Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) superstar Earl Anthony, who died in 2001 at age 63, was perhaps the greatest athlete without a biography. That's no longer the case, however, as Luby Publishing recently published “EARL: The Greatest Bowler of All Time,” by Barry Sparks.
Many in the Tri-Valley are familiar with the name Earl Anthony, as the athlete opened Earl Anthony’s Dublin Bowl in 1980 and arranged to have ESPN cover an annual tournament from 1984 to 1992.
Anthony, a southpaw from Tacoma, Wash., forged a dominating career on the PBA Tour from 1970 to 1983, winning 43 titles. In 2008, he was named The Greatest Player in the PBA's 50-year history by a panel of bowlers and media members.
"It's mystifying how any athlete who is considered the greatest in his sport could go this long without a biography," said Sparks, a writer from York, Pa. "Imagine if there were no biographies of Hank Aaron, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Peyton Manning, Arnold Palmer or Jimmy Connors."
Sparks thought it was an injustice, and set out to rectify it. He spent two years interviewing people, researching, and writing the biography.
Keith Hamilton, president of Luby Publishing, said, "As the years march on, the heroes of our game who were cherished by bowling fans will fade from memories and become less revered. But bowlers like Anthony, Dick Weber, Carmen Salvino, Don Carter, Don Johnson and Billy Hardwick and others from the past should continue to be cherished and celebrated, much as Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio, Aaron and Mays are still revered by baseball fans. It's my hope that Earl's biography can help make that happen."
Sparks says Earl Anthony was bowling's unlikeliest superstar. He didn't pick up a bowling ball until he was 21. He didn't go on the PBA Tour full-time until he was 31, an age when many athletes' careers are ending.
After winning three Player of the Year awards, he suffered a major heart attack in 1978. With a fierce determination, he returned to the lanes to win Player of the Year three more times. PBA founder Eddie Elias called Anthony's feat "one of the greatest comebacks in sports history."
Sparks takes a season-by-season look at Earl's impressive career. He shares the challenges Anthony faced, the reasons he was able to enjoy unparalleled success, his greatest achievements and his frustrations.
The author interviewed more than 100 people, including 23 PBA Hall of Famers, to get a greater insight into the superstar, who defined greatness. Earl's peers shared stories about his work ethic, competitiveness, adaptability, temper and humor.
The 293-page book includes more than two dozen vintage photographs. Ten percent of the book's profits will be donated to the Earl Anthony Scholarship.
EARL: The Greatest Bowler of All Time can be ordered at www.earlanthonybook.com.