In the almost 54 year history of the PBA Tour, there have been well over 1500 PBA national tournaments. Each telecast has a distinct memory that will stand out in everyone’s memories. So in the 54 years of the PBA and over 1500 telecasts I ask you, what was the best PBA telecast? I had to look long and hard to figure this one out. And here is my pick:
The 1997 AC Delco Classic at Cal Bowl in Lakewood California. It was special for many reasons. First off it was the first show of the ’97 season, which was also the last season for the PBA on Saturday afternoon’s on ABC. It had a special intro with a thru the years montage of the 35 year partnership between the PBA and ABC television. Now let’s get to the finalists. In my opinion, this by far was the most talented championship round EVER!! The finalists: Pete Weber, Mike Aulby, Walter Ray, Parker Bohn III and Jason Couch. At that time, 96 total titles were held by those men, 3 of the 5 were hall of famers. Today, those 5 men have won 160 on the PBA Tour and have won just under $15 million dollars in career earnings. Not bad right? Story lines of this telecast: Weber was on the comeback trail trying to bounce back from personal off the lanes issues and changing his game to adapt to the resin ball. Aulby, Walter Ray, and Weber were in a dog fight to try to become the first bowler to break the $2 million dollar mark in career earnings, so that was a story line. Parker was in a horrific TV slump losing his last 12 matches on TV. And then we have Jason Couch. Couch led this tournament by 541 pins and averaged 242 for the 42 games of qualifying, yea, he had some reaction that week.
Opening match was a battle of 2 hall of famers. Weber vs Aulby. Aulby playing the slow hook from around 10 to 5, and Pete was in at around the 5th arrow slow hooking the entire lane. The match was a 10 pin match the entire way until Aubly split in the 9th, Weber jumped on it, doubled, locked Aulby out, he finishes 5th and now Weber is in the next match against Walter Ray. 244-221 final.
Let the rivalry begin. These 2 legends have been arch rivals on the lanes for the past 25 years. And it always seems that Walter has Pete’s number on TV. This was no different. Walter was throwing a dart dead up 5 and was pushing 10 back like it was nothing. Into the 8th frame, Walter was up around 30 pins or so, and Pete was getting over under from playing 25, and moving deeper. In the 8th, Walter grabbed on, missed left and left a 4-6-10, he gets the 2 pins. Weber got up spare strike, still down about 20 or so. Walter throws the hit in the 9th, and in the 10th, holy grabs, Walter grabbed another one, 6-7-10. He goes for it, gets the 2. How many times do you see Walter Ray gag it up when he needs it? This now forced Weber to double to win the match. Throws the 1st hit, nice and calm. Pete dead nuts the 2nd shot from 30 and he exploded like he won a gold medal in the Olympics. Probably 2 of Weber’s best shots EVER. 202-191 final in the 2nd match.
Semi Final match: Weber against Parker. Now say what you want to say about Parker how he’s 1 dimensional, NOT TRUE!! I have known Parker for 18 years, he has worked with me, he’s even subbed in league with me, he is NOT 1 dimensional, and this show proved it. Everyone expects to see Parker play the gutter, Parker was in at around 15 and swinging to the ditch, very Jason Couch like if you ask me. So we start the match, Weber starts off with a 3-6-10, makes the spare, and you can tell that Pete was running out of lane and really was hoping just to grind out 200 and pray that moving Parker deeper on the lane would show his weakness as that is not his “A” game. Parker starts off the match ring 7, and he whiffed it. And as soon as he whiffed it, Chris Schenkel said the dreaded stat, he’s 0-12 in his last 12 TV shows. His 2nd frame ring 7, messenger comes out, takes the 7 out. Parker was on cruise control this match. Weber was in the middle of over under and lost his reaction. Towards the end of the match, you could tell Pete gave up. 227-156 win for Parker, and Pete picks up a cool $19,000 for 3rd. Man how the prize funds were better in the 90s huh??
Title match. Couch against Parker. Tour roommates, best friends, and 2 of the best lefties on tour. How often will you see a match between these two guys where they are playing the same part of the lane? Couch was in where Parker was, he was just hitting it a little bit harder than Parker did. The title match was close all the way. Couch started with three strikes, then spared in the fourth and struck again in frame five. Bohn managed only one strike in his first four frames, but converted single-pin spares in the other three frames. He then strung together three consecutive strikes In frames five through seven, converted the 7-pin for a spare in the eighth and struck in frame nine. Couch converted a difficult 2-4-6-10 split In frame six, but did not convert the 4-6-7 split In frame seven for the only open frame of the match. He proceeded to strike out to put the pressure back on Parker. Parker, finishing last, got up in the 10th needing a double and seven pins for the win. He calmly stuffed all three shots in the pocket to leave Couch with the second-place check for $25,000.
How can you get a better show than that? 5 hall of famers, 5 millionaires, 5 legends of the sport all in matches that were nail biters. This tournament really turned things around for Parker. He went on the following week at the Showboat to run the ladder and win back to back titles. Beating Weber in the opening match(no revenge for Pete) and beating Walter Ray for the title. And ironic again, Walter needed a double to win, got the first hit, then left a bucket in the 11th, again, how often does he gag it up when he needs it, not too often. Parker also shot 299 on that show, and for the Parker haters. He was playing 20 on that show, so 1 dimensional, I DON’T THINK SO!!
Two other shows I can think of that were close here were the 1987 PBA National Championship. How does this final 5 sound? Monacelli, Holman, Pedersen, Weber, Ozio? 5 hall of famers, in the urethane era, Randy’s 1st major, it was a great show. And then lastly was the 1996 Flagship Open. Or should I call it the Bob Learn Show? The man rewrote the record books that day. Learn, Petraglia, Mazza, Parker, and Pedersen. 3 hall of famers, and I believe the low game for the show was 257? Man that was an exciting day. There are some events that you remember where you were when they happened. I remember, I was bowling the junior pro am at Carolier Lanes for the Johnny Petraglia Open and watching this show on the TV’s at Carolier. Being personal friends with the Petraglia family, I was pulling for JP to win the opening match, but shooting 279 and losing to 300 isn’t that bad. At least we got to see history that day!!
Those would be my top 3 shows ever…. What are yours?
Mike Valanzano, 29 from NJ. Bowled for Morehead State University and has competed and had success at all levels of this game, he is the holder of 21 300 games, 10 800 series, with a high of 856 (with an open frame). Mike is married to his wonderful wife Lynda and have a baby girl, Daniella. Some of Mike’s interests, he’s a HUGE New York Mets fan, he loves poker, traveling, and fine dining. He is also a big advocate of zumba classes. Mike has one of the largest video collections of old bowling shows anywhere. He has every amateur bowling show ever aired and has a wide collection of numerous PBA, Sr PBA, LPBT shows from the 1950’s thru today.