By and large, the members of the PBA are the kindliest and most well-mannered of any athletes appearing before the public. Only three have been called down for bad sportsmanship since the PBA began. The touring pros often go out of their way to help one another. In last week's Nationals, for example, Harry Smith was backing a friend who had been down on his luck on the tour. "What the heck," he says, "I got my start that way."
Now 33, Smith was born on a farm near Cleveland, one of four children. From the beginning he had to scrap. At 8 he was a pool hustler. When the owner of the local pool hall and bowling alley refused to let him shoot unless he set pins, he learned how to bowl and became a hustler in that sport as well. "When I was in high school I made $50, $60 a week shooting pool," he says. "I didn't get much sleep. Then I used to travel 50 miles to get a match game in bowling. The stakes would be $5, $10, $20. I always looked like I was easy to take. I was young, all skin and bones, and unorthodox. Because I was a kid, I had to hold the ball way up high—it weighed 16 pounds—and it would throw me. The weight made me weave and hop. But I always had my aim straight on, and I got the job done. You don't have hustling now. You wouldn't think of making a side bet now. In my first year, when I was 12, I had a 288 game. Then Eddie Koepp, one of the greatest bowlers of all time, took me under his wing and to all the tournaments. When I was in the ninth grade I won $500 in a tournament in Cleveland, and that was like a million dollars."
In 1957 Smith joined the Falstaff Beer team in St. Louis. In his first year he received a salary of $5,000 and won an additional $6,000 in prize money. But that, of course, was before the palmy days of the PBA.
Now, with the PBA riding high, Smith's major concern is not where his next stake is coming from but how the stock market is doing. (He got "killed" in the May slump a year ago.) Harry finished well out of the big money at the Nationals last week, winding up 28 places behind the winner, Bill Hardwick, to add a meager $290 to his winnings. But in the middle of the tournament he took time off to nip over to Paramus, N.J. and appear on Make That Spare.
Smith did make that spare and banked another $2,000 as a result, meanwhile putting on the finest exhibition ever seen on the program. This week Harry is due to appear again with a chance to get $10,000 if he makes the jackpot spare. Win or lose, he figures he is ahead of the game. He says, "People used to say, 'What do you do?' And I'd say I was a pro bowler, and they'd say, 'Cripes,' like they were sorry for you. Now when you tell 'em, they look up to you. We've come a long way."