Monday, March 29, 2010

Bob Perry Could Have Been a Contender

"I remember meeting Earl Anthony ( He was in town visiting ) in Paramus lanes one night (I was a teenager at the time at that time he [Bobby] bowled anchor for D'amato paperstock , (Mark Roth bowled leadoff ) and Bobby introduced me to him . Bobby walked away and Earl said to me "You know , he's the best bowler in the world " nodding his head pointing to Bobby . Bobby was the best unequivacably, without a doubt . Anyone who truly knows bowling knows that on a given night even a blind squirrel could find a nut . But a Lion will always eat . Bobby was a Lion on the lanes . Again in his time period I saw him beat EVERYONE of the guys mentioned in these memos."
--"Joey Ja"

I was thrilled to watch the fifth and final "Chris Barnes Challenge" of the season Saturday night. I've watched and enjoyed all five of them to varying degrees, but Saturday's was special because it pitted Chris, who's been struggling lately to get his formidable act together, against an up-and-coming star. More importantly, it was held on the East coast in an area that has long been renowned for "action" or "pot game" bowling, and, unlike the previous challenges, the enthusiastic spectators in West Babylon, NY were packed like sardines to watch Barnes and Anthony Pepe battle it out for the $10,000 winner-take-all pot.

The match, which Barnes won, had the excitement filled ambiance of a televised national tournament and was, from what I gather, reminiscent of the days back in the 50's, 60's, and 70's especially when these kinds of high stakes matches were occurring all the time in bowling alleys throughout metropolitan New York and New Jersey and involved the local hotshots and even PBA stars who would come along and join in when they could.

After watching the Barnes-Pepe match, I began to do some reading about the history of action bowling. I found this website, and, in skimming through it, I happened upon glowing praises of a guy named Bob Purzycki (aka Bob Perry) who was apparently one of the most respected and feared action bowlers of the 70's. And then I discovered that a film (see video below) was made in 2004 titled High Roller: The Bob Perry Story, and when I found out that I could watch it instantly on Netflix, I did.

It tells the both tragic and inspiring story of Bob Purzycki. Bob was born in New Jersey in 1952 and became so passionate about bowling at an early age and was so good by the tender age of twelve that he was invited to compete at a World's Fair. But he was felled by a terrible accident just before he could go. He lost vision in one eye from the accident and spent months and years after that rehabilitating himself until he became very highly regarded by locals and pro superstars such as Dick Weber and Teta Semiz in action and pro regional circles. But, on the eve of going out on tour to prove himself to the whole world, he was devastated by another catastrophic accident that almost cost him his life and the use of his legs.

After that, this star-crossed young man who had shown such incandescent talent and skill on the lanes began to spiral out of control in his personal life with alcohol abuse and drug addiction until he was living on the streets as a homeless, toothless, and drug-addled bum. But he finally had an epiphany after a failed suicide attempt, yet still managed to land himself in legal trouble with organized crime until he broke away from his old life for good with the help of a Catholic priest.

He eventually returned to bowling and won his first High Roller bowling tournament for $100,000 in Vegas at nearly 50 years of age and another a few years later. He also, along with one of his sisters, started a 12-step referral center for alcoholics and drug addicts called "The Last Stop."

I found large stretches of this 54 minute film unrelentingly bleak and depressing, and I wish there had been more footage in it of him bowling along with more discussion of his entire bowling career. But if you're a bowling fan like I am, I think you'll enjoy learning about this remarkable person who may not only have been or become the best of the best on the lanes but who also overcame horrible adversity to salvage his own life and dedicate it to helping others to do the same with theirs.

I give the film a B grade.


  1. Bob was a friend and I consider him the best action bowler I ever saw. We bowled at the same place (Paterson Bowl O Mat). It's hard for me to fathom what happened to Bob but then again I was pretty naive. We recently connected and I am glad we did. I only wish him well and will always consider Bobby a friend.

  2. He was an awesome bowler - Paramus, Paterson, Columbia Park, always clutch and had a consistent high roll which pulverized the pins.. My pleasure to call him a friend..