Friday, August 24, 2001
Anthony considered winningest PBA bowler
By David A. Markiewicz
Special to ESPN.com
He was nicknamed "Square Earl" for his appearance, and the "Earl of Tacoma" because of his hometown. But based on his performance on the lanes, Earl Anthony merited only one title: greatest winner in Professional Bowlers Association history.
Anthony, who became a fixture on ABC's Saturday afternoon bowling shows in the 1970s on his way to winning 41 PBA national tournaments, died Tuesday at the home of a friend he was visiting in Wisconsin. A resident of North Plains, Oregon, Anthony was 63.
Anthony died from a
fall down the stairs at a friend's suburban home, authorities said
Memorial services set
NORTH PLAINS, Ore. -- Three memorial services for Hall of
Fame bowler Earl Anthony, who died August 14 from head injuries
sustained in a fall, have been scheduled, his family said Thursday.
Anthony, 63, fell while visiting a friend in Milwaukee.
The first service will be Monday at the Life Center in Tacoma,
Wash., Anthony's birthplace.
On Tuesday, a service will be held at The Hideaway picnic
retreat in North Plains, where Anthony lived since 1988.
And on Wednesday, the last of the three services will be held at
St. Joan of Arc Church in San Ramon, Calif. Anthony was proprietor
of a bowling center in nearby Danville since 1980.
Anthony's body will be cremated and his ashes distributed
privately by the family.
-- Associated Press
"He was a fierce competitor and a true gentleman," said fellow PBA Hall of Famer Dave Davis.
Anthony sustained head
trauma in the fall, said Rob Dunn, chief deputy medical examiner
for Waukesha County. The death certificate did not list any other
Anthony likely died anywhere from minutes to hours of being
discovered by his friend Ed Baur at the bottom of the stairs at his
New Berlin home around 8 a.m. Tuesday, Dunn said.
Toxicology tests were conducted but it will likely be weeks
before the results are released, the spokeswoman said.
"He personified the game. He was consistent, no-nonsense and professional, and the most identifiable person in bowling," said Steve Miller, president and chief executive officer of the PBA. "He was one of a kind."
A six-time PBA Bowler of the Year, Anthony often was compared to Jack Nicklaus because of his place in the game's history and his appearance. As Nicklaus did in golf, Anthony became indisputably his sport's best in the 1970s, taking over that mantel from a popular, charismatic champion of the 1960s.
Anthony followed Dick Weber just as Nicklaus had followed Arnold Palmer.
While Weber largely introduced the fledgling PBA Tour to America through TV, it was Anthony who came to represent professional bowlers to the country as the sport grew in popularity. Weber called Anthony, "the greatest speed-control bowler ever to play the game."
Blocky of build with a paunch around his middle, like the young Nicklaus, bearing a decidedly out-of-style crew cut and tortoise shell eyeglasses, the intensely private Anthony was an unlikely-looking candidate to be the representative of his sport.
In truth, he was an excellent athlete, a hard-throwing left-handed pitcher who had to give up baseball because of an ankle injury but still liked to compete in pickup games of basketball and other sports.
It was his competitiveness and an unmatched drive to excel that pushed him to eight major tournament titles, 144 top-five finishes and more than $1 million in career earnings at a time when prize money was modest.
All his success garnered him seemingly endless air time and propelled him into the position of the game's ambassador, a duty Davis said Anthony filled admirably.
"He was absolutely fabulous as a spokesman," Davis said. "I travel all around the world and I've never heard anyone say a poor word about Earl."
Anthony didn't come easily to fame, however. He tried and failed in his first attempt at the PBA Tour in 1963, heading back home to Tacoma where he worked the midnight shift in a grocery warehouse and practiced the following morning. He had a key to a local bowling house, allowing him to come and go at odd hours.
He made a second run at the pros in 1969, and this time he stuck. He won seven tournaments in the next four years including the 1973 PBA National Championship, one of six he'd win.
But that was only the beginning. In 1974 he won the prestigious Firestone Tournament of Champions and set an all-time record for earnings, average score and number of titles in a season. He was named PBA Player of the Year.
In 1975 he broke his records from the previous year while winning seven more tournaments and becoming the first to earn $100,000 in a season. The following year he won his third straight Bowler of the Year honor along with six more titles.
Fame changed Anthony only slightly. He grew his hair out a little, more in step with the times, and he updated his eyewear. He became an author of bowling instructional books and an owner of bowling centers. And, though he was always a private man, friends say he became more comfortable in public and with the media, even serving as an analyst on bowling broadcasts in the 1990s.
In the late 1970s, with little else to prove, and his status as bowler of the decade a lock, he began to ease back, essentially leaving his sport at the top for a second time, in the manner of Michael Jordan.
Until, that is, another pro claimed he would be the bowler of the 1980s. Movtivated, Anthony returned to the PBA Tour in 1981 and promptly won four more titles and earned his fourth Player of the Year honor. He also won Player of the Year honors in 1982 and 1983 when he was in his mid-40s.
Having proven again that he was the best in the game, and having already been inducted into bowling's hall of fame in 1981, Anthony retired in 1984. He returned for a brief, unsuccessful appearance on the PBA Tour in 1987, but won again, on the PBA Senior Tour, before retiring from the professional game for good in 1991.
Anthony is survived by his wife Susie; a son, Mike, and daughters Tracy Nelson and Jeri Voyles.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
|Earl Anthony was a star on the PBA during the tour's prime years, including this tournament in 1974.
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