Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas
The PBA recently announced the top 50 bowlers of the 50 years of the PBA. There was much dispute, discussion and anticipation about who would be #1 and who would be #2. The contestants, of course, were Earl Anthony and Walter Ray Williams, Jr.
Thankfully, the experts got it right and named Earl Anthony the greatest bowler of the last 50 years.
Anthony, the smooth left-hander, had plenty of firsts and finished first plenty of times. He was the first bowler to reach $1 million in earnings. He was the PBA Player of the Year six times, a stunning accomplishment. He won the George Young High Average Award five times. And, as stated, he finished first 43 times, including a record 10 “majors” (that dispute over whether or not the two USBC Masters he won were “majors” or “titles” disappeared in the last year or so). Cool as they come and as smooth as a bowler can be, Anthony dominated the tour and amassed his stunning accomplishments in only 14 years. He is a member of both the PBA Hall of Fame and the USBC Hall of Fame.
Hall of Famer Williams, of course, has surpassed many of Anthony’s records. He is the first player to reach $4 million in earnings and he has now won a record 45 titles, seven of which are majors. He has now won a title in 16 consecutive years, breaking the long-standing record of (you guessed it) Earl Anthony (15 consecutive years). He is right-handed, which makes it more difficult in the eyes of most to win titles. He also has been named PBA Player of the Year six times. And his career is still stunningly successful.
Interestingly, on the ESPN telecast when the decision was announced, two experts took a middle ground despite believing Walter Ray is the better bowler. Randy Pedersen (#35 on the list), for example, has stated numerous times on national TV over the last few years that we were “looking at the greatest bowler ever” when watching Walter Ray. On the day of the announcement, however, he took a more politically correct stance, not saying that he thought the experts were wrong.
Even fan favorite Bo Burton (#15 on the list), who seemed to tell Pete Dougherty of TimesUnion.com just a few months ago that he thought Walter Ray was the best, simply said, on national TV, that maybe they will take another vote in five or ten years and the result might be different.
It might be too much to ask for a little controversy.
Writer Pete Dougherty, who did have a vote, voted for Earl Anthony and presented an interesting stat: Earl Anthony won a staggering 11.1% of the tournaments he entered while Walter Ray was a distant second, having won 6.4% of his tournaments.
HERE’S WHY IT’S AN ESPECIALLY GOOD DECISION
In the world of sports that we live in today (you know, nothing happened in the history of sports before 1979), it’s usually the latest who is viewed to be the greatest. For example, when ESPN came out with its Top 50 athletes of the 20th Century, they somehow voted Michael Jordan #1. While there’s no chance that Jordan is the greatest athlete ever (Jim Thorpe, Jim Brown and Jackie Robinson were certainly better “athletes” than Jordan), there’s a real question as to whether Jordan is even the greatest basketball player ever (Wilt, Russell, Oscar – pick any one and you might be right). And if you had to pick the greatest player in a team sport (as opposed to the greatest athlete), well, the first three guys on that list would be named Babe Ruth.
But I digress. In the world of today, it was excellent to see someone recognized from yesterday.
WHAT DOES WALTER RAY THINK?
Thankfully, Walter Ray totally gets it. He was widely-quoted as saying: “I feel Earl’s record is better than mine because it was more condensed. Earl bowled 14 years and 400 or so events. I’ve bowled well over 600 by now, maybe 700. Some people will argue Earl’s era was tougher, but others will argue my era was tougher. The reality is, people threw the ball differently in each era. That’s the way the game is played.”
Walter Ray continued: “I’m very pleased to be No. 2. If Dick Weber would have had 45 titles at the time Earl was still bowling, he probably would have kept on bowling because he would have wanted someone to chase. As it was, he retired because no one had close to the number of titles he had. He didn’t have anything to shoot for.”
Amen to that.
So there you have it. The #2 bowler agreeing with the selection of the #1 bowler. That kind of class rarely exists today.
© Copyright 2008 by Steve Kallas. All rights reserved.