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Walsh: Earl Anthony or Walter Ray Williams? Experts decide greatest

Jan. 25, 2009 @ 12:10 AM

Who is the greatest player in the Professional Bowlers Association's first 50 years? The answer to that question will finally be revealed today during the live ESPN telecast of the H&R Block PBA Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas.

The last two names on the list of the 50 best PBA players ever, as selected by a national panel of bowling industry experts, are the late Earl Anthony and current star Walter Ray Williams Jr.

Who would you pick?

Anthony was the most dominant left-hander in PBA history, winning 43 PBA Tour titles -- a record that stood for 30 years before Williams broke it in 2007. Among his titles, however, are a PBA-record 10 "majors" including six PBA National Championships. He won that prestigious event three times in a row twice. He also won a pair of USBC Masters titles and two Tournament of Champions crowns, but the U.S. Open eluded him and prevented Anthony from capturing PBA Triple Crown and Grand Slam honors.

Anthony was PBA Player of the Year six times, won the George Young High Average Award five times and was the first player in PBA history to surpass $1 million in career earnings. In a 2000 poll of industry experts conducted by Bowling Magazine, Anthony was declared "Master of the Millennium," symbolic of being the best bowler in the more than 100 years of organized bowling in America. He was 45 when he announced his retirement at the end of the 1983. He came back in 1988 to bowl a limited number of PBA Senior Tour events, winning seven. He still ranks third in career TV appearances (114) and second in most consecutive years with at least one title (15). He was inducted into the PBA Hall of Fame in 1983 and into the USBC Hall of Fame in 1986.

Williams, who turned 48 in October, has more longevity than Anthony as a touring player and he's right-handed, so experts have wrestled with those distinctions when weighing their votes. He has now won 45 PBA Tour titles, including seven "majors." The only title he is missing to complete the Triple Crown and Grand Slam is the Tournament of Champions. With his win in the Lake County Indiana Golden Anniversary Championship in November, he broke a tie with Anthony in winning a title for the 16th consecutive year. He has won a PBA-record seven Harry Smith Point Leader titles. He owns the single-season earnings record ($419,700 in 2002-03) and is the first player to exceed $4 million in career earnings. He has made a record 166 TV appearances -- 47 more than runner-up Pete Weber. He also has been selected PBA Player of the Year six times, matching Anthony's total, but he has been selected to U.S. Bowler's All-America first team 17 times -- five more than Anthony. And he's a long way from calling it a career.

ESPN will televise today's H&R Block Tournament of Champions at 12:30 p.m. Patrick Allen is top seed in the stepladder finals. Rhino Page is No. 2, Mike Scroggins No. 3 and Wes Malott, the only right-hander on the show, is No. 4. The tournament at Red Rock Resort, Casino and Spa concludes the PBA's 50th Anniversary Gala.

Last week, Malott won the Bayer Earl Anthony Medford Classic. He beat top seed Tommy Jones 239-201 in the finals. In earlier action, Malott beat Allen 235-195 and Bill O'Neill 255-246. The Earl Anthony oil pattern was used.

3-6-9 AT COLONIAL: 3-6-9 Handicap Singles Tournament, Jan. 25, Colonial Lanes. Bowling at 2 p.m. Bowlers awarded strikes in third, sixth and ninth frames. For more details, call 697-7100 or visit www.coloniallaneswv.com.

WASHINGTON'S BIRTHDAY BOWLING: CSX Tournament, Feb. 16, 9 a.m., Colonial Lanes. All teams must have at least one CSX employee. Maxium team average 925. Entry fee $12 per bowler. Entry forms at area centers. Contact Bob Harlow, 304-736-5946 for more details.

HUNTINGTON USBC CHAMPIONSHIPS: Tournament Feb. 14-15 and 21-22 at Ceredo Lanes. Team event Feb. 14 at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. Singles and doubles Feb. 21-22 at 9 .m. and 1 p.m. Shift on Feb. 15 at 9 a.m. if needed. Entry fee $45. Entry deadline Feb. 7. Blanks available at area centers. Call Gloria Cathell at 638-8095 for more details.

500 CLUB BOWLING: Huntington 500 Club Tournament, Feb. 1, Ceredo Lanes. Bowling at 1 p.m. Entries close Jan. 24. Forms available at area centers. Tournament is sanctioned. Call Judy Keith at 529-3479 for more details.

David Walsh covers bowling for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 526-2730. His e-mail is dwalsh@heralddispatch.com.

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