Sunday, March 28, 2010

The PBA's Best Week Ever (With Updates)

"This is my 15 minutes of fame. It’s back to work tomorrow morning. To be able to accomplish this on national TV in front of a hometown crowd is really kind of a fantasy."
--Brian Ziesig

I loved the Tournament of Champions in January. I still think Kelly Kulick's victory was the greatest moment in PBA history. But I can't remember a better week for the PBA than this week's GEICO Mark Roth Plastic Ball Championship.

First and foremost was Mark Roth summoning the strength to overcome the ravages of his severe stroke last May to appear at the tournament that honored him. After hearing of his nightmarish tribulations right up to a couple of months before today, to see photos on the PBA website last Wednesday and Thursday of him standing without assistance and looking amazingly good and then to see him sit in as guest commentator on PBA Xtra Frame for the Round of 16 Friday was fantastic. The capper was seeing him sitting in the front row today with his wife Denise on one side and his dear friend Johnny Petraglia on the other. It was wonderful.

Next was the tournament itself. I loved watching some of the finest bowlers on earth take their two allotted plastic balls and use their own prodigious skills to adjust their releases, alignments, and ball speeds to make them work. This week it wasn't about whose ball rep put the ball in their hands that "read the lanes" best. As Xtra Frame's "Bowling Doctor" Jeff Mark explained, "If they have something, it's because they created it and not because it was given to them or someone designed it." What a refreshing change of pace.

Then there was 63-year-old Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia Sr. bowling his son in the first game of match play and using his "maple moxy" to almost make it to the next round. He bowled beautifully, looking a lot like the Johnny Petraglia of his prime.

Then there was the much and unfairly mocked and maligned Chris Barnes rebounding from a disastrous first block of qualifying to almost make it to the Round of 16 and then beat young New York native and rising star Anthony Pepe Saturday night for the $10,000 winner-take-all pot before a wildly enthusiastic crowd in the nation's hotbed of "action" bowling in the final "Chris Barnes Challenge" of the season. Pepe, a 21-year-old leftie who seems to be able to play anywhere on the lane with a solid physical game, began the match by stringing 8 powerful strikes in a row and looked like he might crush Barnes. But Barnes stayed close, and when the lanes began to change, he adapted better than Anthony and ended up winning the three game total pins match 681-649. Afterwards, he said, “Anthony is a great player and I think he’s among the next generation of young bowlers who has the potential to do great things in the sport.”

Then there was seeing different styles score well on a condition that I expected to decisively favor the power bowlers. The match play rounds of 32 and 16 were populated by righties and lefties, and by strokers who threw almost straight to crankers who hooked those plastic balls to a surprising degree on the long oil of the modified Shark pattern. And in the middle of it all was the incomparable Walter Ray Williams Jr. putting on his customary display of remarkable consistency in round after round. And the inimitable Wayne Garber hung in the top five most of the week as well, accompanying Walter into the televised finals.

Then there was "The Thunder From Down Under," Jason Belmonte, staging another awe-inspiring display of bowling power and prowess by shooting 800 series like they were nothing and rolling three 300 games and two 299 games WITH PLASTIC equipment enroute to being the top seeded player in today's televised final.

Finally, there was the televised final round today. Walter Ray's 280 against Garber. Belmo and Brian Ziesig (see video below of their match) both striking out in the 10th frame of the final game to shoot 247 and send the match into sudden death overtime. Belmonte absolutely stuffing the pocket on his sudden death ball to leave a ringing 10, and Ziesig calmly stepping up and delivering a perfect shot to the pocket to strike and win his first PBA Tour title his first time on national television.

What an amazing and wonderful, wonderful week of bowling it was, especially for us PBA Xtra Frame subscribers. And if you don't believe me, sign up for the service, dip into the archives, and watch it all. You'll be glad you did.

Final tidbits.

1. Rob Stone gave us "hambone" for four strikes in a row. Now Randy Pedersen has given us "octomom" for eight in a row. I kind of like it.

2. Guess how Jason Belmonte is getting to next week's tournament in Baltimore. He's hitching a ride on the Walter Ray Williams Jr. RV Express.

3. Walter Ray spent some of his warm-time this morning throwing the ball two-handed, just in case. Maybe Jason can give him some coaching along the way to Baltimore.


I mistakenly posted above that Jason Belmonte left a solid 10 pin on a perfect pocket hit on his last ball when in fact he left a solid 7 pin on a slightly high hit. I also mistakenly wrote that Chris Barnes "almost" made it into the Round of 16 when, in fact, he did make it into that round and ended up finishing in 13th place. I want to thank an anonymous commenter for correcting me, and I also want to apologize for getting my facts wrong the first time around.


  1. Another great posting, Steve!

  2. chris barnes did make the top 16 match play by finishing 16 actually and and the last shot belmo left a 7 pin not the ten it was a bit high

  3. Thanks Bob, although Anonymous is correct in saying that Belmo left a 7 pin instead of a 10 pin on his last ball (I knew that but misstated it anyway for some peculiar reason), that Belmo's last shot was not a perfect pocket hit but a tad high, and that Barnes did make the Round of 16. I need to do a better job of getting my facts straight, and if and when I don't, I hope someone will correct me. Thanks Anonymous.

  4. Best tournament of the year it was really nice to see Mark Roth is making progress. I purchased one of the game used plastic balls on, hope they sell out the rest, but with only 200 I am sure they will go fast. The only slight drawback to this tournament was I was hoping the oil pattern was the FULL shark instead of the modified Shark pattern. They only used 1/3 the amount of oil of the regular Shark pattern.The heads seemed to dry up quickly and noticed some of the players were lofting the ball to get past the heads. On the other hand the if they did use the Full Shark the scoring would have probably tanked.

  5. Good for you, nearpar, for buying one of those balls. I think you're right that the lanes were a little "soft," but also that the regular Shark pattern would have been too difficult for the plastic balls to achieve decent hook and carry. Actually, I enjoyed the high scores Sunday and throughout the week, although the PBA may try to make them a little more challenging next season based on what they learned this time, and I wouldn't mind that either.

  6. Steve's bowling blog? Who is Steve?

  7. I'm Steve. I'm a Steve who likes to blog about bowling because I've been bowling and following bowling for decades and love the game. You can read more about who I am (and am not) here:

  8. It may have been a great week there but let's be real. They should have used their own plastic bowling balls instead of being issued bowling balls. Jeff Mark stated that "If they have something, it's because they created it and not because it was given to them or someone designed it.". Wrong. You gave the players a 1/3 or even half the oil volume so how can he say that when if they use the regular volume bowlers would be scraping their bowling balls on the concrete outside to get there balls to hook. If this happened how many bowlers do you think would be plus after qualifying??? Not many I can tell you. I thought these are the greatest bowlers in the world, not the greatest scorers in the world.

  9. Steve,

    This is Tim Morelli at the PBA. I want to thank you for all the great coverage of our events this year. Shoot me an email at I want to send you something.

  10. This was a great writeup. Perhaps I'm biased, having bowled around and known Brian for years. But you put ANYONE in that final match, for that matter in Brian's place, and it makes for magical TV. But to bring a guy in, your "everyman" who took a shot at the tour, didn't do as well as he'd have hoped, but definitely had the talent within, and put him in a spot like this, was all the drama one could ask for. Then there were the signs. The pictures. The SHIRTS! How awesome were the shirts? I bet the PBA could raise even more money for Roth by selling autographed copies of those shirts with Brian's face and the oversized glasses on em! Brian did what few people can say they've done: 1.Struck in the clutch to beat Walter Ray Williams. 2.Struck 4 times in the clutch to beat Jason Belmonte. 3.Did the above 2 on the SAME DAY, on NATIONAL TV. 4.Did it all with PLASTIC. Sure, they didn't put out as much oil. But tell me, would a 187-149 final match have been exciting? It would have been a mess, and nobody would have watched. Oil or not, you didn't have a whole lot of oil back in the day that these guys bowled on. And guys like Roth hooked it anyway. And here was Brian, playing deeper than everyone else. To see anyone come through in the clutch like that, with so much on the line, in front of almost everyone in the world that matters most to him (sadly one key family member wasn't there for this), I think even Belmo appreciated the moment. And to his own credit, classy in defeat. He knew what it meant to Brian, just like all of us knew what winning there last year meant to him. I bet it will be a while before it all really sinks in for Brian. I can't imagine what he felt the moment that dime fell down. And if you don't know Brian, let's just say you're missing something. He's as classy, as kind, as funny (see ANYTHING HE SAID ON TV) as he is talented on the lanes. The cranium may be big, but his ego isn't. I don't think you'll find anyone on LI who knows him that doesn't like him and respect him. We may never see the likes of this again. Enjoy it on the replay.

  11. Nice article Steve!

  12. Glad you were able to find the clips on YouTube!!

    I enjoyed your article. This show was packed with all the good stuff that bowling is about.


  13. Steve, I did enjoy the high scores even though the pattern was modified. How about that 7 pin Belmo left in the roll off. I don't know if I have ever seen a more stone 7 pin with a hit like that ! Certainly I am glad that Ziesig won, but WOW what a 7 pin.

    My favotire moments of the week were:
    Mark Roth in the Xtra Frame booth
    Belmo's scoring during the tournament
    Johnny Petraglia's 22nd place finish
    Pepe's 8 bagger against Barns in the Challenge

  14. LR, I agree that Brian is a very fine bowler and a "class act" who performed like he'd been there a hundred times, and I too am glad they put out the pattern they did and let the bowlers have at it.

    Thanks, Debbie.

    Anonymous, I think YouTube is the greatest thing since sliced bread, the Internet, and a few dozen other modern marvels. :-)

    nearpar, good list!

  15. Your Welcome ... I'll try to send more people your way. I hope they enjoy all your hard work

  16. Why do they post a statement like "Click Here to Watch Live Streaming Video" , then redirect you to XTra Frame? It seems like it's kind of late in the season to join. Since they aren't going to have any live telecasts for nearly 4 months, why join now?

  17. Actually, they're streaming live right now as I write this. And after this tournament, there are other live events in the works as I understand it. And then there is instant access to archives containing a huge number of past tournaments including not only televised finals but also qualifying and match play rounds. So, I'd suggest signing up for a whole year to save yourself money over the monthly rate, catching up on what you've missed or would like to see again while the national tour is on hiatus, and then being ready to go when the tour swings back into session later on.

  18. i liked how roth was asked what do you think about the two handed bowlers, roth says i dont call it bowling i thought that was something. And i dont think roth was slamming belmo or osku he just doesnt like it thats all. And you do see alot of people doing with minimal success it takes a lot of strength to do that.

  19. I think you're right that Roth has nothing against Belmo or Osku personally; he just doesn't think that what they do fits with his lifelong concept of bowling technique. And he seems to be a guy who tells it like he sees it instead of pussyfooting around about it.

    On the other hand, he didn't say if he thought the two-handed technique should be prohibited in professional competition. And I can't think of any compelling reason why it should be. Not only that, but I'm enormously impressed by it in the remarkably capable hands of guys like Belmo and Osku, and I suspect that more, many more two-handed marvels are coming down the pike.

    To tell you the truth, even I, who just turned 57 last week, am toying with it. I don't know that I could ever be competitive with it, but I think I could learn to be decent bowling that way and perhaps do it in league and even tournaments when my "A game" isn't getting the job done. That seems to be Walter Ray's thinking as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing him use the technique in a serious way before long. I've already seen him use it in tournaments when he's out of the running, and he isn't terrible at it even though he's also no Belmo and surely never will be, especially at his age.

  20. Please change X-Frame legend at bottom left of calendar for X-Frame telecasts to "Eastern Time".
    It says Pacific Time now, making it 3 hours off.

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