Obviously, the night in which several of the greatest bowlers, achievers and servers in history are inducted into the Hall of Fame is going to be memorable.
But Thursday night’s induction of a big class of nine giants from several areas of bowling into the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame was beyond even the highest expectations.
Each speech had special touches that hit those of us in the audience in some special way, and taken together they made what could have been an unwieldy program seem too short.
It started with Al Uttecht, the greatest wheelchair bowler in history who told of spending six months in a hospital after a catastrophic injury in Vietnam and how he came to find bowling. Al deserves a place in more than the USBC Hall of Fame in this man’s opinion.
Long-time WIBC and USBC leader Joan Feinblum had the audience laughing multiple times and made a passionate plea for industry unity, and Kelli Helmer, the daughter of the late famed college bowling coach Kerm Helmer, gave a great speech filled with remembrances from her father’s many student/bowlers.
The next two were beyond special for me: my long-time great friends Lennie Boresch Jr. of Kenosha and Gary Daroszewski of Franklin as the second and third inductees in the Outstanding USBC Performance category. Their speeches brought back so many wonderful memories for me, and our Cheesehead contingent continued the story telling long into the night over more than one beverage.
And then came three men I met in my two years on the PBA Tour — guys whose immense talent combined (along with that of many others) to send me home after two mediocre years.
Believe me, most bowlers have no idea how good guys like Tom Baker, Amleto Monacelli and Dave Husted are.
Modesty aside, I am/was a very good bowler and these guys were at another level above me. The PBA Tour showed me how good I was not, and that lesson was vital in what I accomplished in the nearly 25 years since I left the Tour.
Baker talked about the many ups and downs of his long career, Monacelli told stories of being the first foreign player to make a mark on the PBA Tour, and Husted gave an extremely moving speech centered on his family, who he brought up on the stage to join him.
Stories like theirs make me a guy like me think about some of the what-ifs of my life, and daydreaming like that now and then is not a bad thing.
I will never understand those who are in the Hall of Fame who do not return for the inductions each year. As long as I am physically able, I will be there every year — it’s that awesome an event.
Of course, much credit goes to USBC staff who have had an overwhelmingly busy week with the USBC Queens, the annual convention and the Hall of Fame. We all owe them many thanks.
Here is the USBC news release on the Hall of Fame inductions
And here is the archived webcast of the inductions. Trust me, you will not regret the time you spend watching it.
Monacelli’s story on what happened when he arrived in the U.S. for the first time is worth watching all by itself. It was a story I had never heard before and gives you a taste of the obstacles he overcame to become an all-time great.
And here is the archived video of the USBC annual meeting Thursday during which the Hall of Famers and other award winners were announced and introduced.
With Thursday's inductions, there now are 394 members of the USBC Hall of Fame — 260 in Performance, 114 in Meritorious Service and 20 Pioneers.
The USBC Hall of Fame was created in 2005 by merging the American Bowling Congress and Women's International Bowling Congress Halls of Fame.