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Bowling Great Don Carter
Don Carter passed at his home in Miami Thursday night, 1/5/2012, at 85 years of age as a result of recent hospitalized bouts with pneumonia complicated by emphysema. Don Carter became most famous as he was the most recognizable figure of team bowling era in the 1950s as a member of the famed Budweiser Team of St. Louis., Mo. Bowling fans were able to view Don on television in that era by watching him perform regularly on shows such as Jackpot Bowling, Make That Spare, and Championship Bowling. Don also represented Brunswick and and then later Ebonite and made numerous personal appearances around the globe spreading bowling goodwill.
As a charter member of the Professional Bowlers Association in the 1960's, Don Carter won seven PBA titles including six major championships. His other major wins were four BPAA All-Star titles (the forerunner of the PBA U.S. Open) and the 1961 American Bowling Congress Masters. He also won a record five World Invitational titles and he won four ABC Tournament titles. The World Invitational Tournament in those days was a 100 game competition testing the stamina and the skills of players and a very important title to earn.
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Don developed his signature style of bowling with the bent elbow and the extremely low launch-platform while at home in St. Louis as a boy learning to bowl. Because he started bowling with house balls that had very large finger holes which was the only way he could hold the the ball, Don's infamous style of delivering the bowling ball took form. After serving a tour of duty in the United States Navy during World War II in the South Pacific, Carter signed a minor league baseball contract with the Philadelphia Athletics organization as pitcher-infielder. After a short stint at playing baseball, Don's true love for bowling further grew in St. Louis when he worked at a local bowling center and practiced ferociously developing an aggressive attitude towards excelling in competition.
Joining friends Ray Bluth, Tom Hennessey, Dick Weber, Pat Patterson, and Whitey Harris, Don became the keynote player for the Budweiser Team which was best known for establishing a world scoring record of 3,858 total pins for a five-player team series in 1958, a record that stood until 1994. Don Carter was inducted into the ABC Hall of Fame (formerly the USBC) in 1970 along with Dick Weber. He was a charter member of the PBA Hall of Fame in 1975 joined by Weber, Bluth, Carmen Salvino, Harry Smith and Billy Welu.
Carter is survived by his wife, Paula; son Jim of Winter Garden, Fla.; daughter Caycee Carter of Winter Garden, Fla.; adopted son John Carter, Miami; three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
MY most personal memory of Mr. Carter was back in 1975 when shortly after my father, Frank Carrubba, passed, I received a phone call while off tour tending to family matters in California. On the phone was none other than Don Carter himself and he was sitting in the office with the Founder of the PBA, Eddie Elias. Don quickly expressed his condolences and invited me to join his famous Don Carter Bowling Glove Staff of Champions. He cited that because of my ability to communicate with young players he felt I would be a good addition to the staff. Naturally, I was honored and promptly accepted.
Naturally, the gracious invitation by Don for me to join this prolific endorsement staff of elite players meant a great deal to me. However, I knew it as a charity of sorts by Don because he figured my family could use the monthly check accompanying the staff status. It was the manner in which Don spoke to me and how he made me feel like a professional that touched me the most. I was impressed with his sincere tone of voice and calm and confident way of speaking. Don Carter was total class. They just don't make them that way anymore.
There have been numerous other PBA players who enjoyed stellar professional careers but no one cast as big of shadow on our sport as Don Carter. Don was our original superstar in bowling. During the years I competed on the PBA Tour, there were two events which were must do events - the Dick Weber's tournament and Don Carter's tournament. Don's event was always in Miami, Florida and required a great deal of travel and expense in those days to bowl the event but nevertheless, we always showed up to honor our leader. As players were changing pairs of lanes during the course of each event, they would stop by where Don and Paula were sitting and pay respects to the host and to the great man. This act was my fondest memory of Don Carter as I watched the pro bowlers show a measure of respect Don richly deserved.
Because of Mr. Carter, the bowling industry was on the map and blossomed in the 1960's around world. Many people, including myself, were able to make a living working in the industry because of the impact Don Carter had on the world of bowling.
Don will be missed but always remembered. Long live the memory of Bowling Great Don Carter. Thank you.