Practically everyone in the wondering ("Whom do you like?") world of bowling seems eager to point out reasons why big, awkward Don Carter of St. Louis will not win a third consecutive U.S. championship next week at the Coliseum. The Carter-can't-be-lucky-again Club has broadcast so effectively, in fact, that amiable William Terrell Lillard of Detroit, originally installed as second choice by Chicago bookmakers, emerged the other day as clear-cut favorite in the glittering All-Star field of 160.
Most of the opinions advanced by the anti-Carters ("He rolls a 'soft' ball...bends his elbow...nose scrapes the approach...off balance at the foul line") are as weighty as a feather. Carter's victories the past two years over the best bowlers in the country and his brilliant American Bowling Congress record should have long dispelled skepticism on such illusory grounds. However, history does counsel against selecting him to score again: no man has ever won three straight titles. It is not that bowling lacks iron-nerved Ben Hogans; the sport simply requires a series of lucky breaks in addition to skill. A speck of dust on the lane, a pin imperceptibly off its spot, an unlucky pinfall—these and many other minute details often spell the difference between triumph and defeat.
WITH EARS AND EYES
It is with ears toward history, therefore, rather than eyes on the 27-year-old Carter's unorthodox style, that I join the majority who predict his dethronement. But I do not go along with those who pick Bill Lillard. The transplanted Texan, also 27, indisputably boasts an impressive record. He has rolled in the All-Star five times, finishing 11th, fifth, second, third and, last year, second again, losing to Carter by a heartbreaking 27 pins. His All-Star average of 205 for 500 games tops the all-time list (Carter and Steve Nagy of Cleveland are next with 204). Perhaps it is illogical to by-pass Lillard merely because he has been left at the altar so often, but I feel little confidence in a perennial runner-up.
Carter and Lillard have a definite advantage at this point, of course. They are seeded in the final 16. The other 158 stars, most of whom have already battled through tough state eliminations, must fight it out in qualifying rounds for the remaining 14 places.
The tournament opens on Friday night, January 14th, with the 14th annual Parade of Stars which will include the 64 women contestants headed by five-time Champion Marion Ladewig (SI, Jan. 3). All will roll in a team event, giving them an opportunity to get the "feel" of the 16 gleaming new lanes specially installed for the All-Star. During the following four days the men will roll 24 games, the highest 46 scorers qualifying for the second round. On January 19th they roll 12 more games to decide the 14 finalist berths. Then come four days of intensive match game competition, ending on the night of January 23rd. The championship, worth at least $25,000, is based on a point system which takes into account the number of games won and total pinfall.
The East will be represented by an unusually strong aggregation this year, including two-time U.S. Champions Andy Varipapa of Hempstead, N.Y. and Junie McMahon of Fairlawn, N.J.; ABC singles Titleholder Tony Sparando of Rego Park, N.Y., who finished a close third behind Carter and Lillard last year; and Frank Santore of Long Island City, former ABC champion. Gary Faber's Cement Blocks of East Paterson, N.J. have four chances for victory—McMahon, Lou Campi, Alfred (Lindy) Faragalli and Frank (Slim) Okular.
From Detroit come several top-notchers, including Buzz Fazio and other members of the victory-flushed Stroh Beers, who won the team championship last month. Connie Schwoegler of Madison, Wis., victor in 1942 and 1948, is probably the best from the Northwest. The Chicago Major League will be represented by five former champions. Erstwhile Pinboy Dick Hoover of Akron, a veteran at 25, returns for another shot at a second title.
If ABC Record-breaker Steve Nagy should win—and well he might—it would be a popular victory. The 200-pound, music-loving Cleveland proprietor (he plays the bass viol in a three-piece band) probably would be the best the game has known if he had the fierce competitive spirit of a Carter or a Ladewig. But he is, as a friend put it the other day, "too nice a guy. I've seen him, in a match for big money, show his opponent what he was doing wrong." Some years ago Nagy was bowling for the city title when his opponent cut his thumb. Instead of taking a forfeit, the congenial Nagy treated the man's hand—and lost the match. Of such stuff are Dale Carnegies, not champions, made.