I have been asked many times “how” I got started in bowling. In my published book, “The Tour Would Be Great “IF” You Didn’t Have To Bowl”, is the following story of how AND why it began. It’s hard to believe that it has been almost 50-years!! That ‘book’ is now in CD form and is “On-Sale” here on our web site (see below). This popular (3), CD set contains over 40-stories about Pro-Bowlers Tour and many of its Stars. Get your copy today and enjoy.
The year was: 1956.
The place was: Hillsdale High School in San Mateo California
My first recollection of Billy Hardwick was that of disbelief. What a sight it was. He was a sophomore, a year behind me in school. He was all of 5’3” and weighed-in at exactly 99-pounds.
He came out and (tried out) for the Varsity football team. The Head Coach, Frank Collins, looked at him and said that he was too small to play, but since we were a new school and needed players, he told Billy that he could hold the blocking-bags during practice. He also told him that because of his size (or lack of it) that he wouldn’t be able to issue him a team uniform.
But, Billy had guts and said that he still wanted to play and practice with the team. It was a cold and rainy day in September. There he was in his ragged, old sweat-shirt, sweat-pants and wearing his tennis shoes. The shoes were those old “high-top” canvas style and the laces were tied around the tops about 4-times. His skinny, little ankles were way too small to fill-up the tops of the shoes and it looked like he was walking around with two small “sacks-of-potatoes” hanging off of the bottoms of his legs.
The practice field was very wet and muddy that day, and the first chance I had to block him and the big blocking-bag that he was trying to hold-up, I put a little bit of an “extra” effort into it. The poor little kid had no chance. He went slipping and sprawling and sliding before eventually ending up on his back in the middle of a huge mud puddle. On his way down, all you could see were arms and legs going in every direction as he tried in vain to maintain his balance. It was an absolute riot. Even all of the Coaches were laughing.
I intentionally humiliated him once again when I reached down to help him up and purposely stepped on his foot with my football cleats. He let out a scream and rolled over (face first) in the mud. Now, he was covered from head-to-toe in the sloppy quagmire. It was hilarious. Everybody there was howling. Everybody that is, except for Billy. Looking back though, I was probably a big “bully” for doing that to him. Even though he never said it, I am sure that he hated me for doing that to him.
Basically that was the end of his football career. He did go on to play on the basketball, baseball and cross-country teams. Despite his slight stature, he was a fierce competitor. As the years went by, he would eventually prove “that” to everybody. His burning desire that he possessed soon became evident when a new bowling center opened in our town and he was finally able to find (and master), his sport.
During that year we became the best of friends, and that friendship has been a close one for 6-decades. I owe him a lot from what he has taught me and the countless doors that he has helped me to open. We have (personally) endured a lot together and I have countless stories about him. I will be telling some of them here……at least the ones that are suitable for print!!!
History tells us that he did go on the Tour, twice becoming Bowler of the Year. He was voted in the top 20-players of all-time and inducted into both the ABC and PBA Halls of Fame.
Today, Billy is alive and well and owns a very successful bowling center in Memphis, Tennessee. I still see him now and then and occasionally talk with him on the phone. If you see him, tell him that I said hello.
By the way, he did pay me back. Yeah, he was the rotten egg that got me into bowling!
Editors note: This is a “preview” of one of more than 40-stories that are contained on that (3), CD set. Don’t miss your opportunity to hear Len Nicholson tell some of his favorite stories about many of the Tour’s All-Time Greats, including: Dick Weber, Earl Anthony, Don Carter, Jason Couch, Jim Godman, Dick Ritger, Bob Strampe, Norm Duke and many, many more.
To order your copy of this 3, CD set, please contact: June Davis, at: firstname.lastname@example.org