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The final match of last week's $100,000 Brunswick World Open tournament in the Chicago suburb of Glendale Heights was right down Earl Anthony's alley. In this last major event of the season he could become the first bowler to win $100,000 in a year. All he had to do was add the $14,000 first prize to the $88,660 he already had stashed away.
Anthony, the last qualifier in the five-man single-elimination showdown, began by winning 277-219 against Mark Roth, who throws the most pronounced hook of any pro bowler and whose badly blistered and cracked right hand has suffered the consequences. Then Anthony beat Gary Mage 249-227, and next came a 257-236 win over Dave Davis.
That set the stage for the title match, lefty Anthony versus lefty Johnny Petraglia, whose single-season earnings mark of $85,065 in 1971 already had been surpassed by Anthony. It also was a rematch of the final of last April's Firestone Tournament of Champions in which Anthony beat Petraglia and won $25,000.
It was a throat tightener all the way. Through the first nine frames Anthony had six strikes, and all that kept him from nine straight were seven pins that refused to topple in the first, sixth and seventh frames. But Petraglia was throwing even more strikes, eight in the first nine frames.
Petraglia opened the 10th with a spare. When the 7 pin stayed up after his last shot he leaped high in the air, then stamped around in frustration. He was afraid he had blown his chance. He knew that if Anthony had three strikes in the 10th it would give him a one-pin win.
Much the same thing had happened at the Firestone, where Petraglia needed a strike in the 10th to win. But just as Petraglia had failed on that shot, Anthony now muffed his, leaving the 6 and 9 pins, losing the match 257-236 and missing the hundred grand mark.
Regardless of the scores, the trophies and the money in the bank, Earl Anthony looks and acts like a loser. Compared to him, Whistler's Mother was a swinger. From the top of his vintage 1940 crew cut to the depths of his personality Anthony is, in a word, flat. But put a bowling ball in his hands and the quiet man becomes a terror. When he arrived in Glendale Heights last week he brought with him not only his record-breaking earnings but a record-tying six wins for one year.
Anthony does not pretend to throw an explosive ball, but a battalion of other bowlers would gladly swap some of their flamboyant personalities and sizzling deliveries for the 219.4 pins-per-game average he has had in 27 tournaments this season. With just one event left he is certain to eclipse his own record of 215.8 set a year ago. Still, on the traveling circus that the tour resembles, he maintains the lowest of profiles, spending much of his time alone, or with his wife, three children and a dog named Puff, who make many of the trips with him. Behind his hornrimmed glasses are the apprehensive eyes of a man who expects to go out to the parking lot and find that the air has been let out of his tires.
But if Anthony says little about his skills, others are less reticent. Last week his fellow bowlers were lavish with their praise. Don Johnson, winner of the 1971 and 1972 Bowler of the Year Award that surely will go to Anthony this year, observed that "what Anthony did at the Detroit tournament this year was one of the greatest feats of all time. He was the only lefthander to finish in the top 24, led the qualifying all the way. And he did it by shooting the whole time from the fourth arrow."
Lefthanders generally shoot from the first or second arrows that serve as aiming points on the lanes; to move to the fourth is a radical departure, risked only when the condition of the lanes forces a major change in approach. It would be comparable to forcing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to forsake his close-in shots for 25-foot jumpers or obliging Nolan Ryan to become a knuckleballer.