Splits, spares and strikes: Hall of Famer Petraglia has 50 years of PBA insight

With bowling leagues just about over, I’ll wrap up a second season of weekly columns with my story about talking to one of pro bowling’s all-time greats not too long ago.

OK, so I qualify as a bowling “junkie” when I say I took two bowling-related trips in the past six weeks. In late April I bowled at the U.S. Bowling Congress national tournament in Reno, Nev., and let’s just say none of our group will be getting any trophies in the mail.

A month earlier, I was a spectator at the Professional Bowlers Association’s Tournament of Champions in Indianapolis, a major that attracts all the big names.

That included PBA Triple Crown winner Johnny Petraglia, who I introduced myself to and talked with for about five minutes. A few years ago watching the PBA in Indy, I got to talk with another legend, Carmen Salvino, who help found the tour and was an early star.

Petraglia, 66, is a lefthander who began his career in the 1960s and even in 1994, bowled a perfect 300 game on TV.

As we watched one of the new breed of two-handed bowlers just rip the pins around in the rack, I asked Petraglia if he would try to adopt that style if he was a youngster today.

“No, I really wouldn’t consider doing that,” he said as I thought it meant he didn’t approve of this new technique that allows bowlers to really rev up their throws and gain what some consider an unfair advantage.

But upon a few follow-up questions, that wasn’t the reason at all.

“The left side isn’t conducive to throwing two-handed,” he explained. “There’s no track area. You notice that all the successful lefties today throw the ball up the boards and don’t really hook it a lot.”

I found his point interesting at first, but it made sense the more I thought about it.

The track is the most heavily used area of a lane, and consequently the most beat-up part, too. It’s located about halfway between the middle of the lane and the right gutter. There’s no corresponding track on the left side, since there are so few lefthanders.

The track often makes righties complain about how easy lefties have it, since the track can act like a monkeywrench and throw off our shots when a ball goes into or out of it.

But righthanded two-handers – is that an oxymoron? – with their gigantic revs and hook, usually play inside, or in the middle of the lane where oil concentration is heaviest, only hitting the track if they throw the ball too far right.

And when you miss to the right as a rightie, what do you want your ball to do? Hook an extra amount to get back to the 1-3 pocket. Which is usually what the extra friction in the beat-up track helps do.

A two-handed lefty, however, doesn’t have a track to bounce his ball off of.

Petraglia also compared today’s two-handers to crankers like Mark Roth in the 1970s as revolutionizing the sport.

Before Roth came along, the PBA game was accuracy, accuracy, and in case you were wondering, accuracy. But guys who could hook it extra were better able to string strikes, dramatically upping scores even with some missed spares.

Today’s PBA is just about devoid of guys who can’t put good revs on a ball. Even straighter throwers like Walter Ray can do this and hook the ball if necessary.

Now for the final Mining Journal Bowlers of the Week:

In early April, Don Mattson shot 160 pins over his 181 average with 703, including a 276 game, in the Monday Northern Electric Automotive Industrial League at Country Lanes. Next was Tom Pence at plus-129 over his 160 average with 609 in the Wednesday Trio at Country.

For the women, Diana Windahl shot 120 over her 179 average with 657, including 257, in the Wednesday Superior Iron Range Federal Credit Union loop at Country, with Virginia Wilson at plus-91 over her 147 average with 532 in the Tuesday Night Mixed at Superior Lanes.

At mid-month, 181-average Roger Kipling won the men’s title at plus-181 in the Monday NEA Industrial, shooting 724 with 233, 244 and 247. Close behind was Mick Seitz at 175 over his 178 average with 709 in the Friday 800 Mixed at Superior.

Hope Virch won the women’s race at plus-128 over her 194 average with 710 in the Tuesday Night Mixed, while Jessica Ayotte was 126 over her 181 mean with 669 in the Thursday Coors Light Ladies at Country.

The last couple weeks mashed together produced Justin Stephens’ gigantic 862 series putting him 187 pins over his lofty 225 average in the Tuesday Miller Genuine Draft Major League at Country, followed by Don Salo at plus-144 in the same league with a 170 average and 654 set.

The Coors Light Ladies produced the top two women, Rhonda Bennett at 110 over 143 average with 539 and a 222 top game, and Karen Lassila at 107 over her 140 average with 527.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.