MIAMI (AP) — Don Carter, the bowling great with the unorthodox style who flourished as a genuine sports celebrity during the game's golden age on TV, has died. He was 85.
Carter died at his home in Miami on Thursday night, the Professional Bowlers Association said Friday. He recently was hospitalized with pneumonia complicated by emphysema.
Carter, known as "Mr. Bowling," was the game's original superstar. He became his sport's most recognizable name at a time when alleys were thriving across the country and bowling was starting to assert itself as a fixture on television. Carter was a leading force in the formation of the PBA in 1958 and became a charter member of the PBA Hall of Fame in 1975.
He had a style all his own as he took his steps to the line. With his stooped shoulders and cocked elbow, he made a deep knee bend as he unleashed the ball as if pushing it toward the pins.
Carter helped transform a sport that had been a blue-collar recreational activity. He ruled the lanes with the likes of Dick Weber, Ray Bluth, Pat Patterson, Carmen Salvino and Billy Welu. But Carter was clearly at another level. His name might not cast quite the light as such sports luminaries then as Mickey Mantle, Johnny Unitas or Arnold Palmer, but it was close.
"Don was the greatest bowler of his era," Bluth said. "There was no one like him."
He also did something that no one in baseball, football or golf ever did. He became the first athlete in American sports history to sign a $1 million marketing endorsement contract, with bowling ball manufacturer Ebonite in 1964.
"It is impossible to put into words what Don Carter meant to the PBA and the sport of bowling," PBA Commissioner Tom Clark said. "He was a pioneer, a champion and will never be forgotten."
The 6-foot, 200-pound Carter bowled five 800 series, 13 perfect games and six 299s in sanctioned play. He practically held a monopoly on bowling honors. He was voted Bowler of the Year six times (1953, 1954, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1962).
He served as the PBA's first president. He was inducted into the American Bowling Congress Hall of Fame in 1970. Carter was selected as the greats bowler in history in a 1970 Bowling Magazine poll. He ranked second to Earl Anthony in the magazine's poll in 2000 of the 20 greatest bowlers of the 20th century.
"Don was one of the greatest bowlers who ever lived, but he had some other things that made him great," Salvino said. "He was a great athlete. He won two 100-game tournaments in one year and I don't know how many other bowlers could take that kind of punishment. And he had the ability to focus better than anyone I've ever seen.
"On the lanes, he was in his own world, but off the lanes, he was a true gentleman," Salvino added. "I had a lot of respect for him, as a bowler and as a man."
Carter was born in St. Louis and was introduced to bowling when his mother treated him to a game of bowling on his 13th birthday.
"That was the biggest birthday present of my life," Carter once wrote in an article. "I enjoyed that one game so much that when one of my teachers started a bowling club after school, I signed up. Then I started setting pins so I could bowl and practice for free."
He played for the famous Budweisers of St. Louis, but his profile grew on television shows like Jackpot Bowling, Make That Spare and Championship Bowling that were watched by millions.
Carter wanted to create a bowling tour that was similar to the one in golf. The PBA was launched in 1959 with three tournaments. Three years later, it had a schedule of 32 events. Carter eventually won seven PBA titles including five major championships. Because of ailing knees, Carter retired from PBA play in 1972.
Carter also excelled at baseball, playing American Legion baseball with Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola. After serving with the Navy during World War II in the South Pacific, he signed a minor league contract with the Philadelphia Athletics as a pitcher-infielder. But after a year, he returned to St. Louis and to bowling.
Carter married LaVerne Haverly in 1953. They divorced, and he married Paula Sperber in the 1970s. Both women are in the Women's International Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.
After retiring from bowling, Carter moved to Miami. He occasionally competed in pro-am tournaments in the 1990s, and he owned a chain of alleys and a line of bowling apparel. His hobbies included golf and painting, and he was involved in charity work for abused children.
Carter rarely ventured far from home in retirement, not caring for public speaking or air travel. But in the 1980s he appeared in Miller Lite commercials featuring retired sports stars.
"I really don't think anybody under the age of 65 remembers me," Carter said about those ads. "I'm really big with senior citizens. I'm famous because I'm the only guy to have two wives in the Hall of Fame."
In addition to his wife, Paula, Carter is survived by sons Jim and John, daughter Caycee, three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Terrell Owens was a six-time Pro Bowler, but now he's trying to cut it as a pro bowler.
The former NFL star receiver hit the lanes at the United States Bowling Congress Open Championships this week, and all things considered, he did pretty well. Representing Bowlers Journal International of Chicago, Owens rolled games of 185, 129 and 161.
"The first game went pretty well," Owens told Bowl.com. "I'm still new to this, so when I saw some of the guys switching balls, I felt I should switch, too. I probably should have stayed with the same ball. I ended up going back to the first ball I used and made some other minor adjustments with my feet and eyes."
Owens is the celebrity owner of the Dallas Strikers, one of eight teams in the new PBA League. An avid bowler, the 39-year-old Owens has showed off his skill at charity tournaments the past few years. He had some time off this week, and so he decided to hit the lanes.
Here's a look at T.O. in action:
Afterwards, Owens said learning how to roll strikes isn't all that different from training for football.
"It's all about repetition," Owens said. "You're only going to get out of it what you put in. I'm starting to get in a rhythm and starting to bowl a little more, so it'll come in time. I just tried to focus on some of the things I've been taught and dialed in on that."
- PBA to introduce Dyed Oil for ESPN's World Series of Bowling telecast
The Professional Bowlers Association will take an historic step toward illustrating the challenges bowlers face when blue dye will be added to the lane conditioning oil for ESPN's telecasts of five PBA World Series of Bowling championship events this weekend.
PBA worked with its official lane maintenance provider Brunswick to formulate and test the oil that will be applied exclusively on the pair of Brunswick lanes installed in the South Point Hotel Exhibit Hall B complex for the World Series of Bowling ESPN-televised finals. The oil is not a product on the market and is being used only for the WSOB TV shows.
"Throughout its history, it has been difficult to describe the challenges players face in our sport," PBA Commissioner Tom Clark (pictured right) said. "How oil is applied to the lane, and how it transitions as competition progresses, is something no one is able to see with the naked eye, and those are critical variables in scoring and player strategy.
"For the first time ever, we're going to add dye to the oil so that bowling fans on site and watching at home on ESPN will literally be able to see how the pattern of oil looks on the lane. We are sure it will be educational and insightful for all levels of fans tuning in and we hope to learn from this experiment and improve it moving forward."
The dyed oil will debut with the Cheetah Championship which uses the 35-foot PBA Cheetah oil pattern. The Viper (39 feet), Chameleon (43 feet), and Scorpion Championships (47 feet) will follow.
PBA Hall of Famer Carmen Salvino said visible oil was a milestone in educating the audience and elevating the sport.
"A lot of credit has to go to PBA for taking what I believe is a huge step for the sport, and to Brunswick for doing the extensive research and development that was necessary to have the oil ready for this event," Salvino said.
The WSOB shows will be taped Saturday and Sunday Nov. 2 and 3 and will air on ESPN beginning Dec. 1 at p.m. ET.
99 year old bowler has been bowling for over 50 years
At 99 years old, one Louisiana woman isn't about to let her age slow her down.
Every Tuesday, Mildred Bowie of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, plays in her 55-and-over bowling league, the Golden Nuggets. She hasn't stopped competing in almost 50 years.
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"I started bowling when my granddaughter was about three years old and she's 50 now," Bowie told ABC News. "My average is only 119. I bowl with a eight-pound ball right now because I had carpal tunnel."
Bowie, who will be turning 100 on Jan. 19, said she joined the Golden Nuggets in 1983 and has served as the league's secretary.
The soon-to-be centenarian said she credits her longevity to good eating, her faith and spending quality time with loved ones.
"Go to church, watch what you eat...be light with the salt," Bowie said. "Be active and have fun and enjoy life. I like interaction with people. I taught school for 36 years. I have [tons of friends] and naturally my friends are younger and I have a very loving granddaughter and first cousin."
"Life is really an adventure," she added. "I've seen so many wonderful things that have happened."