The Most Impressive Bowler I Have Ever Known? BILL LILLARD!
In over 65 years in the bowling game, Bill Lillard stands out to me as the most impressive bowler I have seen.
Sounds pretty strange coming from someone who has watched such performers as Don Carter, Dick and Pete Weber, Earl Anthony, Don Johnson, Buddy Bomar, Carmen Salvino, Marshall Holman, Mike Aulby, Mark Roth, Norm Duke, Walter Ray Williams and almost every superstar since the 40’s…that is, with the exception of Junie McMahon.
Interestingly, in conversations with Lillard, the affable Texan often expressed admiration for Don Carter and Junie Mc Mahon as two of his most impressive contemporaries.
Although Bill Lillard was a PBA charter member, he had but one victory on the PBA tour, the 1966 Miller Beer Championship in Milwaukee. Years ago, the PBA Hall of Fame committee put three one-time winners from the pioneer’s category on the PBA ballot. One was Lillard, but he failed to garner the required number of votes. Consequently, Lillard may never be inducted in the PBA Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, Bill Lillard was recently selected as one of the Top 20 Bowlers of the 20th Century.
After winning the All-Star tournament and four titles in the 1956 ABC Championships, Lillard was named Bowler of The Year. As a result, Lillard bowled tournaments, exhibitions, and grand openings as a member of the Falstaff and Busweiser teams and a member of the Brunswick staff. In 1968, Lillard moved to Houston where he has had a very successful career operating bowling centers.
It was Lillard’s brilliant performances in the National All-Star Tournament, now known as the BPAA US Open, and his fantastic American Bowling Congress record that assured him a spot in the ABC Hall of Fame.
His ABC record includes:
EIGHT ABC titles
Lillard has an ABC/USBC tournament average of 200 for 61 consecutive years. Bill, now 81 years old, continues to compete in this event. His lifetime total of 113,404 pins is second only to Joe Norris, who amassed a total of 123,770 for 71 years.
Although he never won the ABC Masters, he led the qualifying three times, finished second to Dick Hoover in 1957, and posted an ABC Masters average of 202 for 152 games. Keep in mind that these averages were achieved during times that 200 averages and 700 series earned headlines; an era that an 800 series commanded national attention.
During his 20 years of competition in the All-Star Tournament, he posted the highest composite average of any and all participants… an incredible 206 for 1,607 games.
It must be noted that this tournament featured ONLY 16 finalists instead of 24. Furthermore, champions won with averages ranging from 200 to 208. Here is Lillard’s incredible All-Star record:
He cashed in ALL 20 All-Star events.
He made the finals in 14 of the tournaments.
He won once, finished second twice, third once and fifth twice.
He also posted averages of 207.16 for All-Star Events. (team, doubles)
He averaged 205.61 for 376 games in the old World Invitational Tournament that was held at McCormick Place in Chicago.
In reviewing Bill Lillard’s resume’, impressive is a vast understatement. I call his feats extraordinary.
Prior to Bill joining Buddy Bomar’s bowling juggernaut in Chicago in 1951, my most memorable impressions of Lillard center around the Texas area. He first caught my attention in 1946 in Houston, Texas. Lillard, a 19 year-old Dallas resident and student at Southern Methodist University, drove to Houston to participate in the Charlie Earhardt Memorial Tournament. The tournament drew entries from throughout the southwest and featured bowling stars from miles around.
Undaunted by the presence of the biggest names in the area, Lillard carted off the title in an almost easy fashion. During this period, and the late 1940’s, challenge matches, state tournaments, interstate games, and various competitions flourished in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Louisiana
My late, younger brother Frank, one of San Antonio’s most proficient match-game performers, issued a challenge to anyone for a singles match. Lillard accepted the call for a tidy sum with no stipulations regarding lane choices. Consequently my brother chose lanes 7-8 at Main Bowling Center…a pair of lanes considered his “pie alleys”, an affectionate term denoting one’s favorite pair. Normally, it was risky business locking horns with Frank on lanes 7 and 8, where Frank seldom experienced any setbacks. But Frank wasn’t facing an ordinary bowler. He was facing Bill Lillard!
The three-game match was a battle of strikes during an era that 190 to 197 averages were league elites. Averages of 200 were almost non-existent at that time, including Lillard, whose highest average in Dallas was 197.
As expected, Frank crushed the pins for a whopping 768! Lillard fired his final shot of the three-game match, walked over to Frank, shook his hand, and at the same time, collected his winnings with his left hand.
The impression left on me was that of a super human being bashing the pins to the tune of 803. This total may seem insignificant by today’s standards, particularly in view of the record high 700’s and 800’s night after night. But for then, this was meritorious.
Callous critics and bumper-bowl jokers that pooh-pooh Lillard’s feat cannot appreciate or comprehend the more difficult conditions and the talent required to achieve the score of 803 fashioned by Lillard. It was an artistic performance, finessed on un-doctored lanes.
Perhaps finessed is misleading to those who construe Lillard’s execution as a soft delivery. But nothing could be further from the truth. Bill Lillard possessed one of the most explosive balls in the history of the game.
More impressive, Lillard used a rubber ball, drilled with a conventional grip. He could hook a ball on ice… going uphill. Bowling on oil was his forte; the more oil, the better. And he did it better than anyone I have ever seen. He had no slide. He braked on his last step and applied incredible rotation on the ball.
The lane dressing procedures during Lillard’s era have practically vanished. The heavy oil dressings separated the men from the boys in that wonderful period of bowling. It was never more evident than the time my San Antonio team drew an 8 a.m. assignment in the ABC tournament. The early shift was generally regarded as the death squad, simply due to the fact that early morning shifts were flooded with oil. As a matter of fact, big-name bowlers and teams ALWAYS requested evening shifts, They were granted these times because ABC officials realized that showcasing the bigger stars at later hours would surely attract a greater attendance.
At any rate, my team consisted of five classic league bowlers, four of whom tossed strong hooking deliveries. Our other bowler, Pete Hauser, relied on a straight ball off the corner. However, the heavy oil on the morning shift negated our normal stances for entry into the pocket. We were all forced to move right and point the ball to the pocket. Anything other than a full back-up ball was a morale-booster as oil gushed from the ball track. Five-pins, 8-10’s, 5-7’s and buckets popped up with regularity throughout the arena…with ONE exception. Several lanes away, Bill Lillard stood left of center, swung the ball about three to five boards, and watched his ball drive back into the pocket with thunderous impact.
“Humbling” was too meek a word to express our feelings. It was downright belittling; transforming would-be bowlers into neophytes suffering from inferiority complexes.
Oh, I forgot to mention …Pete Hauser, our straight-ball shooter, NEVER hit the head pin in any of his first six frames; that is, not on the strike ball, nor on the spare ball.
This was a day of recollection. It was an experience I have never forgotten. It was a day my eyes were fixed on a rare talent; a super-star, a future Hall of Famer.
“Impressive”, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is eliciting wonder or admiration.
And, in all my years in the game, NO ONE ever elicited my admiration more than the talents exhibited by Bill Lillard during his heyday!
by John Jowdy
During the past few weeks, six of the most worthy individuals in bowling, Tom Kouros, Gene Stus, Lowell Rothschild, Del Ballard, Norm Duke and John Handegard achieved the highest honors in the game. .
Kouros, Stus, and Rothschild selections were the latest additions the USBC Hall of Fame.
Duke, Ballard, and Handegard breezed into the PBA Hall of Fame.
In my opinion, the establishment of an athletic hall of fame is one of the most noteworthy institutions society can render to a community, state, or country. It is emblematic of performers whose deeds brought glory, honor, and fame to the area they represent.
A hall of fame, in essence, is a shrine for immortals; a sanctuary that separates super stars from the less fortunate and lesser talented individuals. These honorees are selected in the performance category. Additionally, it also honors individuals in the meritorious category; those whose deeds and actions unselfishly contributed to the betterment of the sport.
Principally, inductees must be thoroughly and accurately researched. Favoritism, partiality, or biased opinions must be set aside. Selections to halls of fame should never be founded on a popularity basis.
Nonetheless, bowling has had its share of biased opinions. It was rumored that Buddy Bomar’s delayed induction into the ABC Hall of Fame was principally due to the fact that Joe Wilman, a Bomar foe and a major force on the Hall of fame Board, used his influence to block Bomar’s path to the hallowed sanctuary.
Several years later, the ABC Hall of Fame board came under stern criticism when a dozen or so members were admitted to the Hall of Fame in a block. The selection committee reasoned that time was fleeting; that these particular individuals were on their last go-round and would soon be by-passed and forgotten. It befuddled many bowling writers around the nation but more than that, it infuriated several Hall of Famers who felt the actions had diluted the quality of the Hall; that it diminished the luster and honor that symbolized a seat in the elite shrine.
On a happy note, I‘d like to express my glee in the selection of Tom Kouros and Del Ballard to their respective Hall of Fame inductions. This is not meant to demean others who were selected but Ballard’s and Kouros’ inductions were LONG OVERDUE.
In my opinion, Tom Kouros is the most knowledgeable individual in bowling. He is a bowling proprietor. He was an outstanding bowler. Although he never achieved hall of fame status in the performance category, he was a highly respected bowler in the Chicago area. He is one of, if not the best bowling instructors in the world. Kouros has coached and helped coach many of the most outstanding amateur and professional bowlers in America and throughout the world, including women bowlers. In fact, the World Bowling Writers instituted the annual Tom Kouros Outstanding International Coach Award in his honor, an honor recognizing his reputation as a coach. He has authored two of the most comprehensive bowling instructional books. He is a graduate of Illinois University with a degree in physics, a degree that he has successfully applied in his bowling philosophies. He is an excellent writer and has penned interesting and informative articles in the International Bowlers Journal for many years.
Despite all these attributes, Kouros’ belated selection to bowling’s highest honor has, in all likelihood, been stunted by his frank and outspoken opinions…a trait that can occasionally rile, irritate, and annoy his critics. Nonetheless, I admire Kouros’ straightforward candidness far more than I do individuals who placate those with diverse opinions just for the sake of “getting along”.
Del Ballard’s selection to the PBA Hall of Fame was inevitable….a mortal cinch. His induction, as well as that of Norm Duke, was delayed when the present PBA hierarchy originally ruled that no one could qualify for hall of fame status unless they were retired for five years. Fortunately, the rules recently reverted to the original PBA requirements and Ballard’s selection was a mere formality.
On the other hand, Del has failed to meet the required 70% vote for induction to the USBC Hall of Fame by the narrowest of margins, simply due to the fact that the competition was so strong. Furthermore, because of recent PBA/USBC rule changes, Ballard may be further delayed. The new regulations for induction into the USBC Hall of Fame have opened the doors for all-time greats like Marshall Holman, Mark Roth and Johnny Petraglia. With all due respect, these players will further complicate Ballard’s chances to receive the required 70% vote for election. The eligibility of Holman, Roth, and Petraglia has certainly dampened Del’s luck for the time being.
As in many other sports, there is a lot of luck involved in attaining hall of fame status. When classes of quality hopefuls for induction are so competitive, a 70% margin of approval can be a difficult task. Consequently, a very worthy candidate may have to wait for what may seem an eternity to enter the prestigious club of immortals….the USBC Hall of Fame.
Nonetheless, sooner or later, Del Ballard’s USBC Hall of Fame plaque will be placed among bowing’s greatest achievers.
by John Jowdy
There’s an old adage, “don’t bite the hand that feeds you”.
The Professional Bowler’s Association is the greatest source of promotion for bowling. Consequently, it is extremely difficult to comment or question the business tactics and decisions of the PBA. Additionally, it is privately owned and is not subject to criticism from outsiders.
Nevertheless, the powers in charge have not only listened and accepted suggestions from bowlers and fans; they have implemented several recommendations that serve to better the organization:
First and probably most important, the PBA has increased the number of tournaments that revert to the old PBA format; that is, qualification scores that advance either 16 or 24 bowlers to the finals for single game matches that reward each bowler with a 30-pin bonus. From the bowler’s standpoint, it is the fairest format. But most important, it is, by far, the most popular format for fans in attendance. It affords the fans who are seated in a certain area to have the opportunity to watch ALL the finalists, rather than be subjected to sit through a four out of seven match that can exceed two hours. In addition to this, automatic scoring machines scores from surrounding matches are extremely difficult to see
Additionally, many fans that are unable to attend tournaments until later in the day are deprived of seeing some of their favorite bowlers who were eliminated in the four out of seven match play earlier. One of the saddest situations occurred in a Southern California tournament in which a father brought his son in to see Walter Ray Williams in the afternoon session, only to learn that Walter Ray had been eliminated in his first match that morning.
Let’s examine the two different formats… the 24 man finals with bonus pins and the four out of seven elimination. First, Jason Belmonte, the sensational two-handed thumbless Australian star, finished close to 300 pins ahead of second in the recent PBA World Championship Tournament at Wichita, Kansas. The top 32 qualifiers advanced to the finals, with the top eight qualifiers awarded TWO BYES in match play into the 16-match-game finals.
In my humble opinion, TWO BYES are too many. One bye is enough of an advantage. Nonetheless, despite the two byes, Belmonte was eliminated in his first match in a four out of seven game contest by Chris Barnes. Barnes probably finished close to 500 pins behind Belmonte in the qualifying rounds. Had the 16 or 24-man finals bonus format been applied, chances are, Belmonte would have easily made the TV show and most likely, won the championship. The Australian star overwhelmed the opposition for three days, then succumbed to a rival he outscored by almost 500 pins…in less than three hours!
That being said and, again, in my opinion, TWO BYES are too many. For example, suppose the ninth place finisher ended up only one or two pins behind eighth. This means, he averaged the same score as the eighth place qualifier, yet he was obligated to bowl two extra usually grueling matches to advance to the top 16.
To sum it all up, here are the two issues I believe should be addressed.
1. Bowlers should be limited to only ONE bye in formats that seed the top eight qualifiers in the PBA World Championship tournament
2. I believe ALL major tournaments should be conducted under the original PBA format with 24 finalists bowling single game matches with 30 bonus pins to the winner. AND, in view of all the sophisticated electronic devices that are featured in the TV arena settings, I would hope that the computer-savvy owners of the PBA would devise a LARGE electronic computer on each pair of lanes, whereas, fans would be able to see scores from other lanes
These are not only my personal convictions. I base my opinions on comments I hear from bowlers and fans alike.
State of The Bowling Game
What is the true state of the bowling game today? The state of the game, in financial terms, would render conflicting answers, depending on whom you question.
USBC membership continues to decline. Yet recreation bowling is on the rise. Numerous proprietors are profiting from glow bowling, birthday parties, and other type catering services that keep the registers clicking.
Nonetheless, older bowling centers continue to close, some from declining business or, in numerous cases, land values have become so lucrative, proprietors prefer to accept offers they can’t refuse. This is primarily prevalent in states like California, New Jersey, New York, Michigan and Florida, plus other areas.
Nonetheless, bowling centers in Las Vegas and in the Phoenix are prospering. Las Vegas is easily the bowling capital of the world and features some of the country’s largest and most elegant bowling facilities. During the past several years, Las Vegas presented the game with the plushiest bowling center in the world, the Red Rock Lanes, a facility that was erected at a cost of approximately thirty million dollars. Suffice to say, it is paying itself off with monthly incomes in excess of $300,000.
Additionally, the greater Phoenix area features over 30 successful bowling centers, possibly more than that of many states.
What do these cities have that others lack? I’m sure it can’t be attributed to a lack of other recreational activities in these two areas. For example, Las Vegas offers more favorable recreational opportunities than any city in the world…. warm weather, golf courses, sports events, casinos, live entertainment, lakes, and practically anything other than winter-related sports.
Phoenix, the sixth largest city in he USA, can boast of professional baseball, football, basketball, and hockey teams, as well as leading college sports teams. Equally important, Phoenix features a slew of some of the country’s greatest golf courses.
Nevertheless, for the less fortunate proprietors who are barely holding on, there’s a bright light looming at the end of the tunnel. In order to recover some of the lost membership in the USBC, bowling has to begin at the grass roots level.
So where is the most opportune area for this development to take fruition? Of course, in high schools, the training ground for ALL sports…baseball, football, basketball, and track. And how does bowling fare against other high school sports? VERY WELL, thank you. According to the National Federation of State High School Association’s survey, bowling was the largest-growing high school sport in the 2007-08 school year, continuing a decade-long trend.
More than 52,000 students competed at the 4, 656 schools offering high school bowling competition in 2007-08, a 16 percent increase over the previous year.
Perhaps the addition of freshman teams could further increase the numbers in high school bowling programs.
Participating states offer varsity bowling for boys and girls, guiding all levels of high school bowling, providing rules and instructional opportunities. USBC High School offers a free membership program, which enables coaches to nominate outstanding bowlers to the national Dexter/USBC High School All-American Team, and provides high-score recognition to student-athletes. Coaches also receive resource materials such as USBC Coaches Guidebook and USBC High School Guide
Bowling not only offers inexpensive start-up and maintenance costs but also allows students an opportunity to get involved with their schools. Size, height, and brawn are inconsequential. The smallest boy or girl can be just as successful at bowling as seven-foot basketball players, football behemoths, track speedsters, or any other type athletes that require inordinate size or brawn. Additionally, bowling lays the foundation for a lifetime sport and helps athletes earn scholarships to an abundance of colleges featuring big-time bowling programs.
USBC, as the national governing body, ensures the integrity and protects the future of the sport as it continues to increase in numbers, year after year.
Most assuredly, the yearly increase in high school bowling participation can only serve to insure a bright future for the sport of bowling and, consequentially, a financial boom for bowling proprietors.
THE CHUCK LANDE STORY
Although two foreign bowlers, Jason Belmonte of Australia and Osku Palermaa of Sweden have energized young bowlers all over the world with their two-handed thumbless delivery, they are not the first bowlers to apply this method of execution.
My first encounter with this unique bowling style occurred in 1989. Lande, a young bowler from Dallas, participated in the PBA summer tour and, although not a big winner,
he was quite impressive
I contacted Chuck Lande recently and he gave me the following account of his two-handed thumbless method of bowling.
Lande begin bowling in a youth league at age 12 in 1977. He bowled with one hand his first season and averaged a dismal 120. In 1978, Lande's mother purchased Chuck a ball from Kmart. The sporting goods cashier drilled the ball and, needless to say, it was a "lousy" fit. He couldn't even hold the ball; plus it was too heavy. . Consequently, he inserted the two fingers but not the thumb. The next season, he averaged close to 175 and by the age 15, he was averaging over 200.
Here are some of Mr. Lande's accomplishments in his early years of bowling:
1. He rolled his first sanctioned 300 at age 17 while bowling in the Junior Leagues.
2. At age 18, he rolled back-to-back 300 games en route to winning the prestigious Dallas Morning News Match Game Championships.
3. He rolled perfect games in over a dozen bowling centers in the Dallas Metroplex
Lande joined the PBA in 1986 at age 22 and bowled virtually all SW Regional PBA events from 1986-1991 and posted the following record:
1. He won five PBA Regional titles from 1987-1991.
2. He had at least five runner-up finishes, which he tries to forget but still haunt him.
3. He cashed in over 85% of PBA Regionals that he bowled in.
4. He qualified for the National Resident Pro Championships from the SW Region Point List three times during that period.
It is important to note that the SW Region was one of the PBA's toughest during that period. It featured such players as Gary Dickinson, David Ozio, Del Ballard, Norm Duke, Tony Westlake, Chris Warren, Mark Williams, Henry Gonzales, and Mike and Mark Scroggins.
Lande competed on the PBA summer tour in 1989 and learned three things:
1. He was good enough to compete with PBA players.
2. The lifestyle was a total beating and not very exciting.
3. The opportunity to earn a good living was not there except for Hall of Fame caliber players.
In the mid 1990's, Lande begin tinkering with computers. He visited all local computer and electronic superstores and purchased all customer-returned units, as well as all units placed on the clearance racks. He would fix up the computers at home and sell them to bowlers and bowling proprietors. The little sideline hobby continued to grow and by the year 2000, Lande was the proud owner of a state of the art PC repair, refurbishing and marketing facility. He employed repair technicians, national and international sales reps.
The rapid growth and success of the company helped him land on the Dallas Business Journal Fast Tech 50, Dallas' 100 top fastest growing businesses in the Dallas/Ft.Worth area. He garnered two semi-finalist awards for the Ernst & Young Entrepeneur of the Year Award and made more than enough money from 1998 to 2000 that he was beginning to think of retiring.
Lande was a guest speaker at Bowl Expo in Las Vegas in 2001 speaking on the need for proprietors to embrace computers and technology in their centers. During his visit to the show, he was shocked to learn how few proprietors used PC's, or had websites, or kept a customer database, etc. Yet, they all mentioned that business was great. He left the trade show with the desire to sell his tech company and build a center of his own in his hometown just outside of Dallas.
He sold the company to a private investment group of ex-telecom executives in 2002. Shortly afterwards, he hired Howard Ellman, a designer he met at Bowl Expo, to develop a concept for a modern bowling center. This gave birth to Rowlett Bowl-a- Rama, a truly state of the art facility. The beautiful center has been successful in attracting league and casual bowlers, with over 200 youth league bowlers and about 800 adult league bowlers (in a 26 lane center). The figures continue to grow. He really enjoys the bowling industry.
Bowl-a-Rama is also home to former Junior Team USA bowler Jaime Foster, a 21-year-old female two-hander as well as a seven-tear old two-handed prodigy named Anthony Simonsen, who continuously shoots games of about 230.
Lande currently bowls three games a week in a competitive league at his bowling center and averages between 225-230 (which he thinks stinks) He still bowls two-handed and typically uses regular urethane or polyester equipment, claiming modern balls are too powerful. He hopes to bowl in some PBA senior events when he turns 50 in 2014.
Chuck Lande's success is truly emblematic of The American Dream and is arguably the most financially successful ex-professional bowler ever. Many “big name" bowlers have taken advantage of their reputations and, with financial backing, have achieved great success. However, Lande's wealth is a result of his ingenuity and foresight. Furthermore, he amassed his fortune by age 35, an almost unbelievable accomplishment
Chuck Lande Is married to his wife Diane. They have two beautiful children, an eight-year old girl Jordan, and a five-year old son, Jeremy.
New Coaches Hall of Fame Committee Gets It Right, Inducts Right Man in Dick Ritger For His World Wide Impact On Coaching. Can Tom Kouros, Bill Taaylor, Fred Borden Be Far Behind?
The greatest honor that can be bestowed on any athlete is induction into a Hall of Fame. Virtually every sport honors its elite athletes…..baseball, football, basketball, golf, tennis, and other sports, including bowling.
Bowling’s greatest honor is induction into the USBC Hall of Fame. Bowling not only bestows this honor in the performance category but also reserves a place in the Meritorious Service category for those who have contributed in special ways to
make the game better.
And now, by virtue of the incredible leadership of John Bergland, the Bowling Proprietors Association of America, through the work of Strike Ten Entertainment and new Skill’s Center, a newly formed Bowling Coaches Hall of Fame Committee has created a hall of fame for coaches who have made a significant impact on the game.
During the past eight or 10 years, bowling has stressed the importance of coaching and instruction to elevate the game to higher standards. From tots to teens, from grade school to high schools and well into colleges, coaching programs and seminars have increased steadily. Gold, Silver, and Bronze level coaches have sprung up all over the country. Additionally, training centers, led by the Kegel Company hire the BEST instructors in the world and stay busy year around. Many other bowling seminars are being conducted such as Bowling This Month’s