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Bowl Opinion - May 2017


It's Flowers Time Again

By Jim Goodwin

Yes, May does bring flowers; not only in our
gardens, but also in the form of one of bowling’s most prestigious awards – The Sam Levine Flowers for the Living Award.

I’ve written about this incredible honor several times over the years, but the story never gets old because we keep adding new chapters.

As chairman of the Flowers Award committee since 2001, it has been my pleasure to guide the committee to elect some truly incredible and deserving winners.

And this year, with the new sponsorship of International Bowling Industry Magazine, we will add one more name to the previous 53 that have been selected since the inaugural award in 1961.

While a sponsor does not have any authority in the award selection other that having one vote, they do make it possible for the award to continue by picking up the costs of the beautiful plaques and flowers given to each winner. Many thanks to Scott Frager and David Garber of IBI for recognizing the importance of keeping the Flowers Award afloat. They have also promised to give the award some space on their IBI website.

A very lovable gentleman named Sam Weinstein was the first official sponsor of the award. Sam owned a wholesale/retail company in Chicago called Universal Bowling and Golf; and although he was not a founding member, he was friends with the six newspapermen who began the award. In 1962, Sam joined the committee and came up with a wonderful description of what the award is all about:

“Not necessarily for any great deed or spectacular accomplishment, but just for being a person in our world who truly deserves a pat on the back to let them know we love them and admire them for what they have done and stood for.”

Those words penned by Sam, who was also a journalist who owned and operated bowling’s Ten Pin Tattler Radio Show, were so perfect that they still appear on one of the two presentation plaques given to every winner. The second plaque has the list of prior winners and the poem “Flowers for the Living” written by founding member Fritz Howell of the Ohio Associated Press. It was his poem that inspired Cleveland Kegler publisher Sam Levine and the others to start the award.

Luby Publishing, owners of Bowlers Journal Magazine, was also a sponsor for many years during the time that BJ Editor Jim Dressel was chairman of the committee from 1985 – 2000. My company, Pin Point Publishing, was never an official sponsor, but picked up the tab a few times when we were looking for a new sponsor. The members of the committee even stepped up a couple of times to pay the bill. From 2009-14, The Bowling Foundation, a part of the International Bowling Campus, was named official sponsor.

Other founding members of the award aside from Levine and Howell include Steve Cruchon, publisher of the Detroit Bowlers Digest, Billy Sixty of the Milwaukee Journal, Bill Hengen of the Minneapolis Star, and Tom Bolger of the Toledo Blade. All were very well respected journalists, and they covered bowling in its heydays. All are gone now, but not forgotten thanks to their wonderful Flowers Award.

In their wisdom to make the award long lasting, the founders insisted on a few strict rules for the Flowers Award . . . that no one should ever know they are on the ballot to prevent any influence, and that all committee business be conducted in confidence. They were also a fun loving bunch who thought that a surprise presentation would be loved by all; and even though it is sometimes difficult to keep it on the QT, they were right. Each surprise presentation seems to be better than the one before.

Today, the committee is made up of a panel of about a dozen industry veterans, good people who are active and know who is doing good work in all corners of bowling. All candidates for the award are officially nominated by a committee member, and all winners are selected by the committee in a multi-ballot process using a proven point system. Committee members do discuss nominees with other committee members, but not beyond the committee.

I like to describe the award as the ‘ultimate integrity award’- it can go to very high profile and well known people, and it may be given to someone that works behind the scenes that seldom gets the recognition they deserve for their attitude and commitment.

One thing that all of the winners seem to have in common – they all do outstanding things beyond the work that they are being paid to do. They serve the entire industry and conduct them- selves with dignity, honesty, and respect for everyone around them.

To mention just a few of the winners since I have been chair of the committee – Glenn Allison, Jeanette Robinson, Len Nicholson, Walt Steinsiek, Paula Carter, and John Sommer. In 2002, the committee selected the great
Glenn Allison for the Flowers Award. Jim Dressel, Chuck Pezzano and I surprised him with the award in front of his fellow Hall of Famers in Mobile, Alabama. Glenn is one of those people who just goes about his business with a smile; and when his famous 900 series was denied official recognition in 1982, he made the best of it and even became an ambassador for the organization that many people thought ‘done him wrong’.

When Jeanette Robinson was selected, Dressel and I traveled to her 2004 Golden Ladies Classic Tournament in Las Vegas. Ten Pin Alley publisher Frenchy LeTourneau joined us in the surprise, pulled off in front of all her contestants with the help of Jeanette’s husband Dick Porter.

Phantom Radio Host Lenny Nicholson was the winner in 2007. Lenny got caught like a deer in the headlights in a room full of friends and IBPSIA Pro Shop Operators. Lenny did great work for the PBA and he is a pioneer of internet radio.
Bowling’s best cartoonist Walt Steinsiek took the honors in 2006. The presentation was made a part of the BWAA Awards dinner, and the affable Mr. Steinsiek, who was seldom at a loss for words or cartoons, was at a loss for words .
. . but he did shed a couple of tears, along with many others in the audience.

Paula Carter was a sensational bowler on the lanes, and one of the few professionals who garnered attention in the general sports world because of her striking looks and pleasant personality. She won the award mainly for her work with underprivileged kids in Florida. The surprise presentation was made in front of her husband Don, many family members, and dozens of PBA senior players when Len Nicholson traveled to the PBA senior event her family was hosting. Lenny reported that Don, who won the award in 1986, was happier than Paula that day. And in 2013, BPAA President Cathy DeSocio had the honor of giving the award to former PWBA owner John Sommer at Bowl Expo. Sommer was honored not only for his contribution to women’s pro bowling, but for his incredible contributions to High School Bowling. I’m confident that the 2017 winner will make
us as proud as all of the others; and I can hardly wait to see who it will be.

Article was posted with permission from Stars & Strikes, America's Bowling Newsmagazine.

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