the last week — as some of you may or may not know — the Tournament of Champions was going on in Ohio, at the historic AMF Riviera Lanes.
Competing in this tournament this week, we had some of our sport’s biggest names, competing for a Major Championship.
But also competing this week, for the very last time, was a bowler very familiar with Major Championships. A true legend and one of the greatest ambassadors our sport has ever seen, and — flat out — one of the all-time best human beings that has ever picked up a bowling ball: Johnny Petraglia Sr.
Petraglia Sr. has been, decade after decade, a household name in the bowling world, as a competitor, as an ambassador, and as a brand representative.
This week, as I said, was his final PBA Tournament of Champions ever, a tournament he first won in 1971.
Since his first TOC victory in 1971, Petraglia Sr. has accomplished virtually everything there is to accomplish in our sport. He has written his name into all of our history books. He has influenced many of our games greatest athletes. And he has shown generations of kids how to handle themselves and how to be true professionals, if the time should ever come that they, themselves, are on the biggest stage.
It’s hard to envision what bowling would be today without the likes of Petraglia Sr. What it would look like. Or, honestly, if it would look like anything.
I had the honor of meeting Petraglia just once in my life. I don’t pretend to know him well, nor do I imagine that he remembers me all that much, but there is one thing that I feel needs to be said, above all else: no one has a bad thing to say about Petraglia. No one.
Not one single person.
In today’s age? That is truly saying something.
We live in a world where every person has an opinion on everything and everyone, some good, some bad. We’re living in a world of argument, disagreement, and confrontation. But, still, no one has anything bad to say about him.
Just look at social media today. It feels like every professional athlete I can think of, bowler or not, warranted or not, has a hate club. But not Johnny Petraglia Sr.
To those of you who haven’t had the honor of meeting him — and those that have can back me up on this — there is no one quite like Petraglia Sr.
He has this way about him. This genuine quality, so to speak. This unique persona that, no matter who you are to him, when you’re talking to him, you feel important.
I remember when I met him, I started talking — rambling, most likely, as I was probably a bit intimidated — and he stopped me. Not in a rude way or in an inconsiderate way. But in a respectful, mild manner, and said “before we go any further, what’s your name, son?”
Of course, I looked at him, told him my name, he then shook my hand, and responded “Nice to meet you, I’m Johnny,” with an ever so charismatic grin on his face. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Petraglia,” I said. “No, no, no, it’s Johnny,” he quickly replied back, still carrying that same grin on his face.
To some, this may seem like nothing. But think about it. When you’re talking to someone you don’t know, to someone you will likely never see again, how often do you take the time to get their name? I promise you it isn’t as often as you’d think. And it isn’t as often as we should.
And I’m sure to Petraglia Sr. this was no big deal to him. This was probably just a normal occurrence. But it really tells you a lot about him. It speaks to his character. To the type of person he is.
Our conversation only carried on for a few minutes, as he was working at the time, but for those few minutes, I didn’t feel like I was talking to a stranger, which is a unique quality to find in someone. One of several unique qualities that Petraglia Sr. owns.
When I decided to sit down and write this, I had full intentions of talking about Johnny Petraglia Sr., the bowler. But as I was writing it, I realized that everyone knows that story, and despite his obvious greatness and legendary status, Johnny Petraglia Sr., the person, may be even more special.
So thank you for all that you’ve done, Mr. Petraglia. Thank you for growing bowling. Thank you for sharing your life and career with so many. Thank you for far and away exceeding the expectations and obligations of your job. Thank you, sir, for being “Johnny.”
2 thoughts on “Thank You Johnny Petraglia – Salute!”
This is one of the most heartfelt respectful stories honoring an individual that I have ever read. I remember watching Johnny Petraglia Sr. when he first came on the bowling circuit and remember him as a very respectful competitor and person, a true Ambassador of the sport.
Now some 40-50 years later my son and Sr.’s son are friends and although I have not met either of them, through my son I have come too the opinion that Sr. also raised a fine family that follow in his foot steps. After 30 years away from the sport, after hearing stories of my son starting his bowling life and seeing videos of my son and Jr. and a mutual friend Josh in action both on and off the lanes I decided to get back into the game and am having a blast.
I will be traveling to Vegas next month for some needed together time with my son, I will be 3 years post liver transplant on March 13 and have not seen him since, and am looking forward to doing some bowling and meeting Johnny Jr. I could only wish that I could also meet Johnny Sr. as well. Who knows maybe he will decide to visit his son.
Terrific comments! I had the privilege of bowling against Johnny 20 years ago on the Senior Tour. I was a no-body in the bowling world but he treated me with utmost respect.
Johnny has done it all – bowling great (one of the best clutch players ever), Green Beret in Vietnam, black belt in tae kwon do, bowling ambassador, Brunswick representative (I still have my original Johnny Petraglia LT-48).
You are correct — I have never ever heard anyone bad-mouth Johnny. He is a true gentleman.