Bowling loses true legend in Don Carter By Mark Miller



    Republished courtesy of (Jan. 7, 2012)

    20120105DonCarter6.jpgI only met Don Carter briefly a couple of times during my years with the American Bowling Congress and United States Bowling Congress but that was enough to know what he meant to the sport.

    One of the last true legends from bowling's peak of popularity of the 1950s and 60s, Carter died Thursday night at his Miami home. The 85-year-old had recently been released from the hospital after suffering from pneumonia complicated by emphysema.

    Photo Credits: PBA

    Carter was voted the greatest bowler in history in a 1971 Bowling Magazine poll. His status came partially from his winning bowling's original "Grand Slam" of match game titles, the All-Star, World's Invitational, PBA National and the ABC Masters.

    20120105DonCarter4Budweisers.jpgBut it also came from four ABC Tournament championships, as an original member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and as part of the famous Budweiser Beer team of St. Louis (pictured right) that rolled 3,858 in 1958, the highest team series until 1994.

    His teammates that March 12 night were fellow USBC Hall of Famers Dick Weber, Ray Bluth, Pat Patterson and Tom Hennessey.

    "It's a sad day," Bluth told "You're never really prepared, and when you think of how many guys we had on our team over the years, I'm the only original and Bill (Lillard), who joined later, are the only ones left.

    "Don was the greatest bowler of his era. There was no one like him. Don was the star of the (Budweisers). He was our leadoff man. He wasn't too gung-ho about that role, but he kept getting strikes and so did the rest of us, so he stayed there. It was just a great experience bowling with Don."

    20120105DonCarter3.jpgPerhaps it was Carter's popularity off the lanes that was even more impressive. A spokesperson for a wide variety of products, including Viceroy cigarettes, J.C. Penney's, Palmolive Rapid Shave, Miller Lite and Wonder Bread, his spots as "The Famous Pro Bowler" in a series of Miller Lite commercials featuring retired sports stars were legendary.

    He was the first athlete in any sport to earn a $1 million endorsement deal with Ebonite in 1964. He also may have been the world's only athlete to be married to two hall of famers - LaVerne Carter and Paula Sperber.

    "In my opinion Earl Anthony, Dick Weber and Don Carter are the three iconic people in the history of our game, and you can flip that order any way you want it," said PBA and USBC Hall of Famer Marshall Holman on "Don was that good. Back when he was in his prime, he was the rock star of bowling. He was hanging out with the Mickey Mantles and stars of that caliber. He was a larger-than-life figure."

    I had the pleasure of knowing Anthony and Weber quite well and only wish I had the chance to know Carter better. The sport will never be the same without him.


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